Feature Article

Sri Lanka relocates uprooted civilians by force in jungles to cover-up war crimes

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 September 2011, 15:40 GMT]
Closing down the infamous Manik Farm barbed-wire camp where several thousands of war-displaced Tamil civilians were detained under extremely difficult conditions since early 2009, the genocidal Rajapaksa regime has now decided to relocate them in some strange jungle areas by force, under the name of ‘resettlement’ of internally displaced people (IDPs), mainly to cover up war crimes. Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence this week announced that preparations were under way to construct 600 acre new village in Koampaavil in Puthukkudiyiruppu area to resettle the remaining 7,394 IDPs from 2,097 families at the Manik Farm Camp.

According to informed sources, IDPs from Puthumaaththa'lan, Mu'l'livaaykkaal West, Mu'l'livaaykkaal East, Ampalavan-pokka'nai, Valaignar Madam and Aanathapuram in the Mullaith-theevu district who are presently at the Manik Farm camp at Cheddi-ku'lam or with host families, largely at Vavuniyaa, are scheduled to be resettled in Koampaavail, instead of resettling them in their original hometowns.

The SL Defence Ministry has issued this statement at a time when Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is in New York to attend the 66 th UN General Assembly sessions, was busy desperately tying to convince some of the world leaders on the so-called progress in areas of “post-war development and resettlement of displaced civilians”.

If Colombo is taking steps to close down the notorious Manik Farm Camp to neutralise the growing international pressure, forced-relocation of thousands of war victims far away from their native places is carefully and systematically planned in a bid to ensure that no more evidences of war crimes would be unearthed from these places.

It is, in fact, in these same coastal villages that the Sri Lankan troops are credibly alleged to have committed serious war crimes and crimes against humanity by systemically massacring thousands of innocent Tamil civilians during the final months of the war that ended in May 2009.

“There can be no reasons whatsoever for these persons not to be resettled in their original lands from which they were displaced from. There must be some sinister reasons for these persons not to be resettled in their original places,” the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which swept the local polls held recently, said last month, pointing out that the Sri Lankan government is acting in contravention of its own public commitment to the international community in this regard.

Commenting on the issue, a TNA parliamentarian said strictly on condition of anonymity that the government was preventing people from returning to their respective villages “in a bid to cover up war crimes”. He also said that the government was purposefully claiming delays in land mine clearance only to resettle the internally displaced far from their respective villages.

“These were the areas where the final phase of war took place and thousands of people died. The government is depriving these people from their lands to cover up atrocities committed during the last days of war,” he said.

The other local parliamentarians, who have had some opportunities to visit those who have already been relocated under the same programme of resettlement in Vanni, said that the movements of these people “are heavily restricted by the armed military personnel and are badly struggling to survive without livelihood”.

This is amidst rampant accusations of abductions, rape and sexual abuses by the Sri Lankan forces that are predominantly Sinhalese. Independent journalists are still banned from visiting these more controversial areas.

The basic livelihoods for the people in Vanni have been agriculture and fishing.

With several thousands of government troops occupying a vast areas of fertile Vanni lands, having put up permanent military bases, cantonment and Buddhist temples and with many thousands of acres were yet to be de-mined, the prospects for resuming the agriculture livelihood is already minimal.

On the other hand, the coastal areas are not open to the people and are occupied by both the navy and the army personnel. Fishing by locals in these areas are strictly banned citing security reasons, thus the fishing livelihood is badly impaired.

Political sources in Colombo said that the SL Defence Ministry has already taken steps to carefully colonise these villages such as Puthumaaththa'lan, Mu'l'livaaykkaal West, Mu'l'livaaykkaal East, Ampalavan-pokka'nai with Sinhala settlements and continue to keep them out of bounds for the original inhabitants and journalists.

The newly-arrived UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka Subinay Nandy, who undertook a visit to some of these areas last month, is yet to comment on the move by Colombo not to resettle the uprooted people in their native places, with some of the powerful country that have aided and abetted the genocidal war continuing to assist the Rajapaksa regime in all its endeavours.


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