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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2395

Pillaiyan unveils plans for Eastern youth, asserts TMVP has no child soldiers

Colombo, 14 April, (Asiantribune.com): The sartorial change has come quite easily to the former guerrilla. But the agenda of Chandrakanthan Sivanesathurai alias Pillaiyan, leader of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal, for the Eastern Province takes the breath out of conventional politicians.Chandrakanthan Sivanesathurai said, "We know about these allegations. We keep hearing them. We know how and why these charges are made. You know when Vanni Tigers were here in the East, they were the ones who mostly carried out these abductions and to cover up their tracts, made the parents complain to the UNICEF and other agencies besides the police. You see unless you know the ground reality you cannot appreciate our view".Chandrakanthan Sivanesathurai said, "We know about these allegations. We keep hearing them. We know how and why these charges are made. You know when Vanni Tigers were here in the East, they were the ones who mostly carried out these abductions and to cover up their tracts, made the parents complain to the UNICEF and other agencies besides the police. You see unless you know the ground reality you cannot appreciate our view".

Unemployment is the scourge of the region, he says. There is no magic wand to remove the joblessness in one day but a sincere and determined effort is what he promises for quick results. Mine is not a conventional approach, Pillaiyan declares at the very outset. "My plan is a multi-layered approach. Its basic goal is making life meaningful for the girls and boys of the East".

In a freewheeling interview with Asian Tribune, the youthful Pillaiyan brushed aside, the charge by UNICEF, Human Rights Groups and even the US state department that his outfit had abducted children and drafted them for its military campaign.

Pillaiyan said TMVP is not involved in any abduction of children. "We know about these allegations. We keep hearing them. We know how and why these charges are made. You know when Vanni Tigers were here in the East, they were the ones who mostly carried out these abductions and to cover up their tracts, made the parents complain to the UNICEF and other agencies besides the police. You see unless you know the ground reality you cannot appreciate our view".

The TNVP leader went on to add: "Any how, the fact of the matter is today we are a political party. Today what can we do with these under age children. You see, we have already reduced our military trained cadres by half. After the liberation war in the East, where is the need for militarily trained cadres. We are a political party now. We believe in democracy and we subscribe to democratic way of life. Now all our plans are geared to fulfil our political goal. ".

Asian Tribune: What about the armed TMVP cadres?

Pillaiyan: "I am not saying we don't have armed cadres. I am only saying we have reduced the number of trained cadres to half. We are forced to have a few hundreds of armed cadres just for our self protection. You see, Vanni Tigers are still on the prowl; they are not disarmed and are waiting for the opportune time to strike at us and physically liquidate us from the face of this earth. So we have to keep few militarily trained persons with arms for self protection. Do you think it is wrong?"

Asian Tribune: Haven't the parents reported against TMVP …?

Pillaiyan: Well. What choice do the parents have when the Vanni Tigers are breathing down their neck except to go to the UNICEF and the human rights groups against us? I understand the parents' difficulty. I sympathize with them. You do one thing. When you go back to Colombo, ask the UNICEF whether their officials made enquires on their own, whether they met regularly the parents of missing children, also whether they tried to find out whether these children had returned home …... I was told UNICEF has no mechanism to do such investigation. UNICEF sent to us a list of 24 names saying they are with us. After verification with the boys with us, we have told them those names in their list do not tally with the names of the boys we have with us.

Asian Tribune : Ok. After you took over TMVP reins, how many underage children you have abducted or ordered the abduction for whatever reasons…?.

Pillaiyan: We love our children. We will work for their bright future. Let me tell you an incident. It happened yesterday. I was going to Mylankkarachchi and I saw a boy not even 13 years old pleading with one of our leaders, Urutthira Master to take him with us. He said he is 13 years of age and studied up to 5th standard. He said that he is an orphan and he has no place to go and no food to eat. I asked that boy whether he is prepared to continue his studies. 'Then I will try to arrange a school hostel, so that you can stay there and continue with your studies'. He said, 'Yes'. I immediately asked Urutthira Master to make necessary arrangements to find a school hostel so that the boy can stay in the hostel and study.

