TMVP releases child soldiers, does not carry guns in public - UN
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) said the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), the
political party which is transforming itself from an armed group to a
party contesting elections released 39 child soldiers to a Government
led rehabilitation program and restricted its armed recruits to the
interior forest in the Eastern Province and they no longer travel in
public carrying guns.
The UN body also reported that Sivasuntharai Chandrakanthan, the TMVP
leader has pledged publicly that he would not allow any child
recruitment to the group.
The following is the UN report:
“The Karuna faction, the Tamil Tiger breakaway group, which has been
transforming itself from an armed military group into a political party,
released 39 underage recruits last month.
“The group, officially known as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal
(TMVP) released 28 children on April 24 after 11 were released on April
“The TMVP was formed by the former eastern military commander of the
LTTE. Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, alias Karuna, after he broke away
from the Tigers in April 2004. It now controls all nine local governing
divisions in its native Batticaloa district in eastern Sri Lanka
following a clean sweep in elections on March 10 and contested the
Eastern Provincial Council election yesterday as a coalition partner of
the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance.
“The TMVP is now led by Karuna’s chief lieutenant Sivasuntharai
Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, the party’s candidate for the Chief
Minister of the province, who was taken pains to rehabilitate the
In addition to the release of children into a Government-led
rehabilitation program supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it
has restricted its armed members to camps in the interior forests in the
eastern province or inside its compounds in more populated areas and
they no longer travel in public carrying arms.
The TMVP told IRIN it had voluntarily decided to release the
children, who it said had sought protection. “We never gave these
children armed training, they came to us for protection.” TMVP
spokesperson Azad Moulana told IRIN. “There were 48 children under the
age of 16 with us and we have released 39 so far. We will release the
rest before the eastern election,” he said.
However, according to a UNICEF database, 76 recruits younger than 18
are still with the TMVP, down from 131 end March.
UNICEF has intensified its monitoring mechanism recently, according
to the agency’s officials in Colombo. UNICEF officials visited and
interviewed families of child recruits remaining with the TMVP to verify
each case. “We absolutely verified every single case in the books by
visiting the families,” said Gordon Weiss. UNICEF chief of
communications in Sri Lanka.
“A year back there was a lot of fighting (in the East) and families
reported their children being forcibly recruited,” said Weiss. “Now
there is no fighting and our hope is that there is a genuine change in
policy by the TMVP on child recruitment.” Chandrakanthan had told
campaign meetings that the party would not engage in underage
“The Sri Lankan government welcomed the releases, the largest by the
group, as a clear sign of the return of the rule of law to the East.
“The government views the release of these children as further signs of
strengthening democracy and returning to conditions of normality in
areas of the Eastern Province,” said the Ministry of Human Rights and
“The Government, as part of its zero-tolerance policy on the
recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, has taken steps to
secure the release and initiate programs of rehabilitation for children
caught up in armed conflict.”
Courtesy: Asian Tribune