SLA takes over coconut plantations
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 December 1998, 17:21 GMT]
The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) stopped owners of small coconut plantations in Puthukkaadu, Maasaar and Soranpattu in the Thenmaradchi division of Jaffna from taking the produce of their properties since yesterday.
The SLA has told the owners that henceforth it will look after their properties and that the owners will be given some nuts each for their domestic use.
The SLA has taken over more than five hundred acres of coconut properties belonging to civilians in the area. Many of them lamented today that the army has deprived them of their main source of income.
The SLA will not give them compensation for the properties it has taken over for its use said one of the owners in Chavakachcheri today.
He added that his worst fear is that the army might start cutting down nut bearing young palms for building bunkers as they have done in other areas.
Thousands of coconut palms were cut down by the army in the east, depleting the large plantations in the region and thereby creating a severe shortage of coconuts in the region.
Though the palms were ostensibly felled for logs to build bunkers and defences, huge amounts of this timber were illegally removed by SLA officials and their business cronies to Colombo and other areas outside the northeast.
Timber from the coconut palm is in great demand in Sri Lanka as rafters are almost exclusively made from it.
However, sources in Thenmaradchi said that the SLA has taken over the plantations mainly as a consequnce of its logistical problems in the peninsula.
The army has to fly tons of fresh vegetables, meat and fish everyday to feed more than thirty thousand troops holding Jaffna.
The Sri Lankan Air Force has only one Russian built Antonov aircraft to ferry food supplies, to the north. Transporting supplies to the army in the northern peninsula by sea has become tough in recent years due to ferocious attacks by the Sea Tigers on SL Navy convoys.
Consequently the army has been trying to secure as much of its food supplies as it can from the peninsula itself. The taking over of the coconut plantations in Thenmaradchi might be connected to this speculated some sources.
They wondered whether a resolution passed by EPDP in the Pt.Pedro Pradheshiya Sabha on November 29 is also connected to this move by the SLA.
The resolution called for eviction of displaced civilians living in abandoned private coconut plantations in the region, claiming that the properties could be made productive again once these people were resettled elsewhere or in their respective villages.
The EPDP resolution said that this could help make Jaffna self sufficient in coconuts and that a delegation from the Pradheshiya Sabha will take up the matter with the Jaffna security forces commander in due course.
The EPDP reaped massive profits by shipping the produce from abandoned coconut plantations in the islands southwest of the Jaffna peninsula from 1991 under the SLA's patronage.