A recent UN study found that
several terrorist organisations around the world were continuing
with the abominable practice of recruiting children to their
ranks. One of the prime suspects was the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has been engaged in this practice more
or less since its inception.
The LTTE is well-known for its ‘baby brigades’ which were
reputed to have children as young as eight who could barely lift
a gun. It is true that the LTTE had released some children due
to international pressure. But it still keeps a substantial
number of children in its ranks. The same holds true for the
In fact, the UN Secretary-General listed the LTTE for the
fifth consecutive time since 2002 for violating international
standards regarding the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
It is in this context that Human Rights Watch, an
international human rights organisation which had earlier
documented cases of extortion by the LTTE, has urged the UN
Security Council to take punitive action against the LTTE and
its leaders for recruiting and keeping children as fighting
HRW has urged the UN to give the LTTE 30 days to release all
child soldiers. If that does not happen, HRW advocates travel
bans on their leaders and a freeze on their assets.
Using children as armed cadres is a clear violation of
international law and Security Council resolutions.
Some try to give it a different twist saying that the LTTE is
a terrorist entity that will not abide by civilised norms, but
that is a flimsy excuse for justifying the tormenting of
children and depriving them of their education.
One must bear in mind that the LTTE had promised to disband
its baby brigades more than a decade ago but there has been
Increasingly bereft of manpower as a result of battlefield
losses, the LTTE has started a conscription drive whereby all
householders in uncleared areas are obliged to provide at least
one youth to their ranks.
It has now been revealed that some LTTE bunkers are manned by
very young girls, most of whom had written letters to their
parents bemoaning their fate. The LTTE also makes use of the
civilian population as a ‘shield’ to save their fighting cadres.
All these show the natural disregard of the LTTE towards
As Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN Prasad
Kariyawasam stated yesterday at the UN, the time for action on
child soldiers is now.
The future of HD
The battle for the
high-definition video format is finally over. Sony’s Blu-Ray has
triumphed over Toshiba’s HD-DVD. The first blow for the latter
came when Warner Brothers, which made discs in both formats,
sided with Blu-Ray. This was followed in quick succession by
other defections and major retailers’ move to stock only Blu-Ray
The rivalry did prevent many people from buying
next-generation discs, both of which are capable of reproducing
1080 line true High Definition pictures. Now that one format has
emerged as the clear winner, just as JVC’s VHS videotape
triumphed over Sony’s Betamax in the 1980s, consumers do have a
clear path to follow.
But for how long is the question on most analysts’ lips.
Remember Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio, hailed as the next big
thing in audio after the CD? They were more or less washed away
in the download stream.
The ultimate winner: MP3. With the rapid proliferation of the
Internet and increasingly access to broadband, downloads have
become the preferred format for music purchases the world over.
Physical album sales are dwindling day by day.
Many fear that the same phenomenon will be repeated in the
video landscape. Several services in the US already offer
downloadable HD movies through the Internet. Moreover, cable and
satellite-based Video On Demand services are proliferating.
Who wants to bother with a trip to the video store when the
movie comes right to your TV screen at a small charge? Granted,
downloads are unlikely to have alternate endings, multiple
language tracks, uncompressed surround sound, directors’
commentaries etc which are common in physical discs.
There are more obstacles. Even in the US, the biggest market
for movies, the Internet bandwidth available to most customers
is not enough to stream a high-def movie without any
interruption. It will take at least five more years for such an
infrastructure to become commonplace.
There are other threats to Blu-Ray apart from the Internet.
Most consumers are perfectly happy with existing DVDs, which
have top-notch picture quality. Many cheap DVD players upscale
the resolution to near-HD levels.
Besides, only a very low percentage of consumers have LCD or
plasma TVs which can output a true HD (1080p) picture at the
moment. Flash memory is also developing rapidly to the point
where a pen drive would soon be able to store an uncompressed HD
Ultimately, it is the consumer who will give the final
verdict. Both physical and non-physical media have their
strengths and weaknesses and the most plausible scenario is that
they will survive side by side.