LTTE criticizes UNICEF over recent statements
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 21 April 2004, 16:57 GMT]
Mr. S.P. Thamilchelvan, the political head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has expressed disappointment with the UNICEF in a letter on Monday to the resident representative of the organization in Sri Lanka, Mr. Ted Chaiban, over the UNICEF's ‘vocal’ criticism of the LTTE on the issue of child soldiers, arguing that the UNICEF, while being vocal on the issue, has failed in its obligations under an Action Plan agreed upon by both parties in addressing the community needs and to support the released underaged cadres.
“The basis on which the LTTE signed the agreement with UNICEF was the recognition that the problem of underage children was linked to wider social issues including the devastation of social fabric and displacement resulting in the destruction of family units. Children of the North-East have endured experiences due to war ranging from seeing death, disappearance and injury of family members,” Mr. Thamilchelvan said in his letter to Mr. Chaiban.
The LTTE political head told Mr. Chaiban that his organization’s commitment not to engage anyone under the age of 18 in matters military remained unchanged, and that the LTTE is seriously engaged in the process of initiating work programs for the welfare of children.
As per the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the UNICEF and LTTE, there are ten sub-projects under the Children Affected by War (CAW) project. The LTTE said that the majority of these sub-projects have not been implemented by the UNICEF to an acceptable level to address existing community needs or even to support the released children.
The LTTE trusted that UNICEF would address the greater problems affecting the children of the North-East and the under aged children who have been released from LTTE in an effective and vigorous manner according to the Action Plan, said Mr. Thamilchelvan. “ Unfortunately, what has resulted in the last six months has been a disproportionate emphasis on the release of the children from LTTE, at the expense of follow-up and attention to issues supporting their reintegration into the community.”
The LTTE political leader said that the number of underaged children referred to in recent press statements by the UNICEF has been “grossly exaggerated and is without foundation.” He said that the UNICEF's press statements have seriously eroded the confidence of the LTTE in UNICEF's genuine commitment to addressing the needs of the children of the North-East.
Quoting a recent UNICEF statement warning that the children released in Batticaloa and Amparai be not re-recruited, Mr. Thamilchelvan said that such statements tended to create confusion in the minds of the people and also made the LTTE feel that UNICEF has a different agenda.
Out of the 1187 children on the UNICEF list released on December 02, 2003 for the eight Tamil districts, 474 were from the Batticaloa and Amparai districts, and these children have already been released. A further 243 have been identified as children over the age of 18. Eighty children have been released in Trincomalee, 115 to the transit camps and another 40 released to the parents directly, Mr. Thamilchelvan pointed out. “You are aware that a three member committee was appointed under the auspices of the LTTE Peace Secretariat and it is the hard work of this committee that resulted in the release of 80 children in Trincomalee. This committee is scheduled to investigate the complaints in the North and hopefully bring an end to this issue.”
The LTTE has urged the UNICEF to review the CAW and make amends for the damage caused and also to refrain from approaching the issue of child soldiers in a negative manner.