Participating in the Ministerial meeting in New York today (26 September 2008) on the follow up to the Paris Principles relating to children associated with armed forces and groups, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama stated that the LTTE known as a ruthless terrorist organization operating in Sri Lanka, has been identified by the UN as a persistent violator of basic human rights, through its recruitment of child combatants throughout the period of the conflict. He elaborated that over 60% percent of the LTTE cadres have been children both boys and girls and according to the UNICEF 6,273 children have been recruited since 2002.

On the other hand, he said the political arm of the break away LTTE faction namely the TMVP is working with the UNICEF and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict with a view to releasing under-aged cadres and 39 having already been released. The Minister further stated that the TMVP successfully contested the Local Government and Provincial Council elections in the East culminating in a former child soldier, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, being appointed as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. Minister Bogollagama termed this as a fascinating story of transformation of a child soldier to one of authority in a democratic framework. The TMVP is working closely with the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation to help release the balance children in their ranks, he said.

The Foreign Minister thanked the French Government and partners for convening this meeting and added Sri Lanka’s support for the implementation of the Paris Principles which he stated will secure a better tomorrow for children vulnerable to being recruited for armed conflict. He informed that Sri Lanka is one of the 119 members which have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and that the Government has a zero tolerance policy on the recruitment of children for use in conflict while collaborating closely with the relevant UN agencies.

Minister Bogollagama outlined that the Sri Lanka’s armed forces do not recruit any one under 18 years of age to their ranks and the country’s legal system makes recruitment and deployment of children in armed conflict an offence punishable by 30 years imprisonment. He pointed out that the Sri Lanka Government is fully committed to the rehabilitation and reintegration of all child combatants who have managed to escape from the captivity of armed groups. This he said was being done through the provision of a protective rehabilitation environment as well as family reunification, community integration, access to psycho-social care and support, education and vocational training. The Minister further added that a high level Committee to Inquire into Allegations on Abduction and Recruitment of Children for Use in Armed Conflict, has also been established in Sri Lanka. This Committee, he said, has developed a policy on the rehabilitation and reintegration of children recruited for armed conflict.

The Paris Principles resulted from the Paris Conference organized jointly by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNICEF in February 2007 under the theme “Free Children from War”. Fifty nine states including Sri Lanka attended the Paris Conference and supported the adoption of the principles where states committed themselves inter-alia, to make every effort to apply these principles as a set of operational guidelines on the subject. This meeting in New York is a follow-up forum to the Paris Conference.

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN
New York

26th September 2008
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