Forced labour said exacerbating poverty

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 May 1999, 16:42 GMT]
"My family is dependent on my day-to-day earnings. My children will stave if I do not work even for a day", said a refugee who was among a group of men who were compelled by the Sri Lanka Army to clean its camp at Valaichenai last week.

"I worked at the army camp. I did not have any earnings for 3 three days. It severely affects my family", the man, who lives at the Valaichenai refugee camp, told TamilNet. Valaichenai is 32 km. north of Batticaloa.

About 50 men, from the Valaichenai refugee camp and neighbouring hamlets were ordered by the SLA troops at the Ottamavady bridge sentry point, to clean the compound of the 232 Brigade camp at Valaichenai Paper Factory.

The civilians had worked in the camp for three days from Thursday May 20 to Saturday, May 22.

The men run small individual businesses for their earnings. Many travel to Vaakarai, Punanani, Vakaneri areas to collect fire-food in the jungles and bring them back to Valaichenai and Ottamaavadi to sell.

Vaakarai is 30 km. north of Valaichenai. Vaakaneri is 30 km. west of Valaichenai.

They have cross the Ottamavadi bridge, 2 km west of Valaichenai, where the SLA has sentries. The 232 Brigade camp is close to this bridge.

"Sometimes the soldiers at the sentry points ask us to buy things for them, but will not give us money. We have to use our small earnings from that day to buy the things for the Army and go home empty hand" said another refugee, who is father of four children.

He said "if things do not change, I will be forced to give up this small business. But I don't know what else I can do to feed my family".

Many of the refugees in the Valaichenai camp were displaced from the border villages of Vadamunai, Punanai, Oothuchchenai between the Batticaloa and Polannaruwa districts.

 

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