A survey conducted by the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation has revealed that several thousands of children were forcibly recruited by the LTTE and thrown into battle in the last two years of the war.
Interviews conducted with over 11,000 detainees on a Justice and Law Reforms Ministry directive have indicated that children were deployed on the Vanni front without proper training.
Among them were some of the LTTE s best fighters, including men and women of frontline formations, such as the Charles Anthony Brigade. Among 4,580 cadres aged between 19-24 and 4,220 cadres aged between 25-34 in custody, are some of the LTTE s best fighters.
Former Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, Maj. Gen. Daya Ratnayake said that the LTTE had deployed children at gun point on the Vanni front even in May last year, weeks before the Army finished off terrorists on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.
Ratnayake, who recently quit the office of Rehabilitation Chief to assume duties as the Army Chief of Staff said that those who had been critical of Sri Lanka s war against terrorism, had conveniently forgotten the Tamil speaking children had been liberated.
Among the LTTE cadres, now held in detention facilities are 4,953 who were recruited during the last two years of the battle, particularly in the Vanni region. Ratnayake said that the LTTE had sacrificed thousands of children on the Vanni front to delay the fall of its bases.
The combined security forces offensive, which was launched in March 2007 west of A9 road, concluded in the third week of May 2009.
Ratnayaka said that anyone wanting to discuss so-called accountability issues in relation to military action during the final phase of the offensive should investigate why their representatives in Sri Lanka failed to stop the LTTE using children as cannon fodder.
Ratnayake, who had commanded a section of the troops involved in the liberation of the East (mid 2006-June 2007), said that the LTTE had lost over 20,000 men and women during eelam war IV. The majority of them were children, he said. Quoting the detainees, the former Military spokesman said that the LTTE had executed some of the wounded due to its inability to treat them, though some of the wounded reached government-held areas.
According to the survey, among the detainees are 1,422 disabled personnel. Of them, four are totally deaf, one partially deaf, three totally blind, 144 partially blind, amputees (five of them without both legs, 686 without one leg each), amputees (17 without both hands, 387 without one hand each) and other disabilities 175. As at March 1 this year, altogether 10,781 LTTE cadres were being held at 17 centres, including 212 children at Hindu College, Ratmalana and 185 children at the Cooperative Training Centre, Poonthottam. Among the 10,781 detainees are 8,791 males and 1,990 females.
Justice and Law Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda said that since last August 900 ex-LTTE combatants had been released after rehabilitation. According to him, the majority (752) had been released from detention facilities in Vavuniya. Responding to a query by The Island, Minister Moragoda said among the detainees were 108 government servants and about 150 qualified to receive a university education. According to the survey, the detainees could be trained in carpentry, masonry, electrical work, tailoring, welding, aluminium fabrication, informational technology, nursing, beauty culture, driving, teaching etc.