Asian Tribune: : Be frank, how may kids are with you in TMVP?

Pillaiyan: As I told you already, we have become a political party we are into elections for votes, why should we have teenagers with us. Yes, it is true at one time we had about 44 underage children. Out of them we have already released 11 of them. Many of them are orphans. You know, the war displaced more than 100,000 people internally in the East. Such families are forced to live in camps. There are many children who have either lost their parents or unable to contact their father, mother or other relatives. These orphans have come and sought our protections.

Asian Tribune: What are you doing for these boys, the youth? When will they reunite with their parents and relatives?

Pillaiyan: We want to send them home. But how can we do it? We cannot ask them to leave and go. That is inhuman, unfair. We will trace their parents or relatives or whoever is their kith and kin, and hand over these boys to them to take care of them and bring them up as good citizens. Or we are ready to hand over them to an agency arranged by the Government of Sri Lanka or by the UNICEF.

After looking at their plight, our resolve to help our boys and girls in the East is steeled more than ever before. As I told you, today we are a political party. We have joined the democratic political mainstream. We are a transparent political party. We can't today hide any facts. This is our position. We will hand over the balance underage children who are with us soon and bring an end to this chapter soon.

Asian Tribune: If your TMVP is voted to power and if you become the chief minister of East, what will you do, I mean your agenda for action, for governance…

Pillaiyan: That will be a great responsibility. I am conscious of the raising aspirations of the people and the plethora of problems they are confronting every day. Some thing must be done. It must be done quickly. Already we have lost precious time.

My immediate priority will be youth. I will focus on providing opportunities for youth - boys and girls in the East to make their life meaningful by providing gainful employment – in the Government, private sector as well as for them to come up with self employment. Lack of such opportunities has forced them to take to arms by joining armed groups and anti-social elements making their life miserable, as well as creating problems to the society around them.

Asian Tribune: You sound very vague, like any politician. My question is have you done any home work and prepared any actionable plans since you yourself say precious time has been lost already.

Pillaiyan: You want specifics. Ok. We made a survey in the Eastern province. Nearly 75,000 students sit for the G.C.E. Ordinary level examination every year but only about 8,000 pass out and qualify for G.C.E Advance Level classes. When we looked at the picture more closely, we found out that out of these 8000 pass outs, very few, some three to four thousand take up Advance Level. Out of them, about 500 make it big and go for higher education.

Then what happens to the balance? They join the unemployed brigade. Once they are frustrated and loose hope and confidence, they end up joining the armed groups fighting against the Government of the country as well as against all the established organizations. It is all because of lack of opportunities. We will address the issue holistically…

Asian Tribune: But how..? Be a little more specific…?

Pillaiyan : (laughing): How can you ask us specifics, we are still contesting the election? Any how, on a serious note, let me tell you this- we don't want any child to go without education. The first thing we will do after coming to power in the East will be creating proper educational facilities so that every child born here goes to school after reaching the school going age. This is a commitment. There is no going back. You see, we are people, for us promise is a promise; it is a word of honor we will uphold.

Then we will take special interest in those students who pass out their G.C.E. Ordinary level as well as Advance level examinations and provide them opportunities to determine their future. We will arrange crash professional courses for them and also skilled and semi skilled job trainings so that they will be able to find jobs and other opportunities to better their life.

Now the third and most important plank - We will try to create more job opportunities in the Government and would encourage private sector to create more jobs and employ more youths if they open up new business ventures in the East.

We also will invite Sri Lankan diaspora to invest in news business ventures in the East by opening up free trade zones in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai districts with the help and assistance of the Government thus creating more employment opportunities.

Asian Tribune: Thank you

Pillaiyan: My thanks goes to Asian Tribune/s editorial board and its readers. Thanks AT

- Asian Tribune -

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