Sri Lanka removed from “list of shame”

Sri Lanka has been removed from a “list of shame” in UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s annual report on children and armed conflict during 2011.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, said that Sri Lanka was de-listed after its successful completion of Security Council-mandated action plans to end the recruitment and use of children.

The TMVP Karuna group and the LTTE were placed on the “list of shame” for recruiting children during the war.

However with the end of the war and the military defeat of the LTTE as well as the TMVP working with UNICEF to release all child recruits, both the LTTE and TMVP were no more on the list.

Former TMVP member and now SLFP Ampara organiser, Iniya Barrathi, however remained on the list for 2010 over his alleged involvement in child recruitment.

The latest report said that during the reporting period in 2011, the security situation in Sri Lanka stabilized, gradually moving towards an early recovery. However, assistance for the most vulnerable families in the north remained a challenge.

However it said that there continued to be a heavy military presence, and the civil administration is in need of further strengthening. The Government stated that this would be a priority.

The report said that implementation of these commitments as well as the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, including on children, will positively contribute towards post-conflict efforts.

“No new cases of recruitment of children by armed groups have been reported since October 2009. However, the whereabouts of 1,373 children of a total of 6,905 who had been recruited by the LTTE remains unknown, and the location of five boys previously recruited by the TMVP, three of which have been traced to the forces of Inya Bharathi, is also unknown,” the report said.

The Government of Sri Lanka has been actively following up on these allegations. The National Child Protection Authority has undertaken an independent investigation and made recommendations to the

Government of Sri Lanka which are being pursued by the Criminal Investigation Division of the police. To date, no prosecution has been initiated.

Since 2008, three rehabilitation centres have  been in operation, providing education, care, psychosocial support and reunification assistance to children associated with LTTE, TMVP and Inya Bharathi. To date, 594 children aged between 12 and 18 years, including 364 boys and 230 girls, have completed the rehabilitation programme and have been reunited with their families.

In December of 2009, the Vavuniya Government Agent and the Probation and Child Care Commissioner (Northern Province) jointly established the Family Tracing and Reunification Unit for unaccompanied and separated children, with UNICEF support.

The report said that at the time of writing, 736 tracing applications had been registered concerning children, the majority of whom were recruited by LTTE.

To date, 139 children have been matched and referred to the Unit for tracing and verification, of which 42 have been reunited with their family members.

“The Government of Sri Lanka has made headway in the evacuation of school premises in the reporting period, vacating four out of five schools recorded in my previous report. However, one school in Poonahri, Kilinochchi District, remains in use by the Sri Lankan Army. The Government has indicated that the school will be vacated by May 2012. I remain concerned that 14 additional schools in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna districts continue to be used by Sri Lankan security forces, although these areas are not opened for civilian return,” the UN Secretary General said in the report. (Colombo Gazette)