Navy blocks resettlement of Tamil families in Thiriyai

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 12 June 2002, 21:41 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Navy Wednesday refused permission to a group of displaced Tamil families to enter their destroyed village, Thiriyai- a Tamil village about 42 km north of Trincomalee town- to make preliminary arrangements for their resettlement.

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SLN area commander Jayantha Silva discusses the problem of allowing displaced villagers to enter Thiriyai with the Government Agent N.P.K.Nelumdeniya, Trincomalee MP Sampanthan, LTTE district political secretary Ruban and some of the villagers. (Photo: TamilNet)
Several local heads of government departments, such as education, irrigation, road development authority and health, accompanied by Mr.R.Sampanthan,MP for Trincomalee district, Mr.N.H.K.Nelumdeniya, Government Agent, Trincomalee, Mr.Eero Littimainen, a member of the Trincomalee Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, a UNICEF representative and journalists, left Trincomalee town Wednesday morning around eight with a group of displaced people of Thiriyai to see the village. The displaced villagers had returned from LTTE held Vanni after the ceasefire agreement came into force.

The SLN personnel stopped them about half a km from the village. The SLN area commander, Mr. Jayantha Silva, refused permission for the displaced people to enter Thiriyai through the main road and Kallampathai road. Instead, he only agreed to take a group of eight persons, including Mr.Sampanthan, Mr.N.H.K.Nelumdeniya, Mr.Eero Littimainen, the UNICEF representative and two displaced residents, in his vehicle to the main SLN camp to show the village Thiriyai proper.

Mr.Sampanthan on his return from the SLN main camp told the waiting displaced residents and journalists that all houses in the village were razed to the ground. He did not see a single house in the village. The village is overgrown with shrub jungles.

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One of the destroyed houses after people of Thiriyai fled for safety in 1995. (Photo: TamilNet)
"The main SLN camp established in Thiriyai encompasses the Thiriyai Tamil Mahavidiyalam buildings and two houses near the school. The historic Pilliayar temple located near the SLN camp is no more. I am unable to identify the place where the temple stood," Mr.Sampanthan told the villagers and journalists.

The Tamil villagers had brought flowers, rice, milk and camphor to conduct a 'pongal' at the Pillaiyar temple before making preliminary arrangements for their resettlement. They were clearly dejected by the complete destruction. The villagers told Mr.Sampanthan that when they fled from Thiriyai following the entry of the SLA, there were more than a thousand houses in the village.

They later held poojas at the destroyed Mariamman temple nearby. The group that accompanied the villagers witnessed the poojas and the priest broke down in tears when he offered flowers to the deity and lit the camphor.

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Parliamentarian Sampanthan, LTTE district political secretary Mr.Ruban, Trincomalee SLMM member Eero Littimainen and several local heads of government departments and NGOs are at the site of the destroyed Amman temple. (Photo: TamilNet)


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The priest broke down while performing pooja at the destroyed Mariamman Temple in the outskirts of Thiriyai when the SLN refused permission to hold a pongal at the Pillaiyar temple, which has also been destroyed. The destroyed Pillaiayar temple is within the security zone of the SLN main camp, Thiriyai. (Photo: TamilNet)


The SLN authorities stationed at Thiriyai have made arrangements for Buddhist pilgrims who come from south of the country to worship the historic Kirihandu Seya Vihare. Since the cease-fire agreement came into force, thousands of Buddhist pilgrims visit the said Vihare. The road that leads to the Vihare has been renovated by the SLN.

But the roads that lead to Thiriyai village have been badly damaged and need urgent repairs

One displaced Thiriyai resident said that altogether, fourteen SLN checkpoints and sentry points and the main camp have been established in the village within a short period.

Thiriyai village lies between Pudavaikaddu River and Yan Oya. Thiriyai is one of the thirty villages in the Kuchchaveli division. Its history is entwined with the Koneswaram Temple in Trincomalee. The destroyed Pilliayar temple has a history of more than three hundred years.

The people of the entire Thiriyai village were first displaced when the Sri Lanka Army entered in 1985. At that time, about one thousand four hundred families lived. The voting strength was about 2500. Most of the displaced, around 1017 families, were resettled in 1990. When the SLA unleashed violence again in 1995, a second mass displacement took place. All the resettled families, except about twenty, fled from the village and sought refuge in the Vanni held by the LTTE. Later, those twenty families also left the village.

Since the cease-fire agreement came into force, about nine hundred displaced families have returned from Vanni with a view to resettling in their own village. However, as the authorities concerned have made no arrangements for their resettlement the returnees are now living in temporary huts put up by them at Nilaveli with the assistance of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in a coconut land.

As the Wednesday's attempt to enter their village to make arrangements for their resettlement failed, their future remains bleak until the SLN vacates completely from Thiriyai, one NGO source said.

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Displaced Thiriyai villagers, who returned from Vanni, are now living in temporary huts in coconut land in Nilaveli, awaiting resettlement in their own village. (Photo TamilNet).


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Thiriya village is seen overgrown with shrub jungle from the hillock where the historic Girihandu Seya Buddhist Vihare. (Photo TamilNet).

 

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