May 16, 2008.

The plight of the child soldier

By Tina Edward - Gunawardhana

The horrific exploitation of children in war has been exposed in a report by Plan, a UK based charity working with children all over the world. The report concentrates on the plight of the girl soldiers and goes on the say that more than 100,000 girls some as young as nine are being forced to fight in wars all over the world. The girls are being abducted, raped and forced into service and have fought in conflicts in 38 countries over the last two decades.

In their report Plan states that many of these girl soldiers have been forced in to guerrilla armies but some have also been used in government forces citing as an example the Republic of Congo where 12,500 girls fought on both sides.

Plan UK's chief executive Marie Staunton states that "it is an international disgrace; Girls have the right to be safe and protected from the horrors of war. If we don't act now this horrendous legacy will continue in to the next generation." She said that the situation is deteriorating as the number of 'low-intensity' conflicts involving child soldiers has doubled over 12 years, meaning that increasing numbers of girls will be conscripted. A total of 200 million girls live in strife-torn countries.

The report listed 38 countries which included Congo, Liberia, Uganda, Kosovo, India and Sri Lanka. In Congo there are currently 12500 girl soldiers, In Liberia by 2003 the number of girls soldiers had increased to 8500. The Lords Resistance Army in Uganda have abducted 6500 girls to fight their cause and in Kosovo girls as young as 14 were fighting with the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1998-1999. In India in the North Eastern state of Manipur there are reportedly 900-1,000 girl soldiers fighting with armed groups.

Although the report did not elaborate on the Sri Lankan situation it is well documented that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) engage in forcibly recruiting child soldiers which include a large number of girls. International Agencies such as UNICEF and Save the Children have from time to time highlighted the use of children in war by the LTTE. In 1998 during a visit to Sri Lank by special representative for Children Lara Attune, the LTTE made a commitment that they would stop the use of child soldiers but it was a false promise as they continued to swell their ranks with child soldiers.

Cherie Booth QC wife of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in her capacity as a supporter of PLAN UK commented that "These young women are looking to the international community for protection – and we must not let them down".

It was while Tony Blair was in power that the British Government in the aftermath of 9/11 proscribed the LTTE in the UK and subsequently the EU adopted the same measure. Although the LTTE is banned from fundraising numerous other front organisations of the LTTE have sprung up and they engage in a prolific fundraising campaign. Under the guise of raising funds for orphanages, education and rehabilitation programs these organisations raise money from often unsuspecting members of the British Public by strategically placing collections boxes by the cashier in shops owned and run by Tamils sympathetic to the LTTE. Many of the Tamil owned grocery stores have several collection boxed chained to the counter and encourage people to drop their loose change. However there is no way of independently verifying if these funds actually go towards the causes specified. They may well say that the funds collected will go towards maintaining an orphanage when in actual fact the children in the orphanage are being groomed to join the baby brigade. This was evident in the Sen Cholai "orphanage" which was in reality a home for child soldiers.

Booth- Blair has quite rightly said that the international community must not let these innocent children down. In order to do that the British Government must take a more proactive role in investigating the multitude of pro LTTE charities and front organisations that collect money under the guise of doing charity work in Sri Lanka. It is no use of any government waxing eloquent on the anti terrorism legislature they have in place if the law enforcement authorities do not act on it. Although the UK has fairly stringent anti terrorism laws in place the LTTE have found ways to circumvent them by creating front organisations. Unfortunately the British law enforcement authorities do not have the resources to investigate each one of them which results in some how funds being collected. Also when Diaspora members alert the police to fund raising events being organised by LTTE front organisations they retort saying that UK is a democracy and groups can have functions to fund raise but what they fail to understand is that these LTTE front organisations are abusing the democratic norms of the UK by covertly raising funds. In addition many of these functions are conducted in Tamil which the law enforcement authorities can not understand and by the time they get the taped proceedings transcribed to English and action taken the collected money would have been deposited in the Wanni.

