A government-appointed committee which toured the Eastern Province recently on a fact finding mission has reiterated that the offence of child abduction/recruitment carries a penalty of 30 years in prison. Now we know why it is said the law is an ass! In fact, it is a lame ass! That is too lenient a punishment for so serious a crime. A snake that harms a child is crushed before you could say Jack Robinson but the ogres that prey on children in their hundreds are accommodated in the government boarding at the expense of tax payers. We are puzzled by this kind of logic. Of a child abductor and a snake, the latter is the less evil as its spontaneous action is only in self-defence. So, why crush snakes and spare ogres?
The punishment for anyone who harms children must be death by hanging in public. Today is Navam Full Moon Poya Day and perhaps we shouldn t be advocating such action on a day like this. But, desperate problems need desperate solutions. We are without anyone blessed with super human powers to deal with the modern day Devadattas, Angulimalas and Alawakas, through non-violent means.
The government claims there has been no child recruitment in the East during the last year. After the breakaway of Karuna, the LTTE lost free access to the Eastern Province, where it had recruited most of its child combatants. Later Karuna came to be accused of recruiting children to boost his strength to counter the LTTE threat.
Now that the government has cleared the East of the LTTE, if child recruitment continues, it cannot find scapegoats it has no alternative but to admit that the armed groups enjoying its patronage are committing that crime.
We hope the government is telling us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about child recruitment in the newly liberated East, without trying to cover up the sins of its pet, Pillaiyan, who is currently leading the Karuna Group accused of having child combatants within its ranks. The only way the government can prove the veracity of its claim is to allow the press and child rights activists to visit the East without let or hindrance to see the situation for themselves.
Children in the North and the East won t be safe so long as the LTTE and its splinter groups remain armed. They can no longer inspire the youth to join them voluntarily unlike in the past when they were not short of recruits. At present, they are abducting not only children but grown up men and women as well. Even the newly married are not spared. The international organisations operating in the Wanni are keeping their local staff indoors to prevent them being abducted by the LTTE, which is facing a severe manpower shortage. Its breakaway groups are also in a similar predicament. Difficulty in recruiting combatants is a sure indication that they cannot sustain their terror projects. Their wheel of terror has turned a full circle and they are without enough steam to generate a boost to keep it turning.
The worst affected by the freedom Prabhakaran enjoyed under successive governments to control a vast area encompassing about one third of the country s landmass were children. He has been running orphanages where inmates are brainwashed into laying down their lives for him. He had free rein for over two decades and turned the areas under his jackboot into an open prison for children. That was part of the price the country had to pay for the absence of war which some politicians achieved by allowing him to continue with his sordid operations. Strangely, no do-gooder has ever advocated R2P to liberate those unfortunate children from the clutches of the LTTE.
Only the UNICEF made an attempt to save those children but it blundered by expecting the LTTE to release child combatants on its own. Its transit home project came a cropper when the outfit refused to release any more children after the first batch.
NGO knights have carefully avoided the issue of child soldiers and concentrated on the lucrative aspects of conflict resolution such as confidence building to rake in dollars, pounds, yen, kroner etc. They know better than to stick out their necks bedecked with gold chains. All that the children trapped in the LTTE-held terrain have got from those NGO Samaritans is short shrift.
In a way, why should they who are living in clover, thanks to their gullible donors, who can be taken for a ride with professionally designed and doctored reports, endanger themselves because of some children in a far away place?
It is unfortunate that even those who valiantly resisted the police when they descended on the Colombo lodges and were campaigning against the abductions in the city have turned a blind eye to the plight of child soldiers. Is it that they consider those children as having no human rights?
Will the award winning human rights activists, their ambassadorial sponsors and the worthy members of the NGO fraternity come out and urge Prabhakaran and Pillaiyan to desist from harming children? Those gentlemen and gentlewomen must learn to be ashamed of themselves!
We believe every right thinking person will agree with us that child abductors must be hanged if this country is to be safe for our children. Let Prabhakaran be hanged in the North and Pillaiyan in the East! Those who harm children are not human and therefore the question of human rights doesn t arise.
Flogging the lame ass that is the existing law to save children is an exercise in futility.