Learn from history

Stepping Stone to LTTE Child Soldering
(Courtesy of The Island)

Disturbing news has come from the North that schoolchildren and teachers were made to take part in a recent protest march, demanding the release of LTTE suspects in custody. Some sinister elements seem to be working overtime to catch them young.

Political parties and other outfits can stage such protests, and their right to do so cannot be questioned. But on no grounds should students be allowed to be involved in them. The LTTE used children in its war and many parents in the North and the East lost their precious ones in the conflict. The end of the war has brought much relief to parents. Children are attending school without fearing forcible conscription.

The incident at issue reminds us of the situation in the southern parts of the country in the late 1980s, when the JVP forced schoolchildren including those in primary classes to participate in its protests against the 13th Amendment. Students were also used to deliver ‘chits’ calling for the closure of shops. Scores of children perished at the hands of vigilantes and the special armed forces and police units, as a result. The massacre of a group of students in Embilipitiya is a case in point.

It is nearly a decade since the conclusion of the war and it defies comprehension why no legal action has, so far, been taken against the Tiger suspects who have been languishing in remand prisons. What they have gone through in those hell holes is punishment enough, we reckon. Cases against them should be heard expeditiously and the possibility of rehabilitating and releasing them seriously considered, depending on the severity of crimes they have allegedly committed. After all, President Maithripala Sirisena once made a grand show of pardoning an LTTE cadre who had conspired to kill him while he was a minister of the Rajapaksa government. He should be equally considerate towards the Tiger suspects as well.

Yesterday, we reported that 10 persons had been sentenced to death for murdering six members of the same family way back in 1998. It is puzzling why there was such an inordinate delay in meting out punishment to those savages who shot and killed a woman and her five children. Laws delays cause a severe erosion of public faith in the judicial process and there are times when people take the law into their own hands as a result. Most land cases drag on for years on end. A Justice Minister once said the courts had taken four decades to conclude a land case he had been involved in!

The government has introduced speedy trials only against its political opponents who pose a threat to its survival. Why can’t cases against the LTTE suspects as well as others in remand prisons be similarly heard? The mainstream Tamil political parties which are allies of the yahapalana government ought to crank up pressure on the government to do so without letting anarchical elements to exploit the plight of the Tiger suspects to advance their hidden agendas.

These parties got the people of the North and the East to vote for President Sirisena and shores up the present administration by blindly voting for bills it presents, and, therefore, they are duty bound to take up the issue of the LTTE suspects suffering in remand prisons.

The Education Ministry must look into the student protest in the North, calling for the release of LTTE suspects, and take action against the teachers who organised it or took part therein. Disciplinary action against them are called for. Let the National Child Protection Authority be urged to probe the incident and see if action can be taken against the organisers thereof.

Students must not be used in political events in any part of the country. The onus is also on the parents of the northern students who were made to walk in the aforesaid protest march to ask the organisers of the event to leave their precious ones alone. Those who do not learn from history are said to be doomed to repeat it.

 

 

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