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UN told how Lanka tackled child soldiers’ issue

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Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Mohan Peiris, PC last Friday explained how Sri Lanka had successfully tackled the child soldiers’ issue. Addressing the Virtual Event, titled “Early Warning to Early Action: Implementing the Vancouver Principles to Prevent and End the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers”, Peiris thanked the Permanent Missions of Canada, Rwanda and Uruguay as well as the UN Department of Peace Operations and the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security for organizing the important event.

The following is the text of the speech by Peiris: “Particularly, today (Feb 12), as we mark the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. I cannot but recall the words of Kofi Annan the former Secretary-General when he said “if there is any lesson that we can draw from the experience of the past decade, it is that the use of child soldiers is far more than a humanitarian concern; that its impact lasts far beyond the actual time of fighting; and that the scope of the problem vastly exceeds the number of children directly involved.” I was further encouraged by the reassertion of this thought when Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau stated ‘the use of child soldiers have no place in our world … by bringing countries together and putting the Vancouver Principles together we can make sure children remain children and build a safer and more just future for all.’

“As you would all know, Sri Lanka experienced the sad phenomenon of child soldiers at the hands of a group of non-state actors that terrorized the country for nearly 30 years. Following the neutralization of this group in 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka undertook the substantial task of rehabilitating these children and reuniting them with their families. I would now like to show a few photos that depict the rehabilitation programme conducted by Sri Lanka for the ex-child soldiers, where we treated these children like our own children and apart from the formal education, they had the opportunity to attend scouting programmes and even some radio programmes at a media institution.

“I must refer to the mandates and early warning chapters in the Vancouver Principles which opens up a wide window of scenarios. We cannot be heard to turn a blind eye to some of the activities of these non-state actors who as we speak are engaged in the very activity which we are seeking to stop. I will briefly show you some photographs which depict the use of child soldiers and are being used to promote the idea of hate and terror. In one picture, as you see children dressed in combat uniforms carrying replicas of rocket launchers, missiles and guns. This is a lovely play! This is not Cinderella or Jack & the Beanstalk or Little Red Riding Hood but promoting hate, little children carrying replicas of bazoocas and all kinds of weapons. In the other, schoolchildren as young as eight years is enacting a drama dressed as suicide soldiers. Here is another one of glorification of child soldiers, in another little skit. These pictures speak a volume.

“We all know the modus operandi of such groups and I do not wish to get into that here. But I think it’s important to highlight that while the actual child soldiers created by this group were physically in Sri Lanka, they were being aided, sponsored and glorified by segments of the diaspora abroad. Unfortunately, we have witnessed children living thousands of miles away from Sri Lanka taking part in ceremonies that glorified child soldiers and to raise funds for this group of non-state actors. The modus-operandi included the use of schools, particularly in foreign countries, ostensibly for the purpose of imparting knowledge on culture and language to diaspora children. Under the fine and laudable cover of teaching the younger generation their culture and values, something far more sinister and scary was being carried out and that is the brainwashing of small children into a state of hate of nationalities they are falsely made to believe were antagonistic to them. We have found that some of these institutions had very close associations with this group of non-state actors and were actually their front organizations and were being used to propagate their illegal activities overseas as well as a source of income. Indeed, in Europe alone there were more than 350 such institutions with nearly 20,000 students.

“Some of the activities of the diaspora are depicted in these photos – innocent looking concerts and plays by little children who are compelled to re-enact the grim and sad story of child soldiers on a mission to kill their brothers and sisters. My dear friends, what are we in the international community doing about it? The answer is very little, but an avalanche of rhetoric and passively allowing the glorification of terror. This has gone on unabated and un-noticed and has led to the systematic radicalization of Tamil youth. It is evident that systematic psychological conditioning of students to become martyrs and terrorists started with this group of non-state actors long before it manifested itself in Islamist madrasas.

“This is extremely unfortunate, and continues even today. It is important that in our efforts to combat this gruesome ordeal we do not forget the sophisticated mechanizations of various non-state actors to further their cause of terror.  Our efforts to move forward on these issues must ensure that we do not allow them to use the same procedures that we use to foster and propagate our ideals of humanity at the UN for their own purposes.

“Most often children end up a numerical notation on international podiums, and scant regard is paid as to why children are made to carry arms and under what circumstances they become victims of movements that would do anything to ensure that their agendas are realized. The Vancouver Principles are something that is long overdue for the reason that nothing constructive has been done internationally to put an end to these children’s misery.

“I will end by citing a grim warning from scripture about protecting children when Christ said “if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come; let woe to the person through whom they come.” The sophistication of our treaties will not suffice unless and until we act true and fast. The Vancouver Declaration will be a stepping stone in the right direction.”



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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