Northern Province

Mullikulam – Renewed struggle to regain Navy occupied village

First published at on http://groundviews.org/2017/04/06/mullikulam-renewed-struggle-to-regain-navy-occupied-village/ 6th April 2017

My father, my father’s father and my father’s grand-father have lived here. Mullikulam has been our home for generations now. Our church was made during my great-grand-father’s time, way before I was even born. There were four streams running through our village. We even had one stream just for bathing. When we couldn’t fish in the sea, we would fish in our streams. We had plenty of everything – paddy, cows, chickens and buffaloes, so we always had enough to eat and drink. We would gather together in the evenings and host drama and dance programmes. Everyone had a good time… We lived peacefully alongside our Muslim neighbours. Whenever there were troubles here during the war, we would go stay with them until it was safe for us to return home. I strongly believe that something good will happen for us this time around. Every day I pray that we will all live together peacefully. At least when I leave this earth I pray that we should all be united,” reminisces 88-year-old village elder from Mullikulam, M. Francis Vaz, who hasn’t been home since 2007.

M. Francis Vaz

On the 8th of September, 2007 the entire village of Mullikulam was unceremoniously evacuated by the Military with the promise of enabling their return within 3 days. Ten years later, these villagers are yet to be allowed to return to their homes and engage in their traditional livelihoods. Since their eviction from Mullikulam in 2007, the Navy North-Western Command Headquarters has been established there, occupying the entirety of their village. A decade-long relentless struggle comprising of multiple protests, petitions[1], discussions and false promises[2], have brought the villagers back to the streets.

Appeal letter signed by 136 villagers from Mullikulam, to former President Rajapaksa in Sept. 2011

Mullikulam villagers forced to set up in jungle – Malankaadu – June 2012 – pictures via NAFSO

They are inspired by the stories of other victims fighting for their rights, and supported by many others, irrespective of religious or ethnic backgrounds.

Village Elder Francis Vaz’s memories of living in peace with Muslims in adjoining Marichikattu, and supporting each other through difficult times has been re-affirmed as the people of Mullikulam chose to start their recent protest on the premises of a very supportive and sympathetic Muslim house, situated at the turn off to their ancestral village, from the main Mannar – Puttalam road.

The spate of continued protests demanding the return of military-occupied land and truth and justice for the disappeared breaking out across the North and East, appears in turn to have breathed new life into the struggle of the people of Mullikulam. Their only wish is to return to their village, illegally occupied by the Military since 2007. Some of the women elders from the village had discussed the ongoing struggle for the return of their lands while in Keppapulavu, at the Matha Kootam (Association of Mother Mary) meeting last month. It was decided that they too must renew their own struggle to return home. They had then told the village men of their decision, and the men too agreed to support them.

Currently there are approximately 120 families temporarily resettled in Malankaadu[3], and 150 families in Kayakuli. About 100 families (including extended family) left for India due to war and displacement, but are waiting to return if their village is returned to them.

We (about 50 villagers from both Malankaadu and Kayakuli), re-commenced our protest for the return of our lands, on Thursday (23 March) morning around 8am. The Navy came outside and asked us ‘why are you protesting here? Why not in front of the District Secretariat (DS) office? We will provide you with buses to go and protest there. You’re protesting against us even though we’ve helped you so much,’” said villagers. “They (the Navy) wouldn’t need to provide us with “help” if they just give us back our lands,” added the villagers.

Pic 1 and 2: Mullikulam villagers living in temporary shelters – Malankaadu, 2013

Displacement from Mullikulam and Aftermath

“When we left in 2007, there were about 100 houses in good condition and about 50 other self-made mud and thatched houses. From what we can remember, there was also our Church, the Co-operative building, three school buildings, a pre-school, two hospital buildings, a library, post-office, Fisherman’s Co-operative Society building, a teachers quarters, an RDS building, six public, and four private wells, and nine tanks,” recall the villagers.

Now, they have no access to the tanks, public spaces and limited access to some of their cultivation land. Only 27 of the 150 houses remain to this day, and are occupied by Navy personnel.[4] Villagers claim that the rest have been destroyed. They access the church via a side road, and claim that the existing short-cut via the reservoir bund, has been blocked off by the Navy. Most elderly people find it difficult to reach the Church at the times they wish to pray, and are now dependent on a Navy bus to take them to and from Sunday Mass. What used to be a 50-100 meter walk, is now 3 and 10 kms each way from the church to Malankaadu and Kayakuli, respectively. The Navy also provides a daily school bus to take children to and from school which teaches only up to Grade 9. Thereafter, children have to go to other nearby schools[5] on their own, or stay at hostels if the schools are too far away.

The Mullikulam people were primarily a farming and fishing community, so their proximity to the sea was essential. They had access to nine Paadu[6] (karavalai in Tamil – a term referring to a type of easement or license) to fish for prawns and other shallow water fish. Now they only have access to 4[7], with the most fertile Paadu being currently under Navy control. When the villagers were evicted from Mullikulam in 2007, they had left behind 64 each of the following; fibre glass boats, out-boat motors, nets and ropes and other fishing gear, 90 Theppams (Catamarans) and 3 drag-nets.

“If you don’t stop your protest, we’ll show you our power in the sea,” the Navy had threatened the villagers on the first day of the protest.

There was a high degree of surveillance [9] and intimidation of protesters and outsiders visiting them by the Navy and Silavathurai Police (including Traffic Police) during the first few days. But during the 2nd week of protests, Navy officers had been less aggressive and the Area Commander and other officers had indicated to the people protesting and Church leaders that they are ready to abide by any decision that the Colombo based Defence establishment would take. However Colombo has been silent for nearly two weeks, despite efforts by Church leaders to reach out.

Legal status of land and response of the DS

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka concluded that the Navy had occupied private land without due process and had recommended that if providing alterative lands, the people’s willingness should be considered and they should not be forced to settle elsewhere.[10]

The Divisional Secretary and his representative had visited the people on 23rd March, and told them that they won’t achieve much by protesting. They had asked the villagers to give them a letter with their demands, promising that they would hand it over to higher authorities for action. A majority of the lands in the village are owned privately by individuals and the Catholic Diocese of Mannar. The rest of the lands are held through permits and grants under the Land Development Ordinance (LDO), State lands and National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) lands.

Breakdown of Title Lands – Mullikulam – HRCSL Land Study Report June, 2011

The DS had also asked them why they were still fighting even after they had received alternate housing. The villagers categorically said that they had continuously fought for the return of their original lands, and had only reluctantly accepted alternate housing in the interim. “We have always maintained that we want to return home,” they said.

“We had everything… now we’re living in a jungle. How can we live like this? I have faith that we’ll get everything back, at least so our children and grand-children can see and enjoy the home we grew up in,” is village elder Francis Vaz’s only plea.


[1] Sky No Roof, Edited by Kusal Perera, Annexes – Letter by villagers of Mullikulam to the President dated 13th September, 2011https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzO8SAlmDKanZmN0TXRRdjNyR1k/view

[2] WATCHDOG, Sri Lanka Navy vs. the people of Mullikulamhttp://groundviews.org/2013/01/24/sri-lanka-navy-vs-the-people-of-mullikulam/

[3] Ruki Fernando, The struggle to go home in post war Sri Lanka: The story of Mullikulamhttp://groundviews.org/2012/08/01/the-struggle-to-go-home-in-post-war-sri-lanka-the-story-of-mullikulam/

[4] WATCHDOG, Mullikulam: The continuing occupation of a school by the Sri Lankan Navyhttp://groundviews.org/2012/09/11/mullikulam-the-continuing-occupation-of-a-school-by-the-sri-lankan-navy/

[5] Schools in Nanattan, Mannar town, Kondachchi, Silavathurai, Murunkan and Kokkupadayan.

[6] 1 Paadu = 450 meters.

[7] WATCHDOG, Mullikulam: Restrictions on fishing, cultivation, access to the church and school continuehttp://groundviews.org/2013/03/15/mullikulam-restrictions-on-fishing-cultivation-access-to-the-church-and-school-continue/

[8] List of property left behind in 2007 as compiled by 61 villagers from Mullikulam (2012) – https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzO8SAlmDKanaTZDNFlGSFo3VzA

[9] Heavy surveillance by #Navy Intel & #Police at #Mullikulam protest today. OIC asked us who we were & why we had come – https://twitter.com/Mari_deSilva/status/845184613085462529 & https://twitter.com/Mari_deSilva/status/845187308412272643

[10] Sky No Roof, Edited by Kusal Perera, Private Land Occupied by the Security Forces – Mullikulam, study report by the National Protection and Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons Project of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, June 2011, Pg. 5 – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzO8SAlmDKanZmN0TXRRdjNyR1k/view

[11] Sky No Roof, Edited by Kusal Perera, Private Land Occupied by the Security Forces – Mullikulam, study report by the National Protection and Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons Project of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, June 2011, Pgs. 2&3 – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzO8SAlmDKanZmN0TXRRdjNyR1k/view

Advertisements

Military Occupation: documenting civilian protests and the struggle of the newly resettled

First published at http://groundviews.org/2017/03/16/military-occupation-documenting-civilian-protests-and-the-struggle-of-the-newly-resettled/ on 16th March 2017

Editor’s Note: Since early February, Ruki Fernando and Marisa de Silva have been joining protests against land occupation by the military (security forces) in the North.

This is an immersive photo story written by them, compiled using Microsoft Sway. Click here to access it directly, or scroll below.

https://sway.com/s/PYeLhcgFAhWbpcTH/embed

Sellamma returns home after Army occupation

First published at http://groundviews.org/2017/03/14/sellamma-returns-home-after-army-occupation/ on 14th March 2017

We first met 83 year old grandmother Sellamma when she was part of a protest fast outside the Puthukudiyiruppu Divisional Secretariat. At that time, her land and house across the road had been occupied by the Army for eight years. She was protesting along with her neighbours, mostly women, whose lands and houses had also been occupied by the Army. Even after a meeting with the Prime Minister in the early stages of the protest, they had vowed not to give up their protest, until their houses and lands were handed back to them.

After a month’s protest, Sellamma and some of her neighbours, were successful in forcing the Sri Lankan government and its’ Armed forces to return some parts of their village back to them. It was joyful occasion to meet Sellamma, her son, relatives and neighbours back on their own lands and houses last week.

