Monday, September 26, 2011
Adjournment Motion on land 22.09.2011
Speech by the Hon. Sivasakthy Ananthan Member of Parliament
1. In the Vavuniya North ( Nedunkerni ) Divisional Secretariat area , 80% the lands come under the Mahaweli Authority. The Security forces have stated that 500 acres of land owned by the resettled people of traditional villages of Olumadu, Paddikkudiyiruppu and Katkulam whose livelihood is dependant on three tanks namely Thanikkallu, Iluppaikkulam and Othiyamalai have not been demined and they have been brought under the Mahaweli Authority. Farmers who went there to engage in agricultural activities have been warned and sent back. The resettled people who own lands with Title Deeds and L.D.O Permits depend on agriculture and livestock farming for their livelihood. However, in 2010 the Sinhalese from Welioya have been allowed by the Army to engage in Paddy Cultivation in the same lands belonging to the Tamil people.
On 01.12.2010 seventeen Tamil farmers who are the owners of the above Paddy lands that come under the Nedunkerni Divisional Secretariat Division were summoned by an Army Officer and a Civil Officer and informed that these lands are to be included in the Mahaweli Development Scheme, the owners of these lands must come under the Welioya Divisional Secretary Division and if they don’t agree, all the permits of these lands will be cancelled and they will be brought under the Mahaweli Development Schemes.
Subsequently on 26.12.2010 and 07.09.2011 I went on a special visit to these villages and came to realise their plight . I wish to bring to the attention of this House that I sent an urgent letter to His Excellency the President informing him about the attempt to bring the paddy lands of the above villages under the Mahaweli Development Scheme and requesting him to stop the action taken to forcibly link up these lands with the Welioya Divisional Secretary Division and to allow the people of this area to cultivate their own lands.
Secretary to the President has written a letter to the Land Commissioner General asking for explanation. The Land Commissioner General had asked for details from the Director General of the Mahaweli Board by his letter dated 11.03.2011 . Accordingly, after about nine months delay, he has addressed a letter to the land Commissioner General dated 06.09.2011 with a copy to me in Sinhala. It is mentioned in this letter that the villages mentioned by me above and the areas cultivated by these people have been proclaimed as special zones (zone-L ) under the Mahaweli Board, it has been planned to irrigate these areas with Mahaweli water after constructing the Moragahakanda reservoir and the North-Central Anthar Nimne canal.So far work has been started only on the reservoir dam and it will take many years for the construction of the canal and for the Mahaweli water to arrive. However , it has been further mentioned in that letter that the Thanikkallu Tank has been renovated and the agricultural lands that come under this tank have been handed over to the owners. In this letter, the Director General of the Mahaweli Authority has further stated that the Authority has not taken any steps regarding the above mentioned areas, that there are no plans to bring these lands under any proposed Mahaweli Development Schemes , and if in future the Government takes any decision regarding these places and implementation is handed over to us, we shall bring them under the Mahaweli Development Scheme and fulfill this responsibility.
From the above facts, it becomes very clear that your intention is not to bring the Mahaweli water to the areas inhabited by the Tamil people; you wish to submit this plan to foreign countries in order to obtain aid and use it for the South only. You want to rob the traditional lands of our people and settle the Sinhalese on these lands .Recently they have been settled in Mullaitivu.
1.2 In 2010 the Security Forces allowed the Sinhala farmers who live in Weli-Oya to cultivate 450 acres of paddy land belonging to 250 Tamil families who live in the Pattikkudiyiruppu Grama Sevaka Division.
Now , farmers who went in tractors to plough their own lands have been turned back. These people are the owners of these lands who possess Title Deeds, Transfer Deeds and government land permits. They have been seriously affected by the war and they depend on their paddy lands. These people who live under the poverty line have been resettled without any basic facilities. At he Sentry posts they have warned them not to enter these lands as they have been included in the Mahaweli L-zone. Now these people are facing death by starvation.
1.3 A similar situation prevails in the village of Vedivaiththakallu which has an ancient history since 1814. These people who went to engage in sowing activities were detained by the army for two hours, threatened and chased away. Though this area has been allowed by the government for resettlement, basic facilities have not been provided.
1.4 In Navalar Pannai there are 250 acres of paddy land and land for highland crops. 20 families have been allowed for resettlement here, But basic facilities have not been provided, These people have been accommodated in a temporary hut put up by the SOA voluntary organization in a forest area in Kattuppoovarasankulam. Here the subsoil water is found 50 feet below the ground.
Only a single tube- well has been constructed. These people cannot settle here or engage in cultivation. They should be allowed to resettle in Navalar Pannai which is their traditional area.
1.5 In Nedunkeni many private lands have been taken by force by the Army and the Police, As a result , people find it difficult to resettle in these lands . In the Nedunkerni Divisional Secretary area the Army and the Police demand that they should be allocated upto 50, 100 and 200 acres of land.
1.6 In the Kanagarayankulam Grama Sevaka Division of the Nedunkerni Divisional Secretary Area the army has camped in the cemetery which is 4 acres in extent , The Army must be removed from this cemetery and it should be again handed over to the village people.
1.7 In Kanagarayankulam a Buddha statue is being constructed in the land of individuals who have title deeds for their lands . These lands should be returned to the owners.