If organisations such as Plan are seriously committed to helping child soldiers and also ending the practise of using children in war, then they must put pressure on Western governments to crack down on fund raising by front organisations of terrorist groups, for ultimately it has been proven that money raised by Terrorist branches overseas are those that sustain terrorist groups and swell their war coffers. Until Plan, UNICEF, Save the Children and even Amnesty International put pressure on Governments to stop funds being collected on foreign soil and channelled overseas to sustain terrorism, the plight of the child soldiers will continue.

May 17, 2008:
LTTE Massacres more innocent Civilians

"LTTE has once again demonstrated to the world its total commitment to violence and terror" - President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa while condemning the brutal LTTE terrorists acttack in the Fort today that took the lives of 10 people offered his condolences to the bereaved families of those killed and wished speedy recovery to all those injured in thoseis act of wanton savagery.

Issuing a statement President Rajapaksa said with this bomb attack on a busy street the LTTE has once again demonstrated to the world its total commitment to violence and terror to achieve its separatist goals in Sri Lanka, and its absolute contempt for democracy and human rights.

"Repeated savagery of this order underlines and reiterates the need for concerted action by all those who cherish democracy, human rights and the values of civilized society, to eradicate the menace of terrorism of which the LTTE remains the bloodiest example today," President said.

"While understanding the deep shock and revulsion felt by all at this loss of life and limb caused by the LTTE, I call upon the people to remain calm and not be provoked by this further display of its unmitigated terror. Your continued patience and restraint in the face of such undisguised savagery is the best way to assist the Security Forces to succeed in their operations to defeat terrorism in our country," he added.

May 26, 2008: LTTE Terrorists Massacre More Civilians in a Commuter Train Bomb.

Eight people were killed and 73 civilians injured when LTTE terrorists exploded a bomb on a commuter train during rush hour in the Sri Lankan capital on Monday, military officials said.

This is the 21st terrorist attack committed by the LTTE this year in Sri Lanka against the civilians, killing 149 civilians in 2008 alone.

"Eight civilians including a pregnant woman were killed and 73 injured from the explosion," said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

The military defused two powerful bombs on two buses over the weekend and has stepped up security in public areas.

President Vows to defeat Terrorism
“My government and I are committed to defeating terrorism. No-one should have expectations that there will be a let-up in the battle against terrorism because of the frenzied attacks by the Tamil Tigers," the president said.

"I will leave no room for terrorism in this country."

He accused the rebels of "desperately trying to whip up communal strife" in the country and pledged that the government would not allow this to happen.

Mr Rajapaksa said the bomb blast on the train at Dehiwala followed the discovery of three other bombs placed in passenger buses, all of which were found by bus employees and passengers.

June 6, 2008: LTTE Massacres 22 Civilians in two Commuter Bus Bombs.

Two Bomb attacks on buses by LTTE in Sri Lanka have left 22 people dead and about 100 injured, the first of them hitting a vehicle in a suburb of Colombo.

Twenty people died and more than 80 were hurt in the blast in the capital while a later attack in the town of Kandy killed two and injured 20.

Eyewitnesses said they had seen bodies inside the bus, which had shrapnel marks all over it. "I was standing in the middle of the bus when there was a loud noise and the whole bus toppled to the side," office worker Shanika Priyadharshani said.

"I blacked out for a while. There was black smoke, people were dead around me. I shouted for help and someone pulled me out."

The attack in the central hill district of Kandy also targeted a crowded commuter bus. A police spokesman said the device had been placed inside the vehicle.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa accused the rebels of "outrageous brutality" and a lack of respect for human life.

June 17, 2008: Canada Bans World Tamil Movement listing it as a terrorist front for LTTE

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers guerrillas have raised "millions" in Canada, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in an interview yesterday after announcing the government had outlawed a Toronto non-profit group accused of bankrolling the rebels. At a news conference in Toronto, Mr. Day said the World Tamil Movement had been added to Canada's official list of terrorist organizations because it was a "leading-front organization" for the Tamil Tigers.
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