LTTE hands over underage youths to UNICEF
[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 March 2004, 09:10 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Sunday morning handed over thirty-five youths who are under 18 years of age to the UNICEF at an event held at its political secretariat in Sampur in the LTTE held Muttur east in the Trincomalee district, sources said.
NGO's co-ordinator Mr.Thiagarajah is seen exchanging the documents regarding the handing over of underage youths with UNICEF official while Mr.LTTE Trincomalee district political head Mr.Thilak looks on ( middle)
LTTE Trincomalee district political head Mr.S.Tilak, Co-ordinator of the Non-Governmental Organizations Mr. Thiyagarajah, Mr. Bavan of the LTTE Peace Secretariat, LTTE Trincomalee district women political wing Ms Kaaronja, Programme Co-ordinator of the UNICEF Dr.Yasmin Haque, Ms Christine Waltkins and Ms Gabriela Elroy, Trincomalee zone head of the UNICEF participated in the event.
The three-member panel, which has been formed by the LTTE, to detect under age youths had found in its investigation these thirty-five youths working with the LTTE giving false age in order to join the movement. The panel has been working under the LTTE Peace Secretariat, sources said.
“UNICEF welcomes the release of these children,” said Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF spokesperson in Sri Lanka in a media release issued from Colombo.
"However, UNICEF says that despite the release of the 35 children, the LTTE has continued to recruit children into the organization," said the statement.
"It is important that we first meet the basic needs of these children for shelter and food, but then work quickly to reunite them with their families. It is only once these children are back at home that they can truly live the lives of children, not soldiers,” added the UNICEF statement.
The three-member panel up to now has detected 105 such youths and handed them to the UNICEF, LTTE sources said.