Child Conscription by LTTE
The baby brigade was formed by the LTTE after appealing to the teenage instincts of the young, during its propaganda campaigns. In due course parents, elders, the clergy etc. protested at young and innocent children being sacrificed by the Tigers. In order to replenish its depleted cadres lost in battle, the LTTE changed its strategy and began to conscript youth by force. Forced conscription had its adverse effects but desertions were few due to fear of severe reprisals. Not only the escapee but even their family members were subjected to inhuman punishment, when they were caught or dared to oppose the organisation. In the end the LTTE did not spare even children as young as fifteen years of age. . This is a solitary incident amongst many others that were brought to light those days. Rajendran Dayananda (16) who was arrested by security forces is the best example of these inhuman acts. It was following incidents of this nature that the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative Mr. Olaro Otunnu visited Sri Lanka to obtain first hand information regarding use of children for war purposes. It was Mr. Otunnu reported after the visit, that the LTTE undertook not to use children in combat. The LTTE lost confidence amongst the masses after normalcy was restored in the Jaffna peninsula. The implementation of development projects in agriculture, fisheries, livestock, animal husbandry, forestry etc., have enabled the people to engage themselves in customary occupations and live in peace. Moreover youth exchanges between the North and South exposed the realities that exist in other areas, where Tamils live peacefully with the Sinhalese, leading prosperous lives and above all educating their children to the best of their ability.
On 14 October 1998, 26 “baby soldiers” surrendered to the Security forces. After the surrender of the “baby soldiers” which was given world wide publicity, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General has indicated ” disappointment at the breach of the LTTE of specific assurances given to him that children would not be recruited into the cadres of the LTTE before the age of 17 and they would not be deployed in combat until the age of 18 ” to the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Ethnic Affairs and National Integration and Deputy Minister of Finance Professor G L Peiris during a meeting held in New York.
Surrendered themselvesAmong the leading Tamil groups to condemn the use of children in combat is the Peoples Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam. It has dared to ask the LTTE leader why he does not send his own son to the battle front and that “it is evident from their cruel activities that selfish and power hungry LTTE has become a group of traitors to the Tamil cause bent on slaying Tamils, having lost reasoning and foresight as a result of defeat”.
In an era where all attempts are made by the UN, individual Governments, Non – Governmental Organisations, to prevent child abuses the use of children for combat as done by the LTTE is seen as an inhuman act which no civilised nation would approve. It is sacrificing the future generation for whose sake the LTTE claims it has waged this war and it is a ridiculous statement.