LTTE hands over 269 cadres to their parents in Batticaloa

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 13 April 2004, 14:53 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Tuesday that it has handed over 269 of its cadres, including 168 who are less than eighteen years old, to their parents when they rejoined the LTTE following the LTTE's recovery of the Batticaloa-Amparai areas from the breakaway faction led by Mr. Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan (Karuna), Vanni sources said.

Hundred and one LTTE cadres (33 females and 68 males) over the age 18 were handed over directly to their parents at an event held at Kathiraveli School Tuesday from 7 a.m. onwards, LTTE sources said

From 10 a.m. onwards, the 168 underage LTTE cadres were handed to their parents through the UNICEF representative of Batticaloa-Amparai district. Of them, 55 were males and 113 females. The UNICEF made arrangements for their parents to take these LTTE cadres to their homes, the LTTE said in a statement issued Tuesday.

LTTE Batticaloa-Amparai Commander, Mr. Ram, Batticaloa-Amparai Political Head, Mr.Kausalyan, Co-ordinator of the Non-Governmental Organizations’ Consortium, Mr. Thiyagarajah, and the LTTE Peace Secretariat's Deputy Director, Mr.Bavananthan, participated in the event, LTTE sources said.

Meanwhile, the UNICEF issued a press release regarding the handing over LTTE cadres to their parents.

The press release follows:

UNICEF facilitated the release of nearly 150 former child soldiers by the LTTE today in Vakkarai in Sri Lanka’s eastern region. While UNICEF is still working to confirm the total number of children being released, so far the agency has met and registered over 100 children.

“UNICEF welcomes the release of these children and will provide support to them and their families to make reintegrating back into their communities as smooth as possible,” said Mr Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka.

“For too long these children have had to live as soldiers and have been denied the rights of other children to learn, play, and live in the security of a family environment,” he added.

UNICEF says that potentially hundreds of other child soldiers from the eastern region have also given up arms and are returning home of their own accord. UNICEF asks that all parents who have children return directly to them contact UNICEF so that the agency can assess the condition of the children and provide follow up assistance with their reintegration.

This latest demobilization is the single biggest formal release of child soldiers by the LTTE.

“We hope that this large release of children is the beginning of a new trend by the LTTE towards the large scale demobilization of child soldiers and meeting their commitments under the peace process and the Action Plan for Children Affected by War, which was approved by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE” stated Mr Chaiban.

UNICEF said that all of the children released were from the eastern region, and the agency has called on the LTTE to begin a process of releasing equal numbers of underage recruits from the northern cadres as well.

“Although we are very glad to see these children being reunited with their families, there are hundreds and possibly thousands more still in the ranks of the LTTE. All of these children deserve to experience what these children are feeling today. The joy of meeting their families again. The joy of going home,” said Mr Chaiban.

UNICEF has secured a mobile health clinic to provide any child that needs it with immediate medical care. The agency is also working with Save the Children to provide social workers to meet with the children and their families to support the reintegration process.

“UNICEF and partners under the Action Plan will follow up with the children on a regular basis to make sure that their transition from a military organization to family life is a smooth one,” said Mr Chaiban.

Partners under the Action Plan include the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ministry of Social Welfare, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


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