The Reluctant Soldiers

10 images Created 17 Feb 2014

A sharp turn left of the smooth highway halfway between Colombo and Kandy , down a narrow path which runs along a river through gorgeous rubber plantations and you find yourselves at a checkpoint. Another checkpoint. After the mandatory smiles and flashing of Srilankan media accreditation cards ( which for most part were totally useless) we are let in to the the army facility for the protection and rehabilitation of former child soldiers at Ambepusse.
The winding path continues up a small hill and we find ourselves in front of three make shift tin roofed buildings that armies all over the world are so good at making. Surrounded by Ironwood trees and with a fantastic view of the plantations below one would think that the spot was perfect for a small guesthouse where honeymooning couples could spend quiet evenings together.
Rather 94 former child soldiers ‘captured’ and ’surrendered’ by the Srilankan army live here with their supervisors.The children spend their day everyday according to a schedule. Breakfast lunch and dinner with time to watch TV and for vocational training like sewing ,carpentry. Given the fact that this facility was one of the few places that we were given access to it would seem evident that the government feels that they must be doing a good job. And for most parts it seems they are. The children seem as happy and normal, as any child who has been forced ( though some did also choose to join the LTTE and to pick up weapons) to fight an adults war and live with the consequences of that,would be. As expected the accounts of these boys and girls are shocking. Most were dragged kicking and screaming from their families and made to fight with barely any training. Those who tried to escape were shot at and if captured were beaten.
Irrespective of whether they were captured fighting or on the run from their kidnappers. the standard treatment for those who confess to LTTE membership is a year long detention at Ambepusse
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