The UN growls - but does the Tiger care?
The UN Security Council might consider what are called 'targeting' sanctions, such as travel and visa restrictions against countries and armed militias using child soldiers in war. The appendix to Secretary General Kofi Annan's report, which is the basis for the Security Council's statement, lists the LTTE among others, as one armed organization that recruits children for war.

What is 'targeting'? Fine words buttered no parsnips! As far as the LTTE is concerned, it has used UN organizations, the Sri Lankan government and the world in general for a different kind of targeting.

On the issue of child soldiers the LTTE has a consistently successful history of targeting the world at large -- for its scorn. The LTTE has not only been thumbing its nose at world opinion, but has also run circles round Ted Chaiban, the UNICEF chief in Colombo who entered into a deal with the LTTE to have some of the child soldiers freed. But, the LTTE freed some, then abducted many later.

It's in this backdrop of nonchalant impunity that the new finely worded, diplomatically calibrated warning to the LTTE arrives. Apparently, we are also told that Olara Otunnu who made the recommendations to Kofi Annan for the new sanctions, was contacted by the LTTE just last week, soon after the UN statement was made. The LTTE has apparently agreed to work with the UN, to "discuss the matter.''

From an organization which has insisted by screaming from every bunker-top available that it does not recruit child soldiers, it comes as a bit of a weird posture. What's there to discuss, if the LTTE does not have any children in its rank and file anyway? To the seasoned arbiter, both the Security Council statement and the LTTE's reaction to it sound as routine as the pittu served in Prabhakaran's Vanni for breakfast.

Kofi Annan's report says that the LTTE recruited 4,700 children since 2001. "We totally reject the accusations levelled against us about recruiting children for war," says S.P Thamilselvan in a response to that in the nitharsanam.com website.

"We are prepared to join and work with any organization that is acting in a practical manner for the welfare of our children," he then adds. Maybe he should have said that to the 40 children the LTTE recruited from refugee camps after the December 26th tsunami. UNICEF spokesman in Colombo, Geoffrey Keel, has said that the LTTE has not responded to their charge about these 40 post tsunami recruits.

All of the above, taken together with the fact that the LTTE continues to recruit children for armed combat should invite no more comment on the state of world affairs. We can rest our case. By the time the UN "considers'' its sanctions, the LTTE would be recruiting its new batch of baby-brigadiers.

Foreign delegations would be greeting LTTE leaders with body language that's a study in deference and stilted courtesy. European Union leaders will bend double, as if they were Japanese geishas. Japanese themselves, such as Akashi will bend even better than geishas. Then, the show will go on.

Scoundrels and schools
The trauma of children who are dragged away by the police after their parents have deposited them in school is not just heartrending -- it is obscene, and should disturb the sensibility of the most inert. It's as bad as the trauma of the tsunami orphaned.

But, nobody seems to be bothered about these children. Getting into a school these days - a halfway decent one - is harder than the proverbial journey of a camel through the eye of a needle.

But, forging light-bills and title-deeds to qualify for admission is a lifestyle change resultant from the wisdom that a child qualifies for admission only if he or she resides within a stipulated radius from the school in question. It's like the hundred meter tsunami-buffer zone -- except perhaps that the allowable distance is a little longer, while the possibility for fraud remains infinite.

But of what earthly use is the area rule? It beats all elementary reason in today's world that children should reside within a few miles distance from a school to be qualified for admission, when most children commute anyway, even as they get desiccated in biscuit-tin vans that have replaced the red-topped school buses of a more spacious era.

But the area rule stays, an ode to bureaucratic unreason, and testament to the lack of imagination in a leadership that almost seems to enjoy the possibilities for fraud and wheeler-dealing offered by the annual school admissions circus.

But, as with the tsunami reconstruction effort that's gridlocked in bureaucratic lethargy, the ruling elite is living in a fool's paradise. In short, if people have no houses, and children have no schools - the system will extract a prize. The possibility of public retribution on unthinking and insensitive leadership is also infinite.

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