But rather than talk about their victory in making the Army relent, Sellamma talked to us about the pitiful state in which they found their houses and the land, upon their return. She personally took us around to show us all the damage done.

“They (the army), must have been angry with us because we were protesting and asking for our homes back, so they destroyed our houses. We heard them (the army) breaking things whilst we protested across the road. I don’t know why they would do this to us? When we stepped into our home for the first time since 2008, there was shattered beer bottles and other glass pieces covering the entire floor. Our houses were stripped of its doors, some windows, kitchen sinks, the glass from our cabinets, and electrical fittings. Some window grills and glass were broken or removed all together, and entire roofing sheets had been removed from my son’s house. The toilet mirror has been taken, and the toilet is also not in working order anymore. They (the army) have cut our coconut trees and built summer huts in our garden. A few houses in our neighborhood have been razed to the ground. When we were brought back after the war to see our houses in 2014, these houses were all intact.” Sellamma told us.

“This was our ancestral house where my seven siblings and I grew up with our parents. The army has bulldozed our main house and kitchen to the ground post-2011, when we were last brought here to see our homes. We had a separate kitchen because there were so many of us to feed. I don’t understand why they would do this? The Army had built an outdoor kitchen complex in our garden, with a pipe leading straight from the kitchen to the well. The waste water from the kitchen has also gone back along the pipeline to our well and contaminated it. Our well is also now infested with insects and snakes, so we have covered it up, as the smell too is unbearable and the water is unusable,” said another returnee, of her recently released home in Puthukudiruppu.

“Our house used to be over there,” said an old amma (mother) pointing across to what now resembled a field. “They (the army) have mined so much sand there, that the land has become all marsh land now. It’s covered in overgrown grass and water, s0 that we can’t even access it anymore. Our house too has been destroyed,” she said sadly.

While Sellamma’s struggle and victory is inspiring, the sad reality she has had to return to, would have serious implications on the reconciliation process.

Firstly, why must elderly women like Sellamma resort to fasts and protests for the government to fulfill basic commitments it has made to the people and the UNHRC, such as releasing military occupied land?

Secondly, why did the Army destroy and loot these houses and properties prior to returning them to their rightful owners?

Thirdly, why is there zero government support for recent returnees, now returning home after eight years of displacement due to military occupation?

Fourthly, when can returnees expect compensation/reparation for the use of lands and houses by the Army, loss of income generation due to the occupation, destruction of property and trees, and losses as a result of looting by the Army?

Lastly, all the land releases so far, have been partial releases. In Puthukudiyiruppu, only about 7 acres of lands out of 19 been handed over, after a month long protest fast. Villagers told us that the Army had committed to release another 10 acres in 3 months time, and another one acre after 6 months. But will these promises be kept?

Sellamma’s struggle is one of many struggles against military occupation of lands in the North that gained prominence last month. Sustained, indefinite protests had led to release of lands in Pilakudiyiruppu and Paravipaanchan, which were released a few days prior to the Puthukudiyiruppu land release. When we visited these villages, we saw the trail of destruction left by the occupiers – the Air Force and the Army. We were told that there was no support at all from the government towards resettlement. We experienced and heard of continued intimidation and surveillance by the Air Force in these areas. At the same time, protests demanding the return of military occupied lands continue in areas such as Keppapulavu.

Celebrating Sellamma’s and others’ victories, as a result of sustained fasts and protests is still difficult, in the backdrop of returnees struggling to cope with military destruction of their homes, receiving no support from the government, including basic shelter and livelihood support, and continued protests of others displaced to regain their land still under military occupation.

Sellamma & her struggle to reclaim her house and land in Puthukudiyiruppu

First published at http://groundviews.org/2017/02/20/sellamma-her-struggle-to-reclaim-her-house-and-land-in-puthukudiyiruppu/ on 20th February 2017

Sellamma is 83 years old. She has a house in Puthukudiyiruppu (PTK) East, Ward no. 7, in the Mullaitivu district in the Northern Province. It’s opposite the PTK Divisional Secretariat (DS). But for more than two weeks, she has been braving the hot sun and cold nights on the street, opposite her house. Because her house and land is occupied by the Army. In fading light of evening, and beyond an Army watchtower, she showed me her house. I was tempted to take a photo of her house, as I had her – the owner’s – permission. But I restrained myself to avoid potential trouble.

Sellamma’s son and son in law were killed by the Army during a massacre in 1985. They were amongst the 24 killed that day by the Army. Her husband died in 2014. She wanted to keep his body and have the funeral in their own house and land. But she couldn’t as the Army was occupying her land. She had tried to douse herself in kerosene oil and burn herself in protest, but others had stopped her.

Sellamma is feeble now. She has one wish before her death. “I want to live and die in my own house and land”, she told me. “I had a lot of coconut trees in the garden. But now, the Army plucks them and I have to buy coconuts. And the Army lives in my house and I have to pay a rent of Rs. 8,000 now” she also told me.

Magaret Karunannathan is 68. She says there were 42 coconut trees in her land. In the same village as Sellamma. Her husband was also killed by the Army in the 1985 massacre.

Both of them, and the whole village, and district, was displaced in 2009. They suffered a lot. Later, they were detained in Menik Farm. They were eventually released, but never allowed to return to their own homes and lands. While they were displaced and detained, the Army had occupied the lands of 49 families spanning 19 acres. Till today. I was told some of the villagers have legal documentation such as deeds, permits and grants.

The villagers had protested several times before, demanding their lands and houses from the Army. They started another protest on 3rd Feb. 2017. This time, they were determined not to give up the protest till they were actually allowed to go back to their lands. They cook by the roadside, sit there during the day and sleep there during the night. And stare at their houses and lands across the road.

They were suspicious of me when we went, and asked whether I was also from the Army.  Later they became more friendly. They were tired of talking to visitors and repeating their story. But they still told it.

On 9th Feb., some of them had travelled all the way to Colombo and met the Prime Minister (PM). Despite the Army occupying their lands and killing some of their family members, the people had suggested to the PM to let the Army stay in adjoining state land. According to them, the PM had spoken to the Government Agent (GA) for the Mullaitivu district and promised to attend to the matter after a trip to Australia. The PM had asked them stop the protest. People had told him that they will stop the protest when they were allowed to go back to their lands. The PM had apparently no answer to that, and told them they can continue their protest, but requested them not to cause any obstructions. I wondered whether the PM can tell the Army not to not to obstruct people from going back to their own houses and lands.

Into the 3rd week of protesting and 10 days after meeting the PM, there has been no positive response from authorities. So the people have escalated their protest to a fast, taking turns to fast. They are not asking any favors. They are only asking a wrong to be put right. To be allowed to go back to their own lands and houses.

Their struggle is just one of many struggles of displaced people to go home. Since the new government came into power, some of the lands occupied by the military have been released. But tens of thousands of displaced Sri Lankans await the military to move out of their lands and allow them to go home. From nearby Kepapulavu to Mullikulam to Ashrafnagar to Panama to Jaffna. And more. The list is long. They have been protesting, appealing to authorities, filing court cases. And still waiting.

For Sellamma and all these peoples, reconciliation is about being allowed to go back to their houses and land. Whether and when they get their lands back will be a major factor in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation and transitional justice processes. Government and others say these processes takes time. But for Sellamma, time is running out. She would like to go back to her house and land before her death.

Sri Lanka’s Transitional Moment and Transitional Justice

First published in the report “Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka: 17Aug 2015 – 17 Aug2016” by INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre on 18th August 2016

Within the first month after winning the parliamentary elections in August 2015, the new Government made a series of commitments related to transitional justice. These were articulated through a speech by the Foreign Minister at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council.[1] These commitments were also reflected in the resolution on Sri Lanka that was adopted by the Human Rights Council on 1 October 2015.[2] The resolution came just after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had published a report which alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, by both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.[3]

Government’s commitments 

The present Government’s commitments included setting up an Office of Missing Persons (OMP), a Commission for Truth, Justice, and Guarantees of Non-reoccurrence, a Judicial mechanism with Special Counsel, which will have the participation of foreign judges, prosecutors, investigators and defence lawyers, and an Office for Reparations. The Government also committed to reduce the military’s role in civilian affairs, facilitate livelihoods, repeal and reform the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), criminalise disappearances, ratify the Enforced Disappearance Convention[4] , review the victim and witness protection law, and range of other actions. Consultations to seek people’s views on transitional justice is underway across the country, under the leadership of some civil society activists.

The Enforced Disappearance Convention was ratified in May this year and the draft Bill to create the OMP was passed by Parliament on 11 August. There are positive features as well as weaknesses and ambiguities in the Bill[5]. Due to a history of failed initiatives, the minimal ‘consultations’ that occurred during drafting process and the lack of information on details, there appears to be very little confidence in the OMP amongst families of the disappeared. This is likely to be the case for other mechanisms, unless there’s a drastic change in approach from the government.

Reactions to transitional justice within Sri Lanka

Currently, the transitional justice agenda appears to be polarising Sri Lankan society. Opinion polls, and my own impressions, indicate that the Tamil community, particularly in the North and the East, who bore the brunt of the war, appears to favour strong international involvement. But the majority Sinhalese community appears to reject international involvement. Varying opinions have been expressed about forgetting the past, memorialisation, prosecutions, and amnesty. There are also different or contradictory opinions and expectations within each ethnic community and amongst survivors of violations and families of victims.

The Government’s transitional justice commitments have been criticised by the former President and his supporters. Even the release of a few political prisoners, the release of small amounts of land occupied by the military, and the establishment of the OMP to find truth about missing persons have been framed as an international conspiracy that endangers national security and seeks revenge from “war heroes”.

There does not appear to be an official Government policy document on transitional justice. The Government’s commitments have only been officially articulated in Geneva by the Foreign Minister and not in Sri Lanka . The Foreign Minister has been the regular advocate and defender of these commitments. Some of the meetings with local activists have been convened by him and the Secretariat for Co-ordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) is housed in the Foreign Ministry. All these contribute to the process being seen as emanating and driven by foreign pressure. Outreach on the Government’s transitional justice plans appears to focus on the international community and not towards Sri Lankan people.

The President and Prime Minister have not been championing the Government’s official commitments. For example, the duo have publicly stated that the commitment to have foreign judges in the judicial mechanism will not be fulfilled. Even this has not satisfied the critics alleging foreign conspiracy, and has disappointed some activists, especially Tamils, as well as survivors and victims’ families.

