STF forces villagers into hard labour

[TamilNet, Sunday, 22 July 2001, 15:40 GMT]
Villagers of Puthukudiyiruppu, about 12 km. south of Batticaloa, are being forced to carry out hard labour by the elite Special Task Force troops stationed in the village. The troops summoned 25 villagers to the camp on Sunday and ordered them to clear jungles and shrubs along Manmunai lagoon, said sources in the eastern town.

On Saturday troops ordered at least 30 local fishermen to clear jungles from 9 a.m. till 6 in the evening.

A fisherman told TamilNet sources that he was returning to the shores with his colleagues around 6 a.m. Saturday, when troops ordered 30 of them to report at the camp at 9 a.m. "We were ordered to clean the jungles on the shore the whole day," he said.

Also on Friday troops escorted villagers to clear jungles on the Manmunai coast. But when the STF observed LTTE men on the other side of the lagoon, they brought the civilians to the camp and held them till 7 p.m.

Local parliamentarians and human rights organisations have been accusing government troops of forcing villagers surrounding their camps into doing work, such as cleaning toilets, clearing shrubs, and building defences, in and around their camps.

Villagers told TamilNet sources that working in and around the camps can be dangerous due to unexploded ordinance.

Manmunai is on the eastern coast of the Batticaloa lagoon. Ferry service from Manmunai connects Kokkaddicholai, a large village in the western hinterland which is under the control of the Liberation Tigers. The ferry carries the greater part of the traffic to and from the western shore (Paduvaankarai).

 

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