Trudeau Can Do Better Than Just Delivering An Understatement
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered rather an interesting statement on Red Hand Day, the international day to highlight the plight of underage forced conscripts into armed conflicts. He categorised their trauma due to “unimaginable violence and abuse” as “long lasting scars”. He noted that children’s right to a safe environment, with access to education and basic care and to a childhood is denied by this forced conscription. His statement is interesting because it rings hollow of its insincerity.
Canada is one country that could have made a difference in the plight of Sri Lankan children and deliberately chose not to do so. For decades children in the North and East were in direct danger of been dragged away from their parental custody and forced into armed combat. Children were routinely kidnapped while they were en route to or from school by the LTTE. At one time, according to UNICEF records the LTTE held 7,634 child soldiers.
The terrorist organisation did not hesitate to shoot and kill parents and principals who tried to oppose such conscriptions. Children orphaned by the war also became targets as they were either persuaded or pushed into taking arms against the State.
Children as young as eight were taken by the LTTE to be used as cannon fodder. That is, they had a very specific role in the battles against a professionally trained military. These young children were forced to run ahead of the fighting cadres. Thereby they would trigger the
Anti-Personnel mines buried in the perimeters of the military camps and clear the way to the fighting cadres. These children were also thrown over the razor sharp concertina barbed wire rings that protect the boundaries of the camps. The terrorists then entered the camps by stepping on the bodies of these young children. They were thus literally trampled to death by the the very organisation that conscripted them.
As evidenced by the stunted growth of those cadres who survived the war, these children had been underfed. There are numerous accounts where young female cadres had faced severe pressure from senior cadres to provide sexual favours.
Children from vulnerable sectors, especially those who were orphaned were handpicked to be trained as suicide cadres. They were forced into such a bleak existence that the highlight of their short life was the dinner hosted by the terrorist leader Prabhakaran. This dinner was on the night they were to leave on their suicide mission. These suicide attacks indiscriminately killed thousands of innocent civilians, including children and maimed many more.
Other older children, especially in their teens were also turned into killer machines. To prepare them for battle, they were taken to remote and isolated villages where they had to hack urge villagers to death. This included even pregnant women, whose bellies were ripped open and the fetus ripped out. The Gonagala massacre that was carried out mostly by female terrorist cadres shocked the world as most of the victims were little children and women.
Most of these atrocities would not have been possible if the LTTE’s funding was cut off or at the very least curtailed. Instead, for most part of the war the LTTE had superior power in both arms and propaganda. The Sri Lankan military was almost always a step behind the LTTE’s fire power. While the successive Sri Lankan Governments struggled to arm and sustain its forces adequately, the LTTE effortlessly collected funds and propagated its ideology through an ever growing network that operated chiefly in the western countries.
Until the annihilation of the LTTE on Sri Lankan soil in May 2009, the European citizens of Tamil ethnicities were under the subjugation of the LTTE’s network in the West. The extremist group, Tamil Diaspora, either through persuasion or intimidation collected millions of dollars per annum to oil the war machinery of the terrorist group. The Western Governments could not have been ignorant of the issue. Yet, adequate action was not taken to stop the Tamil Diaspora’s activities and to protect their own citizens from extortion and other threats. It is quite ironic the monies thus collected had made the Tamil Diaspora into a powerful lobby that most western politicians dare not ignore.
Last year, PM Trudeau commiserated the 1983 July riots - an event that took place 37 years ago. However, he failed to observe the events that led to this unfortunate incident where around 300 people died and thousands of others lost their homes and properties. He therefore blithely ignored the role India played to arm, train and fund terrorism in Sri Lanka as well as the part played by the opportunistic Tamil politicians, who tried to manipulate the passionate youth for their own misdeeds - including the elimination of their political rivals as Alfred Duraiappah. Different entities thus misled thousands of Tamil youth into a path of violence for very different self-serving objectives.
Failed to acknowledge
Trudeau also failed to acknowledge the overall reaction of the people during the 1983 riots. Many Tamil lives were saved by the bravery of the Sinhalese who risked the wrath of mobs to give sanctuary to their Tamil neighbour. By ignoring this crucial evidence, the real causes for terrorism in the Island remains buried. At the same time the Sinhalese are being baselessly tagged as racists.
The Canadian Prime Minister also refused to observe the enormous benefits Sri Lanka - especially the Tamils in the North and East - benefited by the eradication of terrorism. One of these main benefits is that the Tamil child is no longer under any threat of being dragged away from home or school and forced into combat. The very benefits that Trudeau outlined as the fundamental rights of a child is ensured today because the LTTE was defeated and its macabre leadership eliminated.
Nearly 12 years have passed since the war concluded. Yet the stance taken by the West is very strange. US denied not only the incumbent Army Commander General Shavendra Silva but also his family from entering America. UK wanted Major General Priyanka Fernando, who was the military attaché at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London and his family out of Britain. The reason been a gesture made by the military officer to members of the Tamil Diaspora who were trampling the Sri Lankan national flag. Australia denied Major General Chagie Gallage a visa to visit his brother. The Australian High Commissioner warned incumbent Defence Secretary (prior to the appointment) that if he attends his daughter’s convocation in Australia, he may get arrested by the Australian authorities.
Responsible for forming the TYO
Yet, the same position is not taken by these governments against those who committed and supported terrorist acts in Sri Lanka. The recent fast unto death hunger strike launched by Ambika Selvakumar in Britain for a Tamil homeland reinforces this double standards yet again. She was the girlfriend of Veerakulasingham Manivannan alias Castro - who was the Head of the LTTE’s international propaganda unit. He was responsible for forming the TYO to recruit youth between the ages of 18 and 30 years into the terrorist organisation.
It is interesting that his girlfriend has now made UK her home and is actively calling upon the youth in Sri Lanka to agitate for the Tamil homeland in the North and East. She claims to be a “democratic” voice. However, the LTTE never believed in democracy and Prabhakaran openly advocated fascism. Her purpose of using the term “democracy” is obvious.
She is trying to entice the Tamil ethnic youth domiciled in the West. Most of them do not know what really happened in Sri Lanka and believe in the Tamil Diaspora’s false propaganda. If Western governments fail to take action, the next wave of child conscription will take place with the seeds sowed by the likes of Selvakumar. Delivering tearful messages on international days is not enough - all world leaders must take every possible tangible steps to protect our children from terrorists.