SLA attempts to clear Linganagar

[TamilNet, Saturday, 19 September 1998, 15:39 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has ordered all the Tamil residents of Linganagar in Trincomalee town to leave the suburb immediately. Sources in the eastern port town said that this might be the climax of the SLA's stubborn efforts to evict the Tamils and take over this suburb.

The Trincomalee district command of the army had informed the residents of Linganagar last evening through Mr.Velummayilum, the Divisional Secretary (DS) of Trincomalee town and Graveats, that they should be present at the Plantain Point SLA base today at 9 a.m. for a meeting with army officers.

Two hundred residents turned up this morning at the camp. The Co-ordinating Officer for the Trincomalee district Brigadier Lawrence Fernando addressed the crowd. Captain Samidon of the Trincomalee Brigade and the DS Mr. Velummayilum were also present.

The latter acted as the interpreter between the Brigadier and the Tamils of Linganagar (The SLA is Sinhala speaking).

The Brigadier, briefly stated the army's claims on the suburb, and told the people gathered before him that they should leave Linganagar forthwith; that they should tarry no further.

When he was finished, a young woman in the crowd stood up and asked the Brigadier (with the DS acting as interpreter): "You say that our land belongs to you. You say that it has been your property since 1979. We cleared this land in 1994, built houses and roads were laid. Why didn't you take action against all this at the time? Pipelines were laid and electricity was supplied. Even then you did not take action, although you now claim the land is yours. Is this justice?"To this, Brigadier Lawrence Fernando replied (interpreted to the crowd by the DS), "The army was not a big force in 1979. Now it has grown large. Therefore, we need this place (Linganagar)." The young woman was not satisfied with the Brigadier's explanation. She told him. "If Sinhalese had lived here you (the army) would have provided them all the facilities to settle down and improve their lot. But you want to get rid of us because we are Tamils. You would have never asked the Sinhalese to leave like this". The Brigadier told her how the army had been fair by asking some Sinhala encroachers in Kappalthurai (near Trincomalee town) to leave recently. Having said this, the Brigadier firmly reiterated the army's stand that the Tamils have to somehow leave Linganagar and that they cannot stay there any longer.

And in conclusion, he told the people of Linganagar "The ethnic conflict will not end now. Do not trust Politicians and Political parties. They cannot do anything."The young woman wanted to say something further but the army barred her from speaking.

The crowd was told that the meeting was over and they should disperse.

Linganagar is a suburb of the Trincomalee town that grew around an old Urban Council housing scheme. The SLA says that part of it, 47 acres in extent, belongs to it. The army's claim on this residential area has been bitterly contested by the Tamils.

118 Tamil families have already abandoned their homes, unable to bear army harassment and arm twisting.

But 132 families have vowed to fight on, although the imminent monsoon threatens to tear away their roofs, now fallen into complete disrepair due to an army ban on thatch and other building material to the area.

A spokesman of the EPDP in Trincomalee said they have asked the residents of Linganagar not leave come what may.

He pointed out that the Sinhala encroachers of Kappalthurai were asked to leave only after the Tamil parties very strongly protested to the government about the matter. He said that there are illegal Sinhala settlements and encroachments that the army has encouraged and actively backed in every part of the Trincomalee district and town.

Another local ex-Tamil militant leader said angrily as he emerged from an emergency consultation with his colleagues on the situation: "The Brigadier is trying to hide the proverbial pumpkin in the rice pot by saying that the army has acted impartially on the question of illegal Sinhala settlements in east."

Related Articles:
11.08.98   Army burns roofing material
06.08.98   Villagers harassed into leaving


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