‘Garrison land’

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2017-02-11

By Manekshaw

The hunger strike launched by nearly ninety families in Keppapilavu in the Mullaitivu District and continued for the past few days to regain their lands from the Security Forces has highlighted the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons in the Northern Province. The Keppapilavu land issue was raised in Parliament last Wednesday (8) by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) also expressed its support to the TNA which demanded that the National Unity Government should stand by the pledge to release the land in the possession of the Security Forces to its legitimate owners in the Northern and the Eastern provinces.

A civil society organization in the South called the People's Alliance for Right to Land (PARL) also expressed its solidarity with the civilians demanding the release of their lands in the possession of the Security Forces.

Some of the human rights activists from the South had also visited Mullaitivu and met the civilians demanding their lands to be returned from the possession of the Security Forces.

Calling for the release of lands from the possession of the Security Forces was one of the prime demands mentioned in the two manifestos released by the Tamil National Alliance at the Presidential and the Parliamentary polls in 2015.

Releasing the lands

Unlike the previous regime the present National Unity Government has expedited the process of releasing the lands in the Jaffna Peninsula and several lands which remained within the High Security Zone in the Valikamam North area has been released to the legitimate owners.

However, the hunger strike in Keppapilavu clearly indicates that despite the efforts taken by the present government to resolve the humanitarian issues, the Northern Province still largely remains a garrison region with the extensive presence of Security Forces.

It was two weeks ago a hunger strike which was carried out in Vavuniya by the relatives of the disappeared persons and the Tamil political prisoners was brought to an end following the intervention of the State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene.

The State Minister had assured the persons engaged in the hunger strike in Vavuniya, that he would find a solution to their grievances as early as possible.

At the Presidential and the Parliamentary polls in 2015, voters in the North and the East gave a clear mandate to usher in good governance to find solutions to their grievances.

The two manifestos of the Tamil National Alliance which had mustered the popular support of the people in the North and the East had not mentioned anything on extremism or separatism.

The North and East civilians only expected relief from the terrifying conditions which they underwent for three decades with a durable political solution to strengthen peace and reconciliation.

UN agencies

Even several leading personalities from the UN agencies such as the Commissioner of the UNHRC who visited the island justified the demands of the people in the North and the East in solving their humanitarian issues. Evidence was also collected by them with regard to alleged war crimes and human rights violations committed during the tenure of previous regime.

Soon after coming to power the present government in October 2015 co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution to address various humanitarian issues and to mete out justice over alleged war crimes and human rights violations.

So the protests which are being staged by the people in the North and the East in the past two years could be seen as their emphasis on what had been agreed upon and co-sponsored by the Government in the UNHRC resolution of 2015.

The delays in responding to the genuine demands in solving the humanitarian issues of the civilians who were directly hit by the civil strife in the North and the East would lead to more and more protests and agitations in the two provinces while giving 'oxygen' to the chauvinist elements for their survival in the South.

The TNA being a party with popular support in the North and the East with its position as main Opposition Party in Parliament plays a very responsible role by not favouring radicals in the two provinces.

The TNA's handling of North and East issues in a very moderate manner cannot be taken for granted by the Government or other political forces in the South.

A few days ago at the site of the hunger strike outside the Air Force camp in Keppapilavu, the children of the families staging the hunger strike were seen making wooden bows and arrows and shooting them into the Air Force camp premises.

This particular behaviour of the Keppapilavu children who have been even boycotting their schools from the time the hunger strike started by their family members a week ago has reminded of the behaviour of the Palestine children in the border areas between Israel and Palestine throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers.

If the land issue of the Internally Displaced Persons along with other issues such as the detention of the LTTE suspects and the search for the disappeared persons continue to remain unresolved with the military presence in the North and the East, the civilians in the two provinces will be compelled to continue with their agitations with the impression that they live in a garrison land despite the end of civil war.

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