EI strongly protests against the killing of children in the recent air force bombings in Sri Lanka. Up to 61 girls were killed and about a hundred more injured in a raid on the Sencholai children’s home in the Mullaithivu district in northern Sri Lanka. The area is among those that the EI-NOVIB Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme is aiding by rebuilding schools lost in the tsunami of December 2004.
EI affiliate the Ceylon Tamil Teachers' Union reports that the victims were among 500 female students attending an annual residential school camp teaching first aid and disaster management, as well as leadership skills and principles of gender equality.
The course was in its fourth day when, at 07:00hrs on August 14, Sri Lankan government jets showered the area with bombs. Reports suggest that as many as 61 students lost their lives, with more than a hundred wounded.
The government described the target as a training camp run by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and justified the killings on the grounds that the deceased were child soldiers. However,UNICEF spokeswoman Joanna Van Gerpen, who visited the site, said most of those killed and injured were girls aged 16 to 19, and there was no evidence that any were rebels. "We did see more than 100 [wounded] in the local hospitals, some with loss of limbs, head and shrapnel injuries."
A spokesman for the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) - which also visited the area – concurred, saying no sign of rebel activity had been recovered from the site.
Education International has written to Sri Lankan President H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, expressing alarm at the recent upsurge in violence in the country and calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities on both sides and a return to negotiation. “There can be no military solution to this lengthy conflict,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen in the letter.
A recent increase in fighting has prompted international alarm that a 2002 ceasefire agreement is unravelling. The truce aimed to halt more than two decades of war between the government and the rebels, who want an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east. It remains officially in effect, despite the recent violence.