The Karuna faction has been listed in a new report on child recruitment, to be handed over to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon next month even as UNICEF and the Karuna faction traded charges over allegations of continued child recruitment.
Chief of Protection for UNICEF in Colombo, Andy Brooks revealed to the Daily Mirror the UN Security Council working group would once again assess grave violations against the rights of children in Sri Lanka in October while next month a report would be given to the Secretary-General regarding children affected by armed conflict.
`The Karuna faction was placed on the annex of this report as a group that recruited children last year. These are obviously important dates to watch for any armed group which is currently using children in Sri Lanka,` Mr. Brooks told the Daily Mirror.
The Karuna faction, also known as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP), meanwhile charged the recent UNICEF claims that the TMVP is recruiting children was misleading and insisted that it was in no way involved in any systematic campaign to recruit children to strengthen its ranks.
`We have time and again made public statements to distance ourselves from any systematic child recruitment campaign. We have invited international agencies to provide factual evidence that our movement is engaged in any systematic campaign to recruit children as our policy. We reiterate lapses have taken place in our recruitment drive, but these have been remedied in due time when any violations were brought to our attention,` the TMVP said.
UNICEF however, while welcoming any commitments made by the TMVP to stop recruitment and to ensure that there are no children in their ranks, looked forward to consistent action based on those commitments.
`The key is that action speaks louder than words,` Mr. Brookes said in response to the TMVP charges.
UNCEF says it continues to receive reports from families of children being recruited and also continue to see armed children on the back of pick-up trucks in the east of the country.
TMVP says as a responsible and fast progressing organization to become a democratic force in Sri Lankan politics, it is prepared to face public scrutiny of its conduct without being slammed to undermine its activities.
The Karuna faction says unlike the LTTE-controlled Wanni areas, UNICEF officials can easily access areas Karuna control and welcomed any international effort to scrutinize its conduct.
`Regarding our actions in the Wanni, it is public knowledge that UNICEF is a consistent, determined, and effective advocate with the LTTE on child recruitment,` UNICEF however said in response.