Developments on the ground

Monuments erected to honour the Sinhalese dominated military during the Rajapakse time continue to dominate the Tamil majority Northern landscape. Army camps that were built over some of the cemeteries of former LTTE cadres that were bulldozed by the Army after the war are still there. The loved ones of those whose remains were in these cemeteries have no place to grieve, lay flowers, light a candle, or say a prayer. While the numbers have reduced from those under the Rajapaske regime, intimidation and reprisals on families, attacks, and threats and intimidation of activists and journalists continue to occur. Limited progress on issues, such as the release of political prisoners, land occupied by military, continuing military involvement in civilian affairs in the North and East, reports of continuing abductions, and arrests under the PTA have raised doubts about the Government’s commitments. Although a few military personnel have been convicted and some others arrested on allegations of human rights abuses, the lack of progress in thousands of other cases only reinforces calls for international involvement for justice.

Towards Rights & Democratization beyond Transitional Justice framework

Unemployment, debt, and sexual and gender-based violence is widespread in the former war ravaged areas. The new Government’s economic and development policies are focusing on trade, investment, and mega development projects, which privilege the rich and marginalise the poor. Pre-war rights issues, such as landlessness, sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination, caste, rights of workers, including those working on tea estates, still need to be addressed.

A consultation process towards a new constitution drew a large number of public representations, dealing with many of the issues mentioned above. But the next steps are not clear, particularly in finding political solutions to the grievances of the country’s ethnic minorities.

The political leadership will have to reach out to all Sri Lankans, especially to the Sinhalese majority, about its reform agenda, while taking principled actions to win the confidence of numerical minorities such as Tamils and Muslims. At the national level, the coming together of the two major political parties and support of the two major parties representing Tamils and Muslims, makes this a unique opportunity to push towards radical reforms.

It will also be a challenge to go beyond a conventional transitional justice framework and use the transitional moment to move towards reconciliation, democratisation, and sustainable development, by addressing civil and political rights as well as economic, social, and cultural rights in a holistic manner, considering the yearnings of war survivors, victims’ families, and the poor, for truth, reparations, criminal accountability, and economic justice.

[1] Speech by Hon Mangala Samaraweera at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council, Geneva, 14 September 2015.

[2] Human Rights Council Resolution, Promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka, 14 October 2015, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/30/1 (adopted 1 October 2015).

[3] Human Rights Council, Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), thirtieth session, 16 September 2015, UN Doc. A/HRC/30/CRP.2.

[4] International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted 20 December 2006, UN Doc. A/61/488 (entered into force 23 December 2010) (“Enforced Disappearance Convention”).

[5] For more on OMP, see http://thewire.in/42687/sri-lankas-disappeared-will-the-latest-missing-persons-office-bring-answers/

On Rights and Justice: Some Perspective from Colombo

First published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taylor-dibbert/on-rights-and-justice-som_b_11250536.html on 28th July 2016

Ruki Fernando is a human rights activist based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In this interview, Mr. Fernando shares his thoughts on a range of salient issues.

Sri Lanka’s former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, took the country in an ever more authoritarian direction. How much has changed since Maithripala Sirisena became president in January 2015?

Authoritarianism has lessened and there is more space across the country for free expression, free assembly and free association. This was visible when Tamil people in the country’s North and East came out for the first time on May 18, 2015 — to grieve collectively and publicly for their loved ones who had died during the civil war. There was more space and less restrictions and less intimidation for this in 2016 compared to 2015. However, there have been regular incidents of surveillance, intimidation, harassment and threats on journalists and activists — particularly in the North and East, even though the intensity and regularity of these incidents appears to be less than it was during the Rajapaksa era.

I feel more safe and free, and now travel to the interior of the Vanni (in the country’s Northern Province). I also go home late at night on my own, using public transport — something I never did when the Rajapaksas were in power. But even after 18 months of “good governance,” I’m still under investigation by the Terrorist Investigation Department and my freedom of expression is restricted through a court order.

As a human rights activist, what issues are taking up most of your time? What projects are you currently working on?

There are too many things than I could mention! I have been trying to assist a few families of disappeared persons in their continuing struggles. I have been trying to engage critically with the proposed Office of Missing Persons (OMP). I have been monitoring and documenting recent abductions and arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). I’m continuing to work with a few communities whose lands have been expropriated by the military. I am trying to critique militarized and large, business-oriented tourism, and to promote a more community-centered, reconciliation-oriented form of tourism. I’m also spending time discussing transitional justice issues with rural Sinhalese communities, and participating in radio and TV discussions in Sinhalese. In addition, I have been trying to support exiled Sri Lankan journalists and activists to return to Sri Lanka, and to support Pakistanis and Bangladeshis fleeing their countries and seeking refuge in Sri Lanka. Lastly, I have been giving talks and interviews, and have been writing about these issues.

In terms of the government’s wide-ranging transitional justice agenda, how much has been accomplished thus far?

Some political prisoners have been released, mostly conditionally. Some lands occupied for decades by the military have been released. Last year, there were significant judgements convicting soldiers for the rape of a Tamil woman in 2010 and a massacre of Tamil civilians in 2000.

There have been arrests of military and senior police personnel in some important and high-profile cases of killings and disappearances. The new leadership of the Human Rights Commission has asserted their independence and challenged the government, though an overhaul of the institution to be fully independent and effective will take much longer.

On the other hand, the military’s involvement in civilian activities in the North — such as hotels, shops, preschools, farms and airlines, among other activities, continues. Buddhist domination with the help of the military, in the predominantly non-Buddhist (mostly Tamil) North also continues. There has been an alarming rise of abductions and arrests under the PTA in the North and East during the last few months. Impunity reigns and accountability seems far away for tens of thousands of incidents, despite the availability of compelling evidence in some cases.

The positive progress is politically symbolic and matters a lot to ordinary people in their daily lives. But overall, progress has been too little and painfully slow. And there have been too many backward steps for the few forward steps.

How have public consultations (for the country’s transitional justice mechanisms) been going? What, if anything could be done to improve the consultative process?

Six months after the appointment of the Consultation Task Force (CTF), the consultations on transitional justice have commenced. But it seems the government has not thrown its political weight behind it, championing and promoting the process amongst Sri Lankans, using its vast infrastructure and extensive outreach through the mainstream and new media. The government doesn’t appear to be supporting the process financially, and it seems dependent on foreign funding from the United Nations (UN), which has resulted in delays.

In addition, the government had initiated a parallel process of drafting in secret, legislature in relation to transitional justice institutions, even before the consultation process started. There needs to be a convergence of expert drafting processes and popular consultations with ordinary people.

As it is, despite the best efforts of the CTF and subsidiary bodies, politically, the popular consultations appear to be an eyewash, designed to placate foreign governments and UN officials, and tick the box.

Do you believe that it’s important for Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process to include international participation? If so, why?

The reality in Sri Lanka is that most Tamils, who are a numerical minority, who have suffered the most, and who have historical grievances that led to the civil war, don’t trust a purely domestic process. Sinhalese who are the majority community, don’t trust international involvement. So if the transitional justice process is about all communities, we need to negotiate a middle way, acceptable to most communities and people. But there’s also a danger that the aspirations of the majority may prevail. Then there is also the issue of whether competency and experience to the extent needed is fully available in Sri Lanka.

Regarding the accountability mechanism to address alleged wartime abuses, what role (if any) would you like to see international actors play?

Personally, I believe it’s important to have the participation of international judges, prosecutors, investigators and defense lawyers. Their participation should go beyond monitoring, advising and training. But being international alone will not guarantee independence and credibility. It’s crucial to ensure that accountability mechanisms have the acceptance of all communities and thus, the government must play the major role in reaching out to all Sri Lankans — in particular to the Sinhalese-Buddhist community, to stress the importance of doing what’s right and principled, instead of bowing down to populist slogans. Tamil political and civil society leaders too must not get carried away with populist slogans and work towards solutions for affected people, considering the existing domestic and international political realities.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Broken promises: Kepapulavu displaced to restart fast unto death next week

First published at http://www.ft.lk/article/554936/ft on 15th July 2016

The people of Kepapulavu decided this week (11) to restart their fast unto death on 19 July, as they have lost all confidence in Government authorities, and the false promises given to them by the Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Vigneswaran in March, this year.

The people called off their previous fast unto death on 24 March, upon the Chief Minister’s promise to look into the matter and provide them with a solution within three months. Three-and-a-half months since then, villagers are still awaiting the new Government to release their lands, under the occupation of the military since the end of the war in 2009.

In May this year, villagers were able to get a glimpse of their houses when the Army opened roads for limited time during an annual temple festival.

“Every year more and more changes are done to our lands. Some houses have been destroyed. The wells have been closed. Other buildings have been put up. Boundaries have been demarcated differently. But the jack and coconut trees which we have planted have started bearing fruits,” says Santhraleela, a community activist, upon seeing her old village.

However she is determined that all the villagers should be allowed to go back home. “They will have to release our lands. We will return. Even if they have destroyed our houses, we want them to release our lands,” says Santhraleela.

History

“When I enter my home, it feels as fondly familiar to me as the love of my mother and father…” – a village elder from Kepapulavu who is longing to return home.

The Kepapulavu Grama Niladhari division is situated in the Martinepattu Divisional Secretariat in Mullaitivu district.  It comprises of four villages – Sooripuram, Seeniyamottai Kepapulavu, and Palakudiyiruppu. Some inhabitants who are mainly farmers and fishermen told us they trace their history for more than six decades while others were reported as landless families settled by the LTTE. Kepapulavu is known for its fertile red soil, fresh water wells, and marine resources.

The villagers were amongst the hundreds thousands displaced during the last phase of the war in 2009 and illegally detained in Menik farm.

Despite appeals to go back to their own homes, in September 2012, around 150 families were allocated quarter acre of new lands to each, irrespective of how much they owned before displacement. They were thus re-displaced, to an area originally known as Sooripuram situated adjacent to their original villages. This is now called the ‘Kepapulavu Model Village’. People said they felt as if in the middle of nowhere. With no assistance to put up shelters by authorities, people on their own constructed shacks with scrap material they brought in from Menik farm.

