Northern Provincial Council (NPC) member, Angajan Ramanathan yesterday said that Tamil speaking people wouldn’t be deceived by fellow NPC member, Ananthi Sasitharan’s widely reported allegation that children in the Northern Province were still living under warlike conditions, though fighting ended in May 2009.
Jaffna District SLFP Chief Organizer Ramanathan was responding to Sasitharan’s accusations that the ‘Eelam Tamil children’ were facing war with genocidal intent. Accusing the Sri Lankan Army of controlling every aspect of Tamil life, Sasitharan told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session that the military was directing systematic sexual violence at Tamil women and children. She further alleged: “The children are also forced to work. Military personnel are being appointed as teachers in schools. In the world of our children, the armed conflict is still there as before.”
Ramanathan alleged that Sasitharan was acting at the behest of disruptive elements seeking to undermine peace and stability. Referring to a recent spat between Sasitharan and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) National List MP, M. A. Sumanthiran over her involvement with the LTTE, Ramanathan stressed that even the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) didn’t endorse some of her actions.
Ramanathan said: “She has repeatedly said that she hasn’t heard of her husband, Elilan since he surrendered to the army on the Vanni east front on May 18, 2009. Elilan had been in charge of LTTE operations in the Trincomalee District during Norway arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).
Whatever the likes of Sasitharan propagated at the UNHRC and at various other international and local forums to justify ongoing push for international war crimes probe, the entire world knew of the brazen use of children as cannon fodder by the Tigers. The LTTE indiscriminately threw children into high intensity battles throughout the conflict and Sasitharan’s husband, Elilan too, was actively involved in the LTTE.”
The SLFPer recalled the circumstances under which the LTTE and the UN had reached an agreement in May 1998 to stop using children in combat operations. But, the LTTE continued with the despicable practice until the Sri Lankan military eradicated the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009. Those who had been seeking external intervention on the false claim to save children from the Sri Lankan Army since the conclusion of the conflict never raised their voices against the use of children in combat operations, Ramanathan said.
In fact, the children had been nothing but a tool to achieve military goals, the Jaffna-based politician said, urging the government to clear misconceptions as regards post-war situation in Jaffna.
The then United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict negotiated the agreement on behalf of the global community. The LTTE was represented by British citizen Anton Balasingham and Thamilsevlam.
During the CFA in February 2002, too, the UNICEF funded a special project to secure the release of child combatants. Ramanathan stressed that project too failed to save children and Norway-led Scandinavian truce monitoring mission could provide data relating to child abductions during the CFA.
Ramanathan said: “Truce monitors didn’t do anything except recording statements, but today, children are free.”
Northern Province couldn’t have achieved the best results at the GCE A/L 2013 if not for the restoration of normalcy, Ramanathan said, noting that the TNA would do anything to advance its strategy at the expense of the interests of the people. The Eastern Province came third, hence proving those who had been trying to paint a bleak picture of that area wrong, Ramanathan said. Had the LTTE somehow managed to survive eelam war IV, there wouldn’t have been a respite for Tamil children, he said.
Responding to a query, Ramanathan said that a survey should be conducted to ascertain the number of children that perished fighting for the LTTE as well as other armed groups. Those who had been demanding accountability on the part of the government too, should make an effort to find out deaths among child soldiers, he added.
Ramanathan said that the international community should appreciate the Sri Lankan government successfully tackling the issue of child combatants. The country shouldn’t be deprived of that credit on the basis of those propagating blatant lies for political gain, he said.