LTTE child soldiers allowed to exchange letters with parents

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  1. I-G

    I-G Tihar Jail Banned

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    LTTE child soldiers allowed to exchange letters with parents

    Posted: Jun 17, 2009 at 1449 hrs IST


    Hundreds of surrendered LTTE child soldiers, who are being kept in various welfare camps in Vavuniya, have been allowed to exchange letters and telephone calls with their parents, a top commander said. "We have started allowing them to exchange letters with their parents, though they are yet not permitted to interact with them directly," Competent Authority for the IDPs Major General G A Chandrasiri said. Talking to an Indian convoy led by High Commissioner Alok Prasad, Chandrasiri said the former child soldiers could also talk to their family members over phone. "We are also in the process of commencing vocational programmes for them and providing overseas jobs to the trained ones," he told the convoy on his way to inspect an Indian hospital for IDPs in Vavuniya. "Many child soldiers have been identified from various welfare centres in Vavuniya," National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Chairman Jagath Wellawaththa said. The children have forcibly been recruited by the LTTE for military activities against the government forces during the war period, Wellawaththa said.

    He said a batch of LTTE child soldiers, including girls, were found from various welfare centres in Vavuniya and they will be sent to the selected rehabilitation centers as soon as they are produced in courts. Sri Lanka government is currently rehabilitating the child soldiers at four rehabilitation centres across the country. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said it will continue to facilitate the remaining LTTE cadres to surrender to Sri Lanka's law enforcement authorities. "If contacted by such a person (wishing to surrender), the ICRC would pass on the information to the police or the security forces, after noting personal data to ensure an individual follow-up of the person surrendering," the ICRC said in a report.

    Following an agreement with the authorities, the ICRC has visited more than 5,000 people, who were linked with Tamil Tigers, and many of them handed over themselves to the authorities, it said, adding they are kept in various rehabilitation centers

    LTTE child soldiers allowed to exchange letters with parents - Express India
     
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  3. I-G

    I-G Tihar Jail Banned

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    Child soldiers fight LTTE ghosts
    24 Jun 2009, 0042 hrs IST, Jaya Menon, TNN


    AMBEPUSSA (SRI LANKA): Kumudha absent-mindedly fiddles with her left forefinger. Then, looking embarrassed, she hurriedly tucks it into the folds of her skirt. She often forgets that she has no forefinger. Only a stub.

    The finger was sliced off by a sniper's bullet while she was guarding an LTTE bunker in Konavil village in Kilinochchi in 2008. Heavy fighting had broken out as the Sri Lankan army pushed ahead in the north. This was just a couple of months after bullets pierced her right thigh and she was hospitalized.

    In 2004, in the midst of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire, the LTTE was on a recruitment spree. Kumudha, barely 20 and all set to get married, was among the 100-odd young men and women and children hustled along a jungle trail from Amparai to Valaichenai in Batticaloa district in the eastern province. For nearly five years, she was forced to fight for the LTTE until she finally managed to flee in early 2009 from Visuvamadu.

    On March 16, 2009, Rani (name changed), 17 years, was dragged from her house in Puthukudiyiruppu, kicking and screaming. She hugged her mother tight, shouting at the LTTE cadres to leave her alone. Despite her pleas, Rani was carried away to Valaignarmadam, north of Mullivaikkal. For five days, the girl, along with others aged between 12 and 17, was trained in handling rifles and grenades.

    "In the camp, the young children would cry, begging me to take them home. I felt helpless," says Rani. For five days, she stayed in the Tiger camp and finally decided to make a run for it. LTTE cadres opened fire at her. "Bullets grazed my shoulder," she says. Injured, she managed to reach her home and her mother.

    There is no smile on her face now, just a feeling of resignation. "I want to be with my mother," she says.

    "There are several such sad stories. But most children always have a smile on their faces," says commissioner-general for rehabilitation Suhada Gamalath, who is overseeing a rehabilitation centre in Ambepussa, an army base and a scenic tourist resort, 60km north of Colombo. While parents of many children have been traced, officials are searching for the others.

    A few months ago, as many young combatants poured into army camps in the north and were sent to prisons, a Kilinochchi court directed that they be put through a re-indoctrination and rehabilitation programme, which is now funded by UNICEF.

    Fed on a 'hate-Sinhalese' propaganda for years, many of the young inmates initially resisted the urge to flee from the camp, surrounded by gun-toting soldiers. But "I can see a difference in them now," says Prasanna Mahagamage, who is teaching them to dance as part of group therapy, an initiative of the Sri Lanka Children's and Youth Theatre Organisation.

    Every Sunday, the girls and boys learn to move gracefully to contemporary music. "It is difficult to heal their scars with just this. But it helps to calm the mind and I believe there is a sense of rhythm and music in everyone," he says.

    While cooking lessons and vocational classes like sewing, masonry and computer software constitute the main agenda, the children lack counselling, which is important for weaning them away from the ill-effects of the LTTE's rather powerful `motivational' training.

    Admits Dr Thilak Jayawardhana, of the local Warakapola hospital, who has been attempting to counsel the children: "Having to use mediators to communicate with them has been frustrating. They know only Tamil and we don't know the language." It was important for the children to be among their loved ones, he told TOI.

    "We strongly advocate psychiatric counselling for these children," says Andy Brooks, the Colombo-based chief of child protection, UNICEF, pointing out that the government was doing its best to ensure that the children's return to society was smooth.

    While the court ordered that the children be permitted to leave after a year, a review every three months could mean earlier release, he adds.

    But, the emotional scars left by the war could take much longer to heal, says Dr Jayawardhana.

    Child soldiers fight LTTE ghosts - South Asia - World - The Times of India
     

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