The Karuna Group has taken umbrage over a UN move to name it as a perpetrator of child recruitment in a new report. It complains of a sinister plan to discredit it at this particular juncture. However, there is little that Karuna can do to avoid being shamed so long as there are, as alleged, underage combatants within his ranks.
Karuna disputes allegations against his movement and claims he is not engaged in systematic child recruitment. His problem is that he was the chief recruiter of children for his erstwhile leader for many years. He was instrumental in abducting thousands of children and delivering them as cannon fodder to the LTTE.
However, he, to his credit, released hundreds of child combatants who had sided with him after his split with Prabhakaran, when the two factions fought it out in the Eastern Province. But, his sordid track record and the alleged presence of child soldiers in his clandestine guerrilla force continue to haunt him. He has no one to blame but himself!
Without resorting to obfuscation through the use of terms such as `systematic recruitment` etc., he had better tell the world in simple terms whether he is recruiting children at least on a small scale. If so, is he willing to set them free forthwith unconditionally?
There may be pro-LTTE elements in the garb of UN officials, especially in Colombo, bent on shaming Karuna so that his outfit will be without legitimacy to be an alternative to the LTTE. Karuna may be right on this score. But, he has to put his house in order first of all before pointing fingers at others. So long as he uses child combatants, as his critics say, he cannot claim to be different from his former master in the Wanni.
Robbers are those who rob and killers are those who kill. No amount of naming and shaming is going to wean them away from their crimes. Similarly, the thick skinned terrorist outfits cannot be prevented from recruiting children by listing them. They even take bans for granted! Even if the UN were to go on preparing Lists of Shame till kingdom come, children wouldn`t be safe from those outfits.
We are not short of tough talking foreign envoys who ask the LTTE in no uncertain terms to give up violence both `in word and deed`. They have taken up a principled stand on terrorism and their concern needs to be appreciated. Likewise, the UN officials and foreign ambassadors who rightly condemn child recruitment should be asked not to confine their noble campaign to mere words and reports. Words are no surrogates for effective action that needs to be taken to make terrorist organisations fall in line.
What action has the UN taken so far to rid the world of the crime of child recruitment? Cynics may be right in pooh-poohing the UN campaign to liberate children as NATO (No Action Talk Only!).
When the UN prepared its first List of Shame and promised tough action against the outfits named therein, many heaved a sigh of relief. But, surprisingly, the Security Council skirted the proposed measures thus making a mockery of the list. Perhaps, there is the need for a separate UN List of Shame to name those who refuse to take effective action against those who harm children and the Security Council worthies must be placed right at the top of it!
Worst of all, the Colombo-based UN officials supportive of the LTTE once duped former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan into issuing a condolence message on the killing of a prominent member of the LTTE, which is in the exalted company of the Lord`s Resistance Army (LRA) on the UN List of Shame!
The precedent the former UN Chief created at the insistence of his pro-terror subordinates here is such that it would be in order for the UN to issue a condolence message even if a member of the notorious Gajanayake gang responsible for the abductions in the South were to be killed! Mr. Annan also wanted to visit Prabhakaran`s empire of darkness in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster but former President Chandrika Kumaratunga put up fierce resistance and thwarted his tour, from which a great deal of legitimacy would have accrued to the LTTE.
A journalistic pet accompanying Mr. Annan at that time was so irked by her action that he called her names in a book he authored subsequently. The UN also made a sorry spectacle of itself by trying to oust its press officer in Colombo over a newspaper interview, where he had exercised his freedom of expression at the expense of the LTTE and its international sponsors.
Thus, with the UN either wittingly or unwittingly helping further the interests of child recruiters owing to surreptitious collaboration of some of its officials with the perpetrators of crimes against children, its List of Shame is not worth the paper it is written on.
In drafting another report on child conscription, the UN is engaged in an exercise in futility?
Why should the UN be wasting so much of paper?