The 150 families were requested to sign an application accepting their new lands by the former Government Agent of Mullaitivu. Although two of the 150 families refused to sign the document, they too were compelled to stay in the alternative plot of land and subsequently received a temporary permits. Around 146 other families had stayed with host families and relations and settled in Sooripuram in January 2013. They were not asked to sign any land permits upon their arrival. A total of 59 families from Sooripuram, 55 families from Pilavu Kudiviruppu and 159 families from Kepapulavu are currently displaced, due to the military occupation of their lands. The displaced families now reside in the Kepapulavu model village. In March 2013, 16 families were allowed to return to their original lands in Seeniyamottai.

The land which was once theirs

The housing lands of these displaced occupied by the military spans about 520 acres. Homes of people are now being used for settlements of military personnel and their families. In addition to the houses, school and church premises already in place, many pre-fabricated houses too have been installed within the settlement to accommodate military families.

In March 2014, the military had built and handed over 287 temporary houses for the people whose lands and buildings they had occupied1. When the former Deputy Minister of the Resettlement Ministry Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan inaugurated this housing scheme in 2013, he was reported to have told the people not to plant any trees, as it was only temporary housing.

Further, in 2014, when the Commanding Officer of the area had handed  over the houses to the people, he too had told the people that these were only temporary lands and that if the political situation changes, that they would get their lands back.

Around 25-30 families do not live in the military built houses as there is inadequate water in that area. “We had large wells brimming with cool, clear water. We could bend over, and scoop water in a jug to quench our thirst. Now we have to walk long distances with buckets to collect water to have a bath,” reminisced village elders, who seem to be suffering the most, with vivid memories of home.

Farming families struggle to cultivate their lands as they have to walk seven to 10 km from the new settlement to reach their paddy lands, which was nearby their houses in their original villages. Cultivation and home gardening used to be family activities, but now, with the increase in distance, often women and children stay behind to look after the house.

“Around 3½ km stretch of beach is occupied by the military, that we are not permitted to use,” said Kaliappan Maheswaran, President of the Fisheries Society. The fishermen cannot dock their boats in this stretch of the coast. Fishing or throwing of nets is prohibited in 50ms of sea area touching the occupied coast. He states that prior to displacement the coast was around 150ms from their houses. Now fishermen have to cross 700ms in order to reach the sea.

Due to these barriers, fisher-folk go to sea only once in two or three days. Hence their income too have shrunk. Maheswaran also said that he used to cultivate peanuts so that even when it was off season for fishing, he would have a steady income coming in. However now he says this is not possible as water is only available in the common wells in the model village.

Due to change of lifestyle and lack of employment opportunities the villagers state the youth have become restless. People brew and drink illegal liquor. Police carry out regular crack downs, but as the fines are very low, the brewers merely pay off the fine and revert to their activities the very next day.

Women have taken on some of the income burden of their families. Young women leave to Colombo to work in garment factories and others travel far to find work. Women coming home late in to the night is creating frictions within families. Two women have joined the military as well.

Protests/appeals 

The families of Kepapulavu had held at least five protests between 2012 and 2016 demanding that their lands be released.  In the course of 2015, the people had also met with the Resettlement Minister, D.M. Swaminathan and Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen regarding their demand to return to their places of origin. They have also written an appeal to the Presidential Secretariat and sent a letter to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with copies of 60 land deeds.

A single mother of two is the only remaining Plaintiff who continues a legal battle to win back her land, though three others had initially filed cases to reclaim land. She doesn’t live in the temporary house provided as she feels unsafe. She says she has thus far persisted in her Court case amidst intimidation, threats and even, on occasion, verbal abuse and degrading treatment by the then Area Commander Samarasinghe.

According to her, the five acres she owns include both paddy and housing lands. “The military has built a bakery, kitchen, hospital and two wells on my land. I was told that whenever senior Army officers visit, they are put up at accommodation on my land,” she said.

When the Courts and the Divisional Secretariat had asked her to accept alternative land, she had insisted on getting her own land back. “If only more people had filed cases, we could have been stronger and more effective. I also haven’t attended any more meetings with Government officials, as I’m very angry,” she added defiantly.

With all their previous attempts to get back their lands having failed, the people resorted to a fast on to death on 24 March. Santhraleela, a community leader who has been actively campaigning for her people, states that representatives from political parties inquired into their situation during this protest which lasted for three days.

On the third day the Chief Minister (CM) of the Northern Provincial Council via a letter had promised to look in to the matter and provide a solution within three months. Upon this promise, the fast was terminated. Three weeks after the fast, a team of five people were dispatched by the CM. Santhraleela says they asked general questions about their situation, but no undertaking was given to them about getting back their land. However, the three-month period has long past, and the villagers are yet to hear from the Chief Minister regarding a solution to their problem.

Struggles to reclaim lands 

Coincidently in the month of March this year, after several years of protests and court battles, the people of Panama in the south eastern coast forcibly entered and reclaimed their lands, which had been occupied by the Navy, Air Force and Special Task Force since 2010. Communities across the country are continuing their struggle to reclaim lands which have been unfairly and illegally grabbed from them in the name of security and development. The new Government has taken the initiative to return a few of the illegally-occupied lands, but will they respond positively and allow all the displaced to go back home?

Footnotes

1 Ministry of Defence – Sri Lanka, Army completes construction of houses in Keppapilavu Model Village – http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=Army_completes_construction_of_houses_in_Keppapilavu_Model_Village_20160303_04

 

Sri Lanka’s new Missing Persons Office and the Catholic Church

First published at http://www.ucanews.com/news/sri-lankas-new-missing-persons-office-and-the-catholic-church/76381 on 28th June 2016

Catholic priests are among the over 65,000 people who have been reported as disappeared in Sri Lanka. Included among that number are also many journalists, human rights activists, and the Vice Chancellor of Eastern University of Sri Lanka.

Father Jim Brown, a Tamil Catholic priest, disappeared on Aug. 20, 2006. He was last seen going into the navy controlled Allaipiddy area in the northern city of Jaffna. Wenceslaus Vimalathas, a lay associate who was with him, also disappeared.

Father Brown had tried to protect civilians during heavy fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil rebels by offering them shelter in a church. It didn’t work. Many civilians were killed and injured when the church was eventually attacked. Father Brown had pleaded with the navy to take the injured out of the fighting zone but was reportedly rebuffed.

Father Francis Joseph, another Tamil Catholic priest, also disappeared. He was last seen being taken away by the Sri Lankan Army in Mullaitivu on May 18, 2009, the last day of war.

He had brokered the surrender of some rebel Tamil leaders in return for assurances of their safety. But those leaders too disappeared and their Habeas Corpus cases have dragged on for several years in the courts.

Till the late 1980s, most of those disappeared were Sinhalese. Since then, the majority have been Tamils. Muslims also have disappeared, including Pattani Razeek, a good friend of mine. Razeek was one of the few whose body was found.

Groups led by Catholic priests and nuns in the predominantly Tamil-Hindu areas in the North and East have been documenting disappearances, supporting families, and raising their voices against the crimes and the culture of impunity. But these are exceptions. Most church leaders have stayed silent. Why?

Those that have campaigned against the disappearances have faced intimidation, threats and arrest. A Catholic priest and myself were arrested in 2014 for investigating the disappearances. A few months later, a private discussion between affected families, activists and diplomats at a church-run center was disrupted by a mob led by Buddhist monks. The police refused to assist us.

Successive governments have set up numerous bodies to address the disappearances. Affected families and activists have engaged with them more out of desperation than good faith. But truth, justice, and reparations have been elusive.

The latest government effort has been to establish an Office of Missing Persons (OMP). It was one of the significant commitments the government made when they co-sponsored the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka last October. But the development of the O.M.P has been shrouded in secrecy with very little consultation, despite promises made to the contrary.

Father Brown’s distraught mother passed away without knowing what happened to her son, and his lonely father has told me that his only hope is to hear news of his son before he dies. Families whose breadwinners have disappeared need financial and material support, while others continue to demand justice.

To fulfill such expectations, the OMP will have to be more victim centered, transparent, independent and a well-resourced office, which will also facilitate the rights of families to reparations and justice, along with the right to truth. There are still opportunities to do this by influencing the draft legislation to establish the OMP, which awaits parliamentary approval.

But this may only happen if families, activists and U.N. officials make strong demands. Church leaders should also join such efforts, demanding truth and justice for those like Fathers Brown and Joseph.

Ruki Fernando is a human rights activist and consultant to the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors in Sri Lanka. He is also a member of the Asia-Pacific chaplaincy team of the International Movement of Catholic Students.

Continuing abuse under PTA: Abductions, Arbitrary Arrests, Unlawful Detentions and Torture

First published at http://groundviews.org/2016/06/28/continuing-abuse-under-pta-abductions-arbitrary-arrests-unlawful-detentions-and-torture/ on 28th June 2016

On 30th March, 2016, a suicide jacket, explosives and other ammunition was found in Chavakachcheri, Jaffna. Since then, as at 28th June, the arrest of at least 28 persons have been reported. All of them have been Tamils from the north and east of Sri Lanka. All were men, except one woman whose husband was been arrested. A further 2 persons, (also Tamil men) were given “chits” (pieces of paper) at the international airport summoning them to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Police for inquiry. They were questioned and released on the same day.

Of the 28 arrested, 24 had been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The other 4 appear to have been arrested and detained on matters not related to the incident above, although they are ex-LTTE cadres. One of those arrested under the PTA was arrested inside the Human Right Commission office in Trincomalee, whilst he was lodging a complaint.

The people in Chavakachcheri that we spoke to said that around 10-12 youth, both male and female, have been continuously called for questioning at various places in the Jaffna District between April and June 2016, in addition to those who had been arrested. A sense of fear prevails in this village, and amidst families of those arrested. People who used to move around quite freely now look at each other with suspicion and doubt.

A human rights lawyer claims that many of the arrests are related to 5-6 motorbikes reportedly found around the house where the explosives were found. There also seems to be a trend of the TID tracking phone numbers that have been in contact with those already arrested, and calling them in for further inquiries, whilst also arresting some of them. This had led to people refraining from lending their phones to anyone else.

