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Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 05.38 GMT

Defence Secy welcomes UN's decision to close dossier on Sri Lanka


The global community should realize that the contentious issue of child soldiers could never have been resolved if the LTTE had retained its fighting capability, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

The conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 had brought the appalling practice of the LTTE using children as cannon fodder, the Island reported quoting the Secretary.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa was responding to the United Nations Security Council Working group on Children and Armed Conflict closing its dossier on Sri Lanka after deciding that children in armed conflict were no longer an issue.

In spite of an unprecedented agreement between the UN and the LTTE, way back in 1998, to stop using children in combat, the LTTE continued to use children in combat to the very end. Colombo based diplomatic missions, including the UN were aware of efforts to save children from the LTTE.

LTTE cadres who surrendered to the security forces said that the LTTE had recruited children at gun point even in Feb. 2009, three months before the conclusion of the conflict.

The Working Group adopted the ‘Draft Conclusions on the situation of children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka’ on Dec 19, 2012.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa pointed out that those wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal for eradicating the LTTE had brazenly encouraged the LTTE’s use of child soldiers in combat. In fact, the images of child soldiers had been of great propaganda value to those promoting the LTTE, both here and abroad, the Defence Secretary said. He called for stringent action against those who had encouraged use of child soldiers.

The UN in June this year de-listed Sri Lanka from the United Nations Secretary-General’s ‘List of Shame’ that lists countries where children are involved in armed conflict acknowledging that Sri Lanka "successfully completed Security Council-mandated programmes to end the recruitment and use of children.

Commenting on the post-war national reconciliation process, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that the government had given child combatants an opportunity to resume education. Even the rehabilitation process was nearing completion, the Defence Secretary said, while urging the global community to give Sri Lanka the credit it deserved for eradicating terrorism.

The Defence Secretary recalled how a comprehensive study undertaken by the UNICEF at the end of the conflict had revealed the forcible conscription of children by the LTTE. The UNICEF report was based on information provided by parents of those children abducted by the LTTE during the conflict, he said.






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Last modified: January 03, 2013.

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