The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP) hailed the announcement by the United Nations (U.N) that Sri Lanka has been removed from a list of countries or groups involved in child recruitment for armed conflict.
Last week the U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy announced in New York that Sri Lanka was de-listed after its successful completion of Security Council-mandated action plans to end the recruitment and use of children.
“We welcome the announcement that Sri Lanka has now been fully removed from the UN list of shame. We the TMVP kept saying that we were not recruiting children after the war and we worked with UNICEF to help trace those who had allegedly been recruited during the war,” TMVP spokesman Azad Maulana said.
The TMVP was formed after several of its members including current government Minister Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan and current chief minister of the eastern province Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan split from the LTTE and later fought against them.
“Yes we did have arms during the war for security reasons only as the LTTE were not just fighting the army but were after us as well and killed some of our members. However after the war ended we gradually disarmed and do not carry weapons anymore,” Maulana said.
Coomaraswamy said that Sri Lanka was removed from a “list of shame” in UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s annual report for 2011 on children and armed conflict.
However the report said 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 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)