As of 23rd June, 2016,

  • At least 23 of the 28 persons who have been arrested have not been charged with any crime.
  • No arrest receipts were issued at the time of arrest in at least 10 cases.
  • In most of the cases, the arresting officers claimed to be TID officers and were dressed in civilian clothes. They hadn’t provided any form of identification, but had given a land phone number and told families to call it and clarify if they wanted to.
  • Suspects were not produced before a Magistrate (as specified in the PTA) within 72 hours in at least 23 cases. In most cases, Detention Orders are issued directly to the detainee whilst in detention, so families and lawyers are not always aware of its issuance.
  • Families were not notified of place of detention for more than 48 hours in at least 5 cases.
  • At least 15 of those arrested are former LTTE cadres, with at least 7 having gone through rehabilitation and been released.
  • Detainees were not offered opportunity to contact lawyers for more than 48 hours in at least 23 cases, with lawyers having restricted access even thereafter. It’s mostly families that are in contact with the lawyers.
  • Of the 28 arrested, we have come to know that 4 have been released unconditionally, 2 have been released on surety bail and 1 has been sent for 1 year in rehabilitation.
  • After visiting their detained family members, several have reported that detainees appear to have been tortured.
  • Private property of detainees and family members were confiscated and held without receipts being issued in at least 5 cases. Property includes, mobile phones, vehicles and at least Rs. 100,000 in cash.
  • Although, in accordance with Section 28 of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Act[1], most arrests and detentions are being communicated by the TID to the HRCSL now, the HRCSL is still not being kept notified of detainee transfers and changes in detention facilities.[2]
  • Family members and lawyers reported that they had restricted access to the detainees.
  • Family members have also been reported as being detained, subjected to intensive interrogation, harassment and/or intimidation.

Below are the names and brief details of the 28 reported as arrested and 2 reported as having been summoned to TID, questioned and released. Information is valid as of 23rd June, unless otherwise stated.

  1. Kebriel Edward Julian (alias Ramesh) – According to Julian’s lawyers, at about 7.30pm, on 29th March, approximately 20 Police, Special Task Force, army and TID personnel, had arrived in 4 army vehicles, and surrounded Julian’s house in Chavakachcheri. As Julian had not been at home, the personnel had eventually left at about 9pm after having arrested Julian’s wife, Kebriel Thusyanthi, accompanied by her 6 year old step-daughter. The cache of explosives and suicide vest were discovered at Julian’s house the following morning (30).[3]Julian was arrested on the 30th of March, 2016. According to his lawyers, on the 31st of April, police, army and TID personnel had brought Julian back to his house in a van, but his family had not been allowed to meet him. They had notified his family that Julian had been arrested on the 30th. Julian was a former LTTE cadre.As far as his lawyers are aware, no Detention Order has been served, and Julian was not produced before the Magistrate or JMO as at 23rd of June. Mobile phones belonging to Julian, his father and wife, Julian’s motorcycle and TATA Batta van, their vehicle documents, and account books were all confiscated by the TID. No receipt was issued following the confiscation of these possessions and none of them have been returned as yet.[4]
  1. Rasathurai Jeyanthan, a former LTTE cadre, was abducted from his home in Nunavil, Chavakachcheri on the 10th of April, 2016, by men in civilian clothing, who claimed they were from the Police.[5][6]They interrogated and handcuffed him, refused to identify themselves, refused to tell his family members the cause of arrest and where they were taking him to, took him away in an unmarked white van, detained him for two days at locations unknown to the family, and confiscated two motorcycles registered under Jeyanthan’s brother’s name and 3 mobile phones belonging to him, his wife and mother. More than 2 months since his arrest, none of their personal property has been returned to the family. Neither have they received a receipt for the confiscated property. The notice of arrest was sent to his family only about a week following his actual arrest. The HRCSL, however, had received a routine fax notifying the Commission of his arrest, as mandated in Section 28(1) of the Human Rights Commission Act of 1996. Having been detained at the TID office in Colombo for 2 days, he was transferred to Boossa on the 12th of April, 2016 and is still detained there as of 23rd.
  2. Ganeshapillai Arivalahan (alias Kalaiarasan), a former LTTE Intelligence chief, was arrested on the 26th of April, 2016, whilst lodging a complaint at the HRCSL, Trincomalee.[7] On the 25th of April, 3 men dressed in civil had visited Arivalahan’s home whilst he was at work, and asked his wife where he was, where he worked, which route he took back home etc., As there had been a spate of arrests of former LTTE cadres at the time, they had gone the very next morning (26th) to a legal aid organization in Trincomalee. They were then advised to lodge a complaint at the HRCSL in Trincomalee.When getting into the three-wheeler from the legal aid office, Arivalahan’s wife had noticed 3 policemen in uniform standing on the opposite side of the office (sea-side), but hadn’t taken too much notice of them. However, as soon as they left the office, they saw a white and grey van with tinted windows following them. At one point, it had even tried to overtake their three-wheeler. The van too arrived at the same time as the three-wheeler at the HRCSL office, so Arivalahan had run into the HRCSL out of fear. One man in civil had gotten out of the van and followed Arivalahan inside and apprehended him. At which point a lady working at the HRCSL had asked the man from the van, who he was. He had responded that he was from the TID in Colombo. Meanwhile, 4 other men in civil too had gotten out of the van and walked into the HRCSL. Also, a police jeep with 3 police officers in uniform had arrived at the Commission and walked inside. When asked by the lady who they were, they had said they were from the Trincomalee Police.The lady at the HRCSL had got the first TID officer who had apprehended Arivalahan, to record his (the officer’s) details in a book at the Commission. By this point, the police had issued a receipt of arrest to Arivalahan’s wife, citing that he’s being arrested under the suspicion of reviving terrorist activity. As at 23rd June, he was being detained at the TID office in Colombo. His wife visits him weekly, but says that they are not able to speak freely as TID officers are always in the vicinity. They had even told the wife during one of her visits, that her husband would be released in two months.
  1. Muththulingam Vijeyakumar Ketheeswaran, was arrested in Kilinochchi town in the Kilinochchi district on 10th He had previously been detained in May 2014, while sitting for his A/L examinations as an 18 year old and released in November 2015 on bail. As he could not go back to school, he had requested his father to try and raise funds to buy him a three wheeler. His father had reportedly sold his cattle and transferred funds to his son’s bank account. Ketheeswaran has now been detained on the suspicion that he had received funds in relation to the explosives found in Chavakachcheri.When the father had visited his son in Boossa, it had appeared that the son had been severely beaten whilst in detention in Vavuniya and Boossa. The family has lodged a complaint (HRC/KI/056/2016) at the HRCSL in Kilinochchi, on the 11th April.Ketheeswaran’s sister, a student at the Eastern University, had received numerous abusive calls from persons claiming to be from the TID, from this phone number 021-2283707, following her brother’s arrest. The University has arranged some security measures for her, and she has lodged a complaint (HRC/BCO/99/2016) at the HRCSL in Batticaloa.
    Ketheeswaran’s father and another brother, a school boy, have also been repeatedly summoned to an unmarked TID office in Kilinochchi after his detention.[8] He was being detained as at 23rd June.[9]
  1. Muthulingam Jeyakanthan, a former LTTE cadre, from Mullaithivu, who had sought employment overseas after the war, was detained and interrogated for almost 7 hours by the TID, at the Katunayake international airport on his return to Sri Lanka on the 12th of April, 2016. He was then released and asked to report to the 2nd floor of the TID office in Colombo, on the 19th of April, for further interrogation.[10] According to his sister[11], they had taken Jeyakanthan into the office at about 11.15am, and at around 2.15pm, informed her that he had been arrested, but his family had not been given any document with regard to his arrest. The TID had refused to let his sister see Jeyakanthan that day, and had told her to come and visit him on Sunday (24th) April instead. Jeyakanthan is a father of two and had gone overseas to help support his family. He was last detained at the New Magazine Prison, and was ordered 1 year rehabilitation at the Poonthotam Rehabilitation Centre, Vavuniya, on the 22nd of June, 2016.
  2. Former LTTE commander Ithimalasangam Arichandran (alias Ram), was reported as abducted from his home in Thambuluvil, Ampara, on the 23rd of April, 2016. Two days later, on the 25th, the Police Spokesperson was quoted by media as having acknowledged[12] that Ram was in the custody of the TID, and was being detained at the TID office in Colombo for further questioning. Ram too had been rehabilitated after the war in 2009 and released in 2013, and has since then been reported as having been involved in agricultural activity.
  3. Another former LTTE colonel, Krishnapillai Kalainesan (alias Lt. Col. Prabha) was reported as arrested from his home in Batticaloa, on the 2nd of May, 2016, and taken to the TID office in Kalmunai for further questioning. A father of two, he was working with his wife at a canteen at the time of his arrest.[13][14] Initially registered to have been disappeared after the war, he was found to be in custody of the military and then underwent rehabilitation from 2009, till his release in 2013. He was being detained at the TID office in Colombo as at 23rd
  4. Kanapathipillai Sivamoorthy (alias Nakulan), a former LTTE commander, was abducted[15] in Jaffna on the 26th of April, and subsequently found to be in the custody of the TID in Colomb. Co-Cabinet Spokesperson, Rajitha Senaratne was reported in the media as having acknowledged[16] that Sivamoorthy, was one of many rehabilitated former LTTE cadres who had been arrested in April, in relation to a cache of weapons found in the North. He was reported as being detained by the TID as at 28th
  5. Thamotharampillai Jeyakanth, was reported as arrested under the PTA on the 20th April, 2016, from Murukandi, Kilinochchi, and being detained at the TID HQ in Colombo, as at 23rd[17]
  6. Mahadevan Prasanna and Jesuratnam Jegasamson, were arrested under the PTA on the 06th of April, 2016, from Puvarasamkulam (Vavuniya district), and are being detained at the New Magazine Remand Prison in Colombo, as at 23rd[18] A Mr. Nagulan too has been arrested in connection with this same case, and a human rights lawyer told us that his last known place of detention was at the Narahenpita Police station. However, his current whereabouts are unknown. All 3 of these suspects have been arrested and detained in relation to allegedly being in the possession of a military hat belonging to former intelligence head of the LTTE, Pottu Amman.[19]
  7. Sathyaseelan Jeyanthan Fernando, was reported arrested under the PTA on the 1st of April, 2016, from Kilinochchi, and is being detained at Boossa, as at 23rd[20]
  8. Seethagopal Arumugam, was arrested on the 29th of April, from Nedunkerny (Vavuniya district). A tractor and motorbike belonging to him, and Rs. 100,000 in cash, was confiscated by the TID, without a receipt, upon his arrest, and none of it has been returned to the family. He is being detained at the TID office in Colombo, as at 23rd[21]
  9. Sankaralingam Sasikaran, a father of two and local NGO worker, was reported as arrested[22][23] on the 30th of May, 2016, from Bharathipuram, Kilinochchi district. His current whereabouts are not known.
  1. Magalingam Vasantharasa, was arrested on the 31st of May, 2016, at the Katunayaka International Airport, and is being detained at the TID office in Colombo, as at 23rd[24]
  2. Kanagalingam Kamalakannan, who runs a money exchange centre in Jaffna, was reported as arrested from Jaffna, between April-May, in connection to the weapons discovery in Chavakachcheri. He is being detained at Boossa as at 23rd[25] 
  1. Suppramaniam Janakaraj and Suppramaniam Chandrakumar were two brothers who were arrested from their home in Akkaraipattu, Ampara district on the 6th of April, 2016. They were both released on bail on the 8th, and released unconditionally on the 12th of April, 2016. Their lawyers believe that the two brothers were arrested in order to get to their eldest brother, Suppramaniam Devathas, who was arrested on the 7th of April, and being detained at Boossa as at 23rd[26]
  1. Subramaniyam Sivakaran, Secretary of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) Northern Province Youth Organisation, was arrested under the PTA, by the TID, in Mannar on the 27th of April, 2016. He was released,[27] on bail, with two personal sureties of Rs. 100,000, on the following day (28th). He was also barred from leaving the country for one year from the date of his release.[28]
  1. Pathmanathan Rameshkanthan and Subramaniam Kokilan, were arrested under the PTA, and having spent almost 2 months in detention without being charged, were released unconditionally on the 2nd of June.[29]
  1. Kireniyar Sebathasan, was returning to Sri Lanka from Qatar where he went on work, was given a chit at the Katunayaka International Airport summoning him to be present at the 2nd floor of the TID office in Colombo-01, on the 18th of April, 2016 at 10am. The chit was signed by the OIC of Unit III. He was questioned and released on the 18th[30]
  2. Gunasekaram Vijaykumar, was summoned for an inquiry by the TID, from Kilinochchi (where he resided,) on the 27th of April, to the TID HQ in Colombo. He was questioned and released later that day.[31]

