Police pocketing gains from forced labour?
[TamilNet, Friday, 10 September 1999, 01:09 GMT]
The people of an impoverished Tamil village on the island's east coast yesterday was forced to build a brick sentry point as a replacement for a thatched shelter which was burnt down on Monday, 6th of September, by unidentified persons suspected to be members of the Liberation Tigers, sources said.
The Police in Valaichenai ordered the people of the poverty-stricken village of Mayilankarachchi to rebuild the sentry at their own expense or face dire consequences.
The sentry in question was a temporary shelter put up by the Police at the entrance to Mayilankarachchi to monitor the movement of civilians in the area.
It was manned only during the day. The village is 2 kilometers west of Valaichenai which is 32 kilometers north of Batticaloa. The junction which gives access to Mayilankarachchi was closed by the Sri Lankan security forces for all types of vehicles a month ago. The villages of Naasivanthivu and Raalosdai lie beyond this junction..
With the closure of the road at this junction, civilians of the three villages are compelled to walk home.
The Police officer in charge of the area summoned everyone in Mayilankarachchi on Tuesday and accused them of burning down the sentry.
Mayilankarachchi civilians, however, told him that they were not in the habit of leaving their homes after dark due to the security situation in the area and therefore had nothing to do with the matter.
Some villagers who had answered thus were assaulted by the Police, said sources.
The Police officer had threatened them that if they did not build the sentry with bricks, he would lock up all of them in prison.
Money was collected from all the households in Mayilankarachchi following this, and on the express orders of the Police, everyone in the village took part in the construction of the sentry.
The people were also ordered by the Police to clear the undergrowth in the area free of charge.
Sources in the area said that the Police officer who had got the people to build the new sentry point would now send a bill for its construction costs and pocket it himself.
"Cash strapped Tamils in the north and east have to pay a heavy price for such corruption in the government's higher echelons" sources said.