Back to school
As reported in our lead story yesterday quoting
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, some 40,000 children of school
going age housed in IDP Centres, out of the 300,000 inmates, are
being sent to school to pick up from where they left off when
they were hoarded together and held as human shields by the LTTE
in the waning days of the Tiger fiefdom. It also represents
another facet of the gradual return to normalcy in the war
The decision to allow those over 60 years of age to leave the
IDP centres is also a welcome step also heralding the changing
face of things.
One hopes that the normalization process would be accelerated
so that these people could resume their normal lives in their
own familiar environment before long. The Northern Spring
program that is now proceeding apace no doubt will ensure the
smooth transition of these hapless folk to their former lives
with added quality.
Speaking at the felicitation ceremony to honour him as
Commander-in-Chief, and that of the Three Forces on the second
month marking the liberation of country from terrorism, in
Mahiyangana on Saturday, the President also said that all
children who previously carried arms in the North will not be
prosecuted. Instead, they will be integrated into society after
This line of thinking is only logical and justified since
most of these children in their early teens were by and large
forced conscripts and very often sent to the frontlines of
battle as cannon fodder. One must remember that those members of
JVP’s first uprising were granted amnesties after rehabilitation
even though they were voluntary fighters in the rebellion.
The tales narrated by the many escapee child soldiers left no
doubt as to their predicament. One could imagine the plight of
these youth just in their first bloom, had the conflict allowed
to prolong indefinitely. While Prabhakaran had his offspring
educated abroad these hapless youth were virtually being
condemned to die in battle against a powerful army of a State.
They therefore deserve to be considered with sympathy and to be
given all assistance to rehabilitate themselves and enter civil
Under the circumstances one fails to comprehend the silence
that was maintained by our erstwhile Human Rights groups and
those of their ilk who wax eloquent about children’s rights and
the exploitation of minors. One cannot recall if these children
were ever mentioned even in those seminars and workshops
conducted in posh Five Star Hotels on the topic of child labour.
For, weren’t these children under the burden of death with each
Neither were they of any consequences to those black band
wearing vocal demonstrators at Lipton Circus who were so
concerned about the human rights violations of the Sri Lankan
Army. Nor did we hear any strong words of condemnation of the
LTTE by those Sri Lanka watchers in the UN. This despite a firm
assurance given by the LTTE to the visiting UN Rapporteur on
Children in Armed Conflict Olara Otunu to release all child
soldiers held under them.
Now that these unfortunate beings have been liberated from
their agony every effort should be made to ensure they lead a
normal life as far as possible.
True, the psychological scars of their ordeal would take time
to heal.There will also be the initial suspicion of coming into
contact with ‘strangers’. In short, a civilian life would be
alien to them since they had been immersed in a gun culture from
a very tender age. Hence it is important that they be put in
charge of experts and professionals to guide them systematically
out of their mindsets so that they may not relive their trauma.
As for the 40,000 schoolchildren, here too they should be
provided with as a conducive environment as could obtain under
the circumstances to ensure their education is not disrupted in
any way. We have often repeated in these columns of the studious
bent of the youth of the North.
It is therefore important that we make use of their potential
for the future of the country as we did with their forebears in
the past. For this, the Government would have to create the
right environment not only in terms schools, buildings and
infrastructure facilities but also to cultivate the right
mindset to fit into their new environment in a post-war Sri
President Rajapaksa would no doubt receive the enteral
gratitude of the parents of these children for taking steps to
restore their education which was rudely disrupted by the
booming guns and bombs of the past.
For as mentioned before, education is high on the list
priorities of the Northerner. They can now engage in their
academic activities free of fear and tension thanks to the
eradication of the single cause that created a hell on earth for