Other arrests of dubious nature

Three men, Ramachandran Kanesh, Navarathnarajah Ranjith and Mutthulingam Yogarasa,have been brought back to Sri Lanka from the Maldives after having finished serving a jail sentence, and are currently in detention in Welikada prison. Neither them, nor the prison officials one of the authors spoke to, had any idea of the reason for their continued detention, and under what laws they were being detained.

In May 2007, they were found by Maldivian Authorities in the territorial seas of Maldives and were arrested for possessing firearms. The detainees stated that they were kept in custody and were interrogated by Maldivian Authorities, Sri Lankan Authorities and Indian Authorities. The trial and sentence had been concluded in one day. The detainees stated that they did not know their charge or their sentence until after the Court proceedings had concluded as they had been provided with only one interpreter who was fluent in Malayalam and did not speak Tamil, which was the only language the detainees understood. When they were taken away from Courts an Officer had told them, that they were charged and convicted for possessing firearms. The appeal process for their release was on-going when the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Maldives visited them in prison and asked them if they were willing to be transferred to Sri Lanka. He also promised them that once in Sri Lanka they would be released in April 2016 with the Sri Lankan New Year. As the appeal process would have dragged up to September 2016, the three prisoners decided to abide by the Ambassador’s advice.

The prisoners were brought to Sri Lanka in April in a Navy ship. They said they travelled for two days. Once they landed in the Colombo port, they were sent directly to Welikada prison. Few days later they were transferred to the Magazine prison where they are now. No one apart from a few lawyers and their family has met them.

All three admitted to being part of the LTTE. However only one admitted to have joined them voluntarily. One of the detainees were recruited by the LTTE when he was 16. According to them they were sent on a mission to transport weaponry from a ship to Sri Lanka in 2007.This is when they were caught by the Maldivian Authorities. According to them they did not possess any weapons when they were caught. However they also said that three of them together with another boatman were on the boat when the Maldivian Authorities open fired. The boatman had died at sea.[32]

Velauthapillai Renukaruban’s family claims that on the 2nd of June, 2 men had arrived on motorbikes, at their home in Jaffna, assaulted Renukaruban in the presence of his mother and older sister, and then forcibly taken him away in a van. The family claims that they had only discovered his whereabouts several days following his arrest[33], when they found out that he was being held at the Jaffna Remand Prison. Following a motion for bail being filed on the 15thof June, he was produced at the Chavakachcheri Magistrates Court on the 16th of June, and released on surety bail. The courts issued a travel ban on him till the conclusion of his case, and he also had to surrender his passport to the Courts.

According to his lawyer, on the 22nd of June, Renukaruban was charged with trespassing and assault, he pleaded not guilty, and the Trial date was set for the 1st of July. In a previous trip to Sri Lanka in January 2016, Renukaruban, his uncle and 3 others had allegedly trespassed the premises of, and assaulted the complainant. Renukaruban had apparently not known of the case filed against him, and so had left the country. However, as there was a warrant out for his arrest, the Police had arrested him as soon as he returned to Jaffna. He is a British national.

Whilst being held at the Jaffna Remand Prison, there had been a clash between some of the prisoners, and Renukaruban had run outside his cell wearing only his sarong. Having seen the tiger tattooed on his chest, he claims that the Sinhala prison officials had then assaulted him, explained Mr. Punethanayagam. As there are CCTV cameras fixed inside the prison now, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find out what took place, the lawyer added. As Renukaruban had been injured due to the assault, he had been hospitalized for a few days.

His lawyer had lodged a complaint with the Jaffna Police regarding Renukaruban’s alleged assault by prison officials.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations (ER)

The PTA and ER gives wide authority to the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), the Police and the Minister of Defense on arrest, detention, interrogation and extraction of confessions. A mere suspicion on the part of the Minister can warrant an arrest. Anything from taking a person from place to place for interrogation, seizing property can be done without the judicial oversight. The Minister can extend a detention order up to eighteen months. In practice, persons detained under the PTA have been kept in detention almost indefinitely till the case is concluded. Last year, two Tamil women were acquitted as not guilty, after being detained for more than 15 and 7 years respectively. Torture in custody is common practice and it’s rarely questioned in Courts. Even if it’s is brought to the notice of the Magistrate, the Magistrates have rarely taken proactive steps to safeguard the rights and welfare of the detainee. Under the PTA the Magistrate has no powers to intervene and hence. The PTA makes the judiciary is subordinate to the Minister of Defense under the Act. [34]

In May this year the Human Rights Commission has issued directives[35] to be followed by authorities when making arrests under the PTA. These include issuing the detention order in the language of the detainee upon arrest, identifying the person making the arrest to the arrestee and providing receipts for property seized. However it is yet to be seen whether these recommendations will be implemented. The President too has issued Directions to the Police and security forces, reiterating many of the directives issued by the HRCSL.

On the 13th of June, 2016, media reported that the government will introduce a new Act – the National Security Act – that will soon replace the PTA.[36] In addition, the government also hopes to enact two other counter-terror Acts – namely – the Prevention of Organized Crimes Act and the Intelligence Act.

On the other hand, there has been no mention of the review of the Public Security Ordinance (PSO) which the government committed to as part of the UN resolution it co-sponsored on 1st October 2015. It’s under the PSO that Emergency Regulations with provisions equally draconian as the PTA was in force for around 30 years.

It is the authors’ position that all crimes must be dealt with under ordinary law, with due checks and balances and judicial discretion and appeals. We strongly feel that the PTA should be repealed and fresh anti-terror laws should not be brought in, given that they tend to take away checks and balances, undermines judicial discretion and protection, severely undermines rights and liberties of persons and can be used to suppress peaceful and legitimate dissent. We also feel that the PSO should be reviewed and amended, to ensure that deceleration of emergency regulations are only in exceptional situations, are for specified short terms, subjected to strict parliamentary and judicial supervision with due checks and balances including eight of appeal, to ensure rights of persons are not infringed on.

‘‘ කේප්පාපිලවු ’’….. ගේ දොර කරා ආපසු පැමිණීමේ ඔවුන්ගේ අරගලය (Kepalulavu..their struggle to go home)

First published at http://ravaya.lk/?p=14056 on 19th June 2016 (Also published at http://www.vikalpa.org/?p=27559 on 29th June 2016)

‘‘මා මගේ නිවසට ඇතුළුවන විට එය මට දැනෙන්නේ මගේ මවගේ හා පියාගේ ආදරය බඳු සුරතල් ලෙන්ගතු බවකිනි…’’ –

ආපසු නිවසට පැමිණීමේ අපේක්ෂාවෙන් බලා සිටින කෙප්පාපිලවු ගමේ වැඩිහිටියෙක්.

මෙම වසරේ මාර්තු 24 වෙනි දින කෙප්පාපිලවු ගම්වැසියන් විසින් ආරම්භ කරන ලද මාරාන්තික උපවාසයේ පටන් මාස දෙකක් පුරා ගම්වැසියෝ නව ආණ්ඩුව ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම් නිදහස් කරන තෙක් අපේක්ෂා සහිතව තවමත් බලා සිටිති. මැයි මාසයේ වාර්ෂික කෝවිල් උත්සවය සමයේ හමුදාව සීමාසහිත කාලයකට පාරවල් විවෘත කරනු ලැබූ විට ඔවුන්ගේ නිවාස යන්තමින් දැක බලා ගැනීමේ හැකියාවක් ගම්මුන්ට ලැබිණ. ‘හැම අවුරුද්දකම අපේ ඉඩම්වල වඩ වඩාත් වෙනස් කිරීම් කරනු ලබනවා. සමහර නිවාස විනාශ කරලා තිබෙනවා. ළිං වසා දමා තිබෙනවා. වෙනත් ගොඩනැගිලි ඉදිකර තිබෙනවා. සීමා මායිම් වෙනස් විදියට ලකුණු කරලා තිබෙනවා. ඒ උනාට අප හිටවපු කොස් හා පොල් ගස් පල දරන්න පටන්ගෙන තිබෙනවා’ යි ඇගේ පැරණි ගම දැකීමෙන් පසු ප‍්‍රජා කි‍්‍රයාකාරිනියක් වන ‘චන්ද්‍රලීලා’ පවසන්නී ය. කෙසේ වුව ද ඇය සියලූම ගම්වැසියන්ට ආපසු ගමට යාමට ඉඩ දිය යුතු බවට අධිෂ්ඨාන සහගතව සිටින්නී ය. ‘ඔවුන් අපේ ඉඩම් නිදහස් කළ යුතුව තිබෙනවා. අපි ආපසු එනවා. ඔවුන් අපේ ගෙවල් විනාශකර තිබුණත් ඔවුන් අපේ ඉඩම් නිදහස් කිරීම අපට උවමනා යි’චන්ද්‍රලීලා පවසන්නී ය.

