The LTTE which has come under local and international flak over recruiting children as soldiers claimed to have set up a child protection authority of its own.
However, National Child Protection Authority head Padma Wettewa said she was not aware of the existence of such an institution.
The LTTE Peace Secretariat claimed to have set up a Child Protection Authority (CPA) ?dedicated to ensuring the security and the full development of the children of Tamileelam? and ?functions on the principals enunciated in the United Nations instruments for the protection and development of children.?
In a press release issued to coincide with the International Day of Children, the LTTE Peace Secretariat stated, ?Underage children continue to flock to join the LTTE. High in the minds of these children is the thought of revenge. The CPA has been forceful in ensuring that these children are returned home and when this is not in the best interest of the child, they are put through vocational training at the Education and Skill Development Centre.?
Responding to the statement, NCPA Consultant Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne said there was a zero tolerance policy on child conscription.
?There is an upper age limit of 18 for recruitment and there is simply no question of children being recruited, irrespective of whether children approach the LTTE or not,? she said underscoring that child recruitment could not be justified under any circumstances.
Explaining further, Dr. Wijemanne said that according to the law, children under the age of 14 cannot be taken as domestic workers. Likewise, the age of consent for intimacy is 16. There is no issue of consent for those below the age of 16. Similarly, there should be no room for child conscription whatsoever.? Founder Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority Prof. Harendra de Silva was highly critical of the LTTE, saying, ?If they do have such an authority, then we must ask them what their position is with regard to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which they are directly contravening.?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, provides protection and support for the rights of children. To help stem the growing abuse and exploitation of children worldwide, the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 adopted two Optional Protocols to the Convention to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts and from intimacyual exploitation.
Prof. Silva who has interviewed over 100 former LTTE child soldiers and author of `Power Games in War and Peace`, asked, ?Whom are they trying to fool?,? adding that this was their strategy to win the support of the international community since coming under a lot of flak for child conscription.