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Fillip to rehumanization

Agreement between the United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) and the LTTE on a "road map" to an action plan to reintegrate child combatants into civil society and to assist children affected by the war, should be considered a significant fillip to the peace process.

For, this development could be seen as willingness on the part of the LTTE to address a thorny issue in the peace process which has raised many a controversial and divisive comment - the enlistment of children to LTTE structures despite the cessation of hostilities.

Nevertheless, this agreement needs welcoming also for the very fact that the well-being of the country's children is being considered in a major way. Thus, it is also a victory for humanity. It is agreements such as these that help in the humanising of Sri Lanka, which is an important strand in the peace process. The news could be considered a welcome ray of sunshine, amid the continuing gloom of child abuse and the exploitation of the vulnerable by parasitical elements.

We have here, besides the above, evidence of the willingness of the LTTE to submit to the authority of an influential UN specialized agency and indirectly to international norms and law. This development could also be construed as further proof of the LTTE's willingness to submit to UN scrutiny.

A crowning achievement in this context, is the willingness of the LTTE to attend UNICEF - conducted training sessions on child rights. It would be relevant to remember that it was at the fifth round of peace talks in Berlin that the Government and the LTTE agreed to seek UNICEF assistance on the reintegration of child combatants and connected issues.

To revert to our theme of rehumanization, it should be recalled that it is the brutalization of the young and impressionable which helps perpetuate the conflict, besides contributing towards military muscle.

In the case of the North-East, there is a considerable number of youths and children who have never visited the South and who have not come to know their counterparts in this part of the country. Conditions of war over the years, ensured the strengthening of this separation wall. Conscription to the LTTE as child combatants deeply compounded the problem. In fact, the latter process is certain to have bred virulent hostility in the minds of the young towards the rest of Sri Lanka.

The opportunity now offers itself to end this self-perpetuating cycle of hostility. Children would be afforded the chance of shaking hands of friendship across the divide and of building bridges of amity.

We call for the strengthening and expansion of such bridge - building programs which would ensure closer rapport among the young of the communities.

 

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