Sri Lanka has rehabilitated 594 child soldiers since end of war: Mohan Peiris
ECONOMYNEXT – Since the end of the separatist war in 2009, Sri Lanka has rehabilitated 594 former child soldiers recruited by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and reunited them with their families, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mohan Peiris said.
An unspecified number of non-combatant children recruited by the LTTE have also been reunited with their loved ones, according to Peiris.
Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on armed conflict repatriation of children from conflict zones, Peiris highlighted steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to assist children affected and used in the separatist war.
“One of the first priorities for the Government was to look after these children who had been forced to adorn the cyanide capsule around their necks – to rehabilitate them, reunite them with their families, restore normalcy in their lives and help them become productive and proud citizens,” he said.
According to Peiris, among the rehabilitated former child soldiers, those desired to complete their formal education had been given special attention and, as a result, a number of former child soldiers participated were able to take in the national examinations. Eleven children had taken up the university entrance examination and three gained admission to a local university, he said.
Many others had undergone vocational training and are now in meaningful employment, he added.
At the height of the war, Peiris further said, parents who resisted forced recruitment of child soldiers faced violence, detention and even death. “We are all too aware of what happens to children in the hands of such groups,” he said.
Children had been also given professional counselling. Those that were disabled, injured and required medical intervention were well looked after, he said.
National identity cards had also been issued to the former combatants.
“As a matter of policy, no child solider was prosecuted with priority being accorded to their investigations and speedy disposal of their cases. This was done with the assistance of the United Nations agencies, the ICRC and civil society organisations,” he said.
Over the 35-year war, according to reports, the LTTE systematically recruited and used thousands of children for their military purposes. The children were often taken by force from their families or abducted from schools. (Colombo/Feb01/2021)