LTTE rejects President's child-recruitment charge

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 05 February 2002, 19:58 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Tuesday categorically denied allegations by Sri Lanka's President Kumaratunga that the organisation is engaged in the forcible recruiting of children for war effort under the guise of ceasefire. When contacted by TamilNet regarding the President's statement issued Tuesday, the LTTE's political advisor and chief negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham, rejected the accusation and said Kumaratunga was attempting create controversy and apprehensions with the intention of undermining the ongoing Norwegian peace initiative.

In a statement Tuesday, the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat said, "The president of Sri Lanka is deeply concerned regarding reports that the LTTE is continuing the large-scale forcible recruitment of children."

anton_balasingham_1.jpgBut Mr. Balasingham accused President Kumaratunga of "deliberately distorting facts to slander the LTTE with the ultimate objective of scuttling the peace process."

"Amid substantial progress with regards to formulating a mutual ceasefire between the two sides, [the President] is now seeking to create new apprehensions and controversy by casting aspersions on [the LTTE's] bone fides," Mr. Balasingham said.

"President Kumaratunga has consistently sought to undermine Norway's peace initiative, seeking a military confrontation instead of reasoned dialogue," Mr. Balasingham pointed out. "It was her fanatical opposition to peace which led to her government being thrown out by the people last December."

chandrika_kumarathungeMr. Balasingham said that the LTTE is now actively recruiting young men and women above seventeen years of age to expand the movement's political and administrative wings. He said that amid intense efforts by the Norwegian government to advance the peace process, the movement had to prepare for the inevitable political and administrative demands that it can expect to face.

Pointing out that the 100,000 strong Sri Lanka Army is also engaged in substantial recruitment efforts at present, along with the Navy and Air Force, Mr. Balasingham said that the LTTE's military section was also recruiting volunteers "to ensure the prevailing balance of forces is not altered disadvantageously."

"This recruitment by both sides at present does not in any way undermine the spirit of the unilateral cessations of hostilities being observed by the LTTE and the Sri Lanka armed forces," he said.

Mr. Balasingham said that the Norwegian peace delegation had met with him for substantial and lengthy discussions Tuesday. He described the discussions as "cordial and productive," but refused to elaborate further.


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