‘Monkeys with razors’

That the Tigers are robbing children and turning them into combatants is only too well known. Equally known is the fact that the international community is wary of taking any action against the Tigers, who are not ‘their terrorists’. Even the UN has skirted stern action, such as travel bans, proposed by child rights campaigners against the organisations on its List of Shame for recruiting child soldiers. The US, the UK, the EU, Japan, Norway et al which have evinced a keen interests in helping resolve Sri Lanka’s conflict have not taken up, the way they should, the cause of those unfortunate children whom the LTTE is turning into killing machines in the wilderness of the North and the East. If they demand in one voice that the LTTE release all child combatants, the LTTE will have no alternative but comply.

Norway has forfeited its democratic credentials by giving child robbing LTTE leaders a red carpet welcome in Oslo recently. The British government is unwittingly aiding and abetting LTTE child abductions by allowing LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham to operate from its soil. The EU has made a mockery of its pro democratic postures by allowing an LTTE human rights (sic) group to have a conference at the EU Parliament. The Japanese government has also taken the child soldiers for granted as evident in the courtesy calls its special envoy Akashi pays to the child abductors in Kilinochchi.

The whole caboodle of local intellectuals (?) and human rights activists, eternally protesting in the streets of Colombo against rights violations across the globe, has turned a blind eye to the child soldiers in Sri Lanka. Their ability to engage in periphrasis on the situation in the North and the East—especially at foreign embassy cocktails, where they are the stars—with no reference to child combatants at all is remarkable. The fact that the LTTE has abducted 1,794 children between February, 2002 (when the CFA was signed) and December 2005, according to the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), means nothing to them. Shame on them!

With the self-appointed opinion makers and peaceniks having their eyes shut to child combatants, the need is felt more than ever for a sustained campaign to expose the LTTE for its cruelty to children, so that the world will have a better understanding of the issue and foreign governments will be compelled to act. The friends of the LTTE have sought to disparage those fighting for the rights of child combatants by claiming that they are using the issue as a bludgeon to beat the Tigers. What’s wrong with that? Every thing must be used—from broomsticks to pestles—to beat the outfit until it lets go of children.

But such a campaign, if left to a group of nincompoops without an iota of knowledge of modern propaganda, will not only be ineffective but counter productive as well. The way the government on Wednesday handled two LTTE child combatants, who had run away from a training camp and surrendered themselves to the security forces, is a case in point. Those children, who had been subjected to cruelty, were abused once again by the government information pundits.

Their identities were divulged together with the places of residence and made to revisit what they want to forget—handling of weapons. They were made to dismantle and assemble an assault rifle and narrate their harrowing experience to the media. No traumatised child should be made to recall their suffering by any one other than a doctor or a counsellor, as any nitwit knows. But the government information ‘specialists’ didn’t know that! What else, one may ask, could be expected of a bunch of henchmen whose only training has been to sling mud at political opponents? They are behaving like the proverbial monkey with a razor––a danger to everyone. What those kids need most of all are parental care and counselling apart from security––not exposure.

Propaganda, as was said earlier, is essential in a campaign to eliminate the scourge of child soldiers. But no mileage should be sought at the expense of the identity and the mental wellbeing of the children delivered from the clutches of the LTTE.

Meanwhile, now that the two escapees have revealed that there are over one hundred other children trapped in the LTTE training camp concerned, the government ought to solicit the help of the SLMM, the Norwegians and the governments of the US, the UK and Japan and the EU to secure their immediate release.


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