Hulugalle on that LTTE-UN agreement


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Director General of Media Centre (MCNS) Lakshman Hulugalle says thousands of lives, particularly those of children, could have been saved had the LTTE stopped child recruitment in May 1998 in keeping with an unprecedented agreement with the UN. Hulugalle says had the parties to the bilateral agreement implemented it, the war wouldn’t have lasted till May, 2009.

In a brief interview with The Island yesterday, Hulugalle said that those who now targeted Sri Lanka over unsubstantiated ‘war crimes’ allegations had conveniently forgotten how lapses on the part of the global community contributed to the transformation of the LTTE into a conventional fighting force.

Hulugalle pointed out that a massive recruitment campaign carried out by the LTTE, in spite of its agreement with the UN, had given it strength to dislodge the Army from Elephant Pass in April 2000.

Responding to a query, Hulugalle said the then UN Under Secretary General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Olara Otunu had negotiated with the LTTE in an LTTE-held area.

Hulugalle said that those who now pushed for national reconciliation had never even bothered to issue a press release urging the LTTE to adhere to its agreement with the UN.

Otunu met Anton Balasingham and S. P. Thamilselvan in the Vanni to finales the agreement, which barred the LTTE from recruiting those under the age of 17. The agreement between the LTTE and the UN came into operation during the tenure of Kofi Annan as the UNSG.

Otunu’s visit to Vanni was the first by a foreign official after the withdrawal of the IPKF.

Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Brig. Sudantha Ranasinghe told The Island that forced recruitment of children continued unabated until the conclusion of war in May two years ago.

Ambassador John Gooneratne told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that Norway ignored Sri Lanka’s call to include the contentious issue of child combatants in the CFA.

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