ඉතිහාසය

කෙප්පාපිලවු ග‍්‍රාම නිලධාරි කොට්ඨාසය පිහිටා තිබෙන්නේ මුලතිවු දිස්ති‍්‍රක්කයේ මාර්ටිනේපත්තු ප‍්‍රදේශීය ලේකම් කොට්ඨාසයේ ය. එය සූරියපුරම්, සීනියමොට්ටයි, කෙප්පාපිලවු හා පලකුඩියුරුප්පු යන ගම් හතරෙන් සමන්විත වෙයි. ප‍්‍රධාන වශයෙන් ගොවීන් හා ධීවරයින් වන ඔවුන්ගෙන් ඇතැම් නිවැසියන් ඔවුන්ගේ ඉතිහාසය දශක හයකට වඩා ඈතට දිවෙන බව අපට පැවසූ අතර අනෙක් අය ඉඩම් නැති පවුල් වශයෙන් එල්ටීටීඊය විසින් පදිංචි කරවන ලද බව වාර්තා විය. කෙප්පාපිලවු සාරවත් රතු පස, පිරිසිදු ජල ළිං හා සමුද්‍ර සම්පත්වලට ප‍්‍රකට ය.

මෙම ගම්මු 2009 යුද්ධයේ අවසන් අදියර සමයේ ලක්ෂ ගණනින් අවතැන් වූවන් අතරට අයත් වූ අතර මැණික් ෆාම් කදවුරුවලවල නීති විරෝධීව රඳවා සිටියහ.

තමන්ගේ නිවෙස්වලට ආපසු යන්නට ඉල්ලීම් කරද්දීත් අවතැන් වීමට පෙර ඔවුන් කෙතරම් ඉඩම් ප‍්‍රමාණයක් හිමිව සිටියේ ද යන්න ද නොතකා පවුල් 150 කට පමණ එක් පවුලකට අක්කර කාල බැගින් අලූත් ඉඩම් වෙන්කර දෙනු ලැබිණ. මෙලසෙ ඔවුන් ඔවුන්ගේ මුල් ඉඩම්වලට යාබදව පිහිටි මුලින් සූරියපුරම් යනුවෙන් ප‍්‍රකට ප‍්‍රදේශයකට නැවත අවතැන් කෙරිණ. මෙය දැන් හඳුන්වන්නේ කෙප්පාපිලවු ආදර්ශ ගම්මානය යනුවෙනි. ජනයා පැවසුවේ ඔවුන් ඈත එපිට පදිංචිකර තිබේ යයි ඔවුන්ට හැගෙන බව ය. නිවාසස්ථාන ඉදි කර ගැනීමට අධිකාරීන්ගෙන් කිසිදු සහායක් නැතිව ජනතාවට මැනික් ෆාම්වලින් ගෙන එන ලද අහක දමන ලද දේවලින් පැල්පත් ඉදිකර ගැනීමට සිදුව ඇත.

මුලතිව් හිටපු දිසාපතිවරයා විසින් පවුල් 150 ගෙන් ඔවුන්ගේ අලූත් ඉඩම් භාර ගැනීමේ අයදුම්පතකට අත්සන් කරන්නැයි ඉල්ලා තිබේ. පවුල් 150 න් පවුල් දෙකක් ලියවිල්ලට අත්සන් කිරීම ප‍්‍රතික්ෂේප කරනු ලැබුවේ වුව ද ඔවුන්ට ද විකල්ප ඉඩමෙහි පදංචි වෙන්නට බල කෙරී තිබුණ අතර පසුව තාවකාලික බලපත‍්‍රයක් ලැබී තිබිණ. 146 ක් පමණ අනෙකුත් පවුල් සත්කාරක හා ඥාති පවුල් සමග නැවතී සිටි අතර 2013 ජනවාරිවල සූරියපුරම්හි පදිංචි වී ඇත. ඔවුන්ගේ පැමිණීමේ දී කිසිදු ඉඩම් බලපත‍්‍රයකට අත්සන් කරන්නැයි ඔවුන්ගෙන් ඉල්ලා නැත. සූරියපුරම්වල පවුල් 59 ක් ද පිලාවුකුඩියිරුප්පුවල පවුල් 55 ක් ද ‘ වල පවුල් 159 ක් ද ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම්වල හමුදාව පදිංචි වී සිටීම හේතු කොට ගෙන වර්තමානයේ අවතැන් වී සිටිති. අවතැන් වූ පවුල් දැනට වාසය කරන්නේ කෙප්පාපිලවු ආදර්ශ ගම්මානයේ ය. 2013 මාර්තුවල පවුල් 16 කට සීනියමොට්ටායිහි ඔවුන්ගේ මුල් ඉඩම්වලට ආපසු පැමිණීමට අවසර දී ඇත.

කාලයක් ඔවුන්ට අයත්ව තිබූ භූමිය

හමුදාව විසින් අත්පත්කර ගනු ලැබ තිබෙන මෙම අවතැන් වූවන්ගේ නිවාස ඉඩම්වල වපසරිය අක්කර 520 පමණ වේ. ජනයාගේ නිවාස දැන් යොදා ගනිමින් තිබෙන්නේ හමුදා පිරිස්වල හා ඔවුන්ගේ පවුල්වල පදිංචිය සඳහා ය. මෙවන විටත් තිබෙන නිවාස, පාසල් හා දේවස්ථාන පරිශ‍්‍රවලට අමතරව යුද හමුදා පවුල්වල නවාතැන් පහසුකම් සඳහා පදිංචි ප‍්‍රදේශය ඇතුළත බොහෝ පෙර නිමි නිවාස ද ස්ථාපනයකර තිබේ.

2014 මාර්තුවල හමුදාව ඔවුන් අත්පත්කර ගෙන තිබුණු ජනතාවගේ ඉඩම් හා ගොඩනැගිලි සඳහා තාවකාලික නිවාස 287 ක් ඉදිකර භාර දී තිබුණි.(ශී‍්‍ර ලංකාවේ ආරක්ෂක අමාත්‍යාංශය, හමුදාව කෙප්පපිලායි ආදර්ශ ගම්මානයෙහි නිවාස ඉදිකිරීම නිම කරයි – http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=Army_completes_construction_of_houses_in_Keppapilavu_Model_Village_20160303_04) නැවත පදිංචි කිරීමේ කටයුතු පිළිබඳ හිටපු නියෝජ්‍ය අමාත්‍ය විනයාගමූර්ති මුරලිදරන් 2013 දී මෙම නිවාස යෝජනා ක‍්‍රමය සමාරම්භ කළ අවස්ථාවේ දී එය තාවකාලික යෝජනා ක‍්‍රමයක් නිසා කිසිදු ගසක් නොසිටුවන්නැයි ජනතාවට කී බව වාර්තා වී තිබේ. තව ද 2014 දී ප‍්‍රදේශයේ හමුදා අණදෙන නිලධාරිවරයා ජනතාවට නිවාස භාර දෙනු ලැබූ අවස්ථාවේ දී ඔහු ද මේවා තාවකාලික ඉඩම් පමණක් බවත් දේශපාලන තත්ත්වය වෙනස් වන්නේ නම් ඔවුන්ට ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම් ආපසු ලැබෙනු ඇති බවත් පවසා තිබුණි.

ප‍්‍රදේශයෙහි ප‍්‍රමාණවත් තරම් ජලය නොමැති නිසා පවුල් 25-30 අතර ප‍්‍රමාණයක් හමුදාව ඉදි කළ නිවාසවල වාසය නොකරති. ‘‘අපට සීතලෙන් පිරුණු පිරිසිදු ජලය සහිත විශාල ළිං තිබුණා. අපට පිපාසය නිවා ගන්න නැමිලා ජෝගුවකට වතුර ගන්න පුළුවන්කම තිබුණා. දැන් අපට මූණ කට සෝදා ගන්න බාල්දි අර ගෙන හුගාක් දුර පයින් යන්න සිදු වෙලා තියෙනවා’’ යි සිය නිවෙස්වල පැවති විවිධ වූ මතකයන් සිහිපත් කරමින් වැඩියෙන්ම පීඩාවට පත්ව සිටින බව පෙනුන වැඩිහිටි ගම්මු සිහිපත් කළහ.

අලූතෙන් පදිංචි වූ ප‍්‍රදේශයේ සිට ඔවුන්ගේ මුල් ගම්වල නිවාසවලට ආසන්නයේ පිහිටි ඔවුන්ගේ කුඹුරුවලට කිලෝ මීටර 7-10 පමණ පයින් යා යුතුව තිබෙන හෙයින් ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම් වගා කිරීම සඳහා මහත් පරිශ‍්‍රමයක් දරන්නට ගොවි පවුල්වලට සිදුව ඇත. පෙර දී වගා කටයුතු හා ගෙවතු වගාව පවුල් කටයුතු වී තිබුණ නමුත් දැන් දුර වැඩිවීමත් සමග බොහෝ විට ස්තී‍්‍රන්ට හා ළමුන්ට ගෙදරදොර බලා කියා ගැනීමට ඒවායේ නැවතී සිටීමට සිදුව ඇත.

‘‘මුහුදේ සිට කිලෝ මීටර 3 1/2 පමණ තීරුවක් හමුදාව අත්පත්කර ගෙන තිබෙන නිසා එය අපට පරිහරණය කරන්න අවසර දෙන්නේ නැහැ’’යි ගොවි සමිතිතියේ සභාපති කාලියප්පන් මහේශ්වරන් පැවසීය. ධීවරයින්ට ඔවුන්ගේ බෝට්ටු මෙම වෙරළ තීරයේ නවතා තැබිය නොහැකි ය. අත්පත්කර ගෙන සිටින වෙරළ තීරයේ සිට මීටර 50 ක මුහුදු ප‍්‍රදේශයක මසුන් ඇල්ලීම හෝ දැල් දැමීම තහනම්කර තිබේ. අවතැන් වීමට ප‍්‍රථම මුහුදු වෙරළ පැවතියේ ඔවුන්ගේ නිවෙස්වල සිට කිලෝ මීටර 150 ක් පමණ දුරින් යයි ඔහු පවසයි. දැන් ධීවරයින් මුහුදට ළ`ගා වීමට මීටර 700 ක් පමණ දුර යා යුතු ය. මෙම බාධක හේතු කොට ගෙන ධීවර ජනයා මුහුදු යන්නේ දින දෙකකට තුනකට වරක් පමණි. එහෙයින් ඔවුන්ගේ ආදායම ද හැකිළී ගොස් තිබේ. එසේම මහේශ්වරන් පැවසුවේ රට කජු වගා කළ බව ය. ඒ නිසා එය ධීවර කටයුතුවල නොයෙදෙන කාලයක් වුවත් ඔහුට ස්ථාවර ආදායමක් ලබා දුන් බව ය. කෙසේ වුව ද දැන් ඔහු කියන්නේ ආදර්ශ ගම්මානයෙහි වතුර ලබා ගත හැක්කේ පොදු ළිංවලින් පමණක් නිසා එය කළ නොහැකි බව ය.

ජීවන රටාව වෙනස් වීම ද රැුකියා අවස්ථාවල හිගය ද මගින් තරුණ ජනයා විවේක රහිත තත්ත්වයට පත් කර තිබෙන බව ගම්මු පවසති. ජනයා නීති විරෝධී මත්පැන් පෙරීම හා පානය කිරීම කරති. පොලීසිය නිතිපතා කඩා පැනීම් කළ ද දඩය ඉතා අඩු එකක් වන අතර මත්පැන් පෙරන්නෝ දඩය නිකම්ම ගෙවා දමා ඊළග දවසේ සිටම සිය කටයුතු ආපසු පටන් ගනිති. එමෙන්ම ස්තී‍්‍රන්ට ඔවුන්ගේ පවුල්වල ආදායම්වල බරෙන් යම් කොටසක් දැරීමට සිදුව ඇත. තරුණ ස්තී‍්‍රන් ඇගලූම් කම්හල්වල වැඩ කිරීම සඳහා කොළඹ පැමිණෙන අතර අනෙක් අය වැඩ සොයා ගැනීම සඳහා එහෙ මෙහෙ යති. ස්තී‍්‍රන් රාති‍්‍රයෙහි ප‍්‍රමාද වී ගෙදරට පැමිණීම පවුල් ඇතුළත ගැටීම් ඇති කරයි. ස්තී‍්‍රන් දෙදෙනෙකු හමුදාවට ද බැඳී ඇත.

විරෝධයපෑම්/ආයචනා

කෙප්පාපිලවු හි පවුල් 2012 හා 2016 අතර ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම් නිදහස් කරන ලෙස ඉල්ලා යටත් පිරිසෙයින් විරෝධයපෑම් පහක් පවත්වා ඇත. 2015 කාලය තුළ ජනයා ඔවුන්ගේ මුල් පදිංචි ස්ථාන ආපසු ලබා දෙන ලෙස කරන ඔවුන්ගේ ඉල්ලීම පිළිබඳව නැවත පදිංචි කිරීමේ අමාත්‍ය ඞී. එම්. ස්වාමිනාදන් හා කර්මාන්ත හා වාණිජ ආමාත්‍ය රිෂාඞ් බදුයුද්දීන් මුණ ගැසී තිබුණි. එසේම ඔවුන් ඉඩම් ඔප්පු 60 ක පිටපත් සහිතව ජනාධිපති ලේකම් කාර්යාලයට ලිඛිත අභියාචනයක් ද අනතුරුව එවකට ජනාධිපති මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂට ලිපියක් ද ඉදිරිපත් කර තිබුණි.

මුලින් ඉඩම් නැවත ලබා දෙන ලෙස තවත් තිදෙනෙකු නඩු ගොනුකර තිබුණ ද ඇගේ ඉඩම නැවත ලබා ගැනීමේ නීතිමය අරගලයක් දිගටම කර ගෙන යමින් සිටින එකම පැමිණිලිකරු වන්නේ දරු දෙදෙනෙකුගේ තනිකඩ මවකි. මෙම කාන්තාව තනිව විසීම අනාරක්ෂිත යයි ඇය සලකන නිසා තාවකාලිකව සපයන ලද නිවසෙහි වාසය නොකරයි. එවකට ප‍්‍රදේශයේ අණදෙන නිලධාරියා වූ සමරසිංහ විසින් කරන ලද බිය ගැන්වීම්, තර්ජන හා ඇතැම් අවස්ථාවල වාචික බැනුම් හා අවමන්කාරී සැලකීම් මැද්දේ ඇය මේ දක්වා ඇගේ නඩුව නොපසුබටව කර ගෙන ගිය බව පැවසුවා ය.

ඇයට අනුව ඇයට අයිති අක්කර 5 හි කුඹුරු හා ගොඩ ඉඩම් යන දෙවර්ගයම තිබේ. ‘‘හමුදාව මගේ ඉඩමේ බේකරියක්, කුස්සියක්, රෝහළක් හා ළිං ඉදිකර තිබෙනවා. ජ්‍යෙෂ්ඨ හමුදා නිලධාරීන් පැමිණි විට ඔවුන්ට නැවතීමේ පහසුකම් සලසන්නේ මගේ ඉඩමේ බව මට කියා තිබෙනවා’’යි ඇය පැවසුවා ය.

අධිකරණය සහ ප‍්‍රාදේශීය ලේකම් කාර්යාලය විකල්ප ඉඩමක් භාර ගන්නැයි ඇයගෙන් ඉල්ලා තිබූ අතර ඇය තරයේ කියා සිට ඇත්තේ ඇයගේම ඉඩම ඇයට ලබා දෙන ලෙස ය. ‘‘පුද්ගලයින් වැඩි දෙනෙක් නඩු පවරා තිබුණේ නම් අපට වඩාත් ශක්තිමත් වීමට ද ඵලදායක වීමට ද හැකි වන්නට තිබුණා. එසේම මට බොහොම කේන්ති නිසා මම තවදුරටත් ආණ්ඩුවේ නිලධාරීන් සමග සාකච්ඡුාවලට සහභාගි වුණේ නැහැ’’යි ඇය දැඩි ලෙස කියා සිටියා ය.

මෙම ජනතාව ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම් ආපසු ලබා ගැනීමේ පෙර උත්සාහයන් අසාර්ථක වීමෙන් පසු 2016 මාර්තු 24 වෙනි දින මාරාන්තික උපවාසයක් ආරම්භ කළහ. ඇගේ ජනතාව වෙනුවෙන් කි‍්‍රයාකාරී ලෙස අරගලයේ යෙදී සිටියා වූ ප‍්‍රජා නායිකාවක් වන චන්ද්‍රලීලා දින තුනක් පැවති මෙම විරෝධයපෑමේ කාලය තුළ දේශපාලන පක්ෂවල නියෝජිතයින් ඔවුන්ගේ තත්ත්වය පිළිබඳව විමසීමෙහි යෙදුන බව ඇය පැවසුවා ය. තුන්වන දිනයේ උතුරු පළාත් සභාවේ මහ ඇමතිවරයා ලිපියක් මගින් කාරණය පිළිබඳව කටයුතු කිරීමට ද ඉදිරි මාස තුන ඇතුළත ඊට විසඳුමක් ලබා දීමට ද පොරොන්දු වී තිබේ. මෙම පොරොන්දුව මත උපවාසය අවසන් කෙරිණ. උපවාසයෙන් සති තුනකට පසු මහ ඇමතිවරයා විසින් ජනතාව මුණ ගැසීමට පස් දෙනෙකුගේ කණ්ඩායමක් යවනු ලැබ ඇත. එම කණ්ඩායම ඔවුන්ගේ තත්ත්වය පිළිබඳව පොදු ප‍්‍රශ්න ඇසුව ද ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම් ආපසු ලබා ගැනීම පිළිබඳව කිසිදු පොරොන්දුවක් දුන්නේ නැති බව චන්දාලීලා පවසන්නී ය.

ඉඩම්වලට නැවත හිමිකම් කියාපෑමේ අරගල

අවුරුදු ගණනාවක විරෝධයපෑම් හා උසාවි අරගලවලින් පසු අග්නිදිග වෙරළේ පානම ජනතාව මේ හා සමගාමීව මෙම අවුරුද්දේ මාර්තු මාසයෙහි 2010 සිට නාවික හමුදාව, ගුවන් හමුදාව හා විශේෂ කාර්ය බලකාය විසින් අත්පත්කර ගෙන තිබෙන ඔවුන්ගේ ඉඩම්වලට බලහත්කාරයෙන් ඇතුළු වී ඒවාට නැවත හිමිකම් කියා පෑහ. රට පුරාම ප‍්‍රජාවෝ ආරක්ෂාව හා සංවර්ධනයේ නාමයෙන් අසාධාරණ ලෙස හා නීති විරෝධී ලෙස ඔවුන්ගෙන් අත්පත්කර ගන්නා ලද ඉඩම්වලට නැවත හිමිකම් කියාපෑමේ ඔවුන්ගේ අරගලය අඛණ්ඩව කරගෙන යමින් සිටිති. නව ආණ්ඩුව නීතිවිරෝධීව අත්පත්කර ගන්නා ලද ඉඩම් ස්වල්පයක් ආපසු ලබා දීමට මුල පුරා ඇත්තේ නමුදු සියලූම අවතැන් වූවන්ට සාධනීය ලෙස ප‍්‍රතිචාර දක්වා ඔවුන්ගේ නිවාස හා ඉඩකඩම්වලට ආපසු යාම සඳහා ඉඩ සලසන්නේ ද?

රුකී ප‍්‍රනාන්දු, මරිසා ද සිල්වා හා ස්වස්තික අරුලිංගම් විසිනි