1.8 In Kanagarayankulam the army has not vacated the private and government lands which come under the Agrarian Centre
1.9 The Army and the Police have grabbed a large number of land plots on either side of the A-9 Road from Vavuniya to Jaffna and established tea-boutiques , Buddha statues and Army Memorial Symbols. These are all illegal appropriation of lands and illegal structures which should be removed.
1.10 The Police have occupied two acres of land near the Kanagarayankulam Maha Vidyalayam. The school administration has made a request to allow them to start the primary classes of this school.
2.1 Two Thousand acres of public property constituting jungle area between Sinnathambanai and Sinnappandivirichchan in the Vavuniya Divisional Secretary area is being cleared. Great effort is being made here either to construct an airport for the use of the Security forces or an Army Quarters. This activity must be stopped to preserve the environment and forest resources.
2.2 The Army has requested the Divisional Secretary to give them many acres of land that come under the Vavuniya Divisional Secretary Division
2.3 There are resettled people in the Village of Velankulam situated six kilometers away from the Poovarasankulam- Thurukkai Road in the Vavuniya Divisional Secretary Division. Here the people entirely depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Here the Air Force has grabbed 30 acres of highland crops land belonging to seven farmers who were cultivating these lands for three decades.
Thirty Five farmer families were resettled here in November 2010. As they have no basic facilities, they have been unable to engage in cultivation activities. Showing this as an excuse , the Air-Force has erected a fence around 30 acres of land and they have put up a signboard in English and Tamil stating that this is the property of the Air force and no one is allowed to enter this land. It is noteworthy that there is already an Air Force camp near Velankulam.
3.1 The army is making serious efforts to appropriate fifteen thousand acres of land where camps were situated to accommodate more than three hundred thousand internally displaced people in the Chettikulam Divisional Secretary Division. The Security forces request the Divisional Secretary to hand over these lands to them as they want to set up a farm there. Here all facilities like electricity and water have been provided to enable the displaced people to live. The UNHCR inquired from the Government Agent at a meeting in the Vavuniya Kachcheri about this matter. Therefore, it seems to us that this is a plan made with the view of settling the Sinhalese here. In the backdrop of this land area the Aruviyaru flows. The Government thinks that livelihood activities like agriculture and livestock farming can be easily engaged in as there is fertile soil and plenty of water.
3.2 At the sametime when all efforts are being made to settle the Sinhalese alongside Aruviyaru, another attempt is made to colonise the Sinhalese along the Mannar Road from Parayanalankulam junction up to Madhu. Menik farm faces the same fate.
4. There is a 200 year old village called Mullikkulam in the Madhu Assistant Government Agent Division in the Mannar District. There is one thousand acres of paddy and highland land in this area and more than one hundred families lived here. The Northern Province Naval Base is situated here. The people of the village are still in Refugee Camps.
4.1 Action must be taken to resettle the people of Mullikkulam Village who were evicted in 2007 and who are still leading a life as vagrants.
4.2 More than one thousand acres of land in Vankalai has been gazetted as a bird sanctuary. This must be cancelled immediately. It is worth mentioning that there are no natural environmental factors here to justify the purpose.
4.3 140 Hindu families obtained lands at the Land Kachcheri held in 2004 in the Manthai West Sannar Village. The attempt to evict them and settle other persons there has to be stopped
4.4 An attempt is being made to construct a Buddhist Monastery in 500 acres of land from Vellankulam Devanpity upto the Mannar boundary line.
4.5 15 Sinhalese families have been settled in the Narikkulam Village near Katkadanthakulam in Murungan. 150 Sinhalese families have been settled in Madhu Road.
5. People have not been allowed to resettle in Mulliwaikkal East , West, Centre , Valaignarmadam, Anantharmadam and Koppapulavu in the Karaithuraippattu Divisional Secretary Division of Mullaitivu District. It is learnt that these areas have been proclaimed as High Security Zones.
5.1 The government has announced that nine Grama Sevaka Divisions coming under the Divisional Secretariat of Karaithuraippattu must be linked to Weli- oya ( Manalaru) which is being administered unofficially by the Government Agent of Anuradhapura District, a new Assistant Government Agent Division must be established and it must be administered by the Mullaitivu Government Agent.
5.2 An Army Camp is established in the Karunattukerni School which was functioning for more than 50 years. The Army is refusing to vacate this place. They have stated that funds will be given to establish the school in another place. Five million rupees is said to have been allocated for this purpose. This school had all the resources in this four acres of land. It is a great injustice to demand now that this School should be shifted. The army camp has been established in an area of six acres including the School land and another two acres belonging to the Pradeshiya Sabha.
5.3 People who lived in Thirumurugandy and Inthupuram under the Divisional Secretary Division of Oddusuddan have been refused permission for resettlement after their displacement. Huge Army camps have been constructed in their lands. 115 families have not been allowed to resettle in Inthupuram.
5.4 The bus plying between Puthukkudiyiruppu and Mulliawalai through Koppapulavu, and Vattappalai has to use the new road from Puthukkudiyiruppu to Koppapulavu. The earlier road has been declared as a High Security Zone and the Public are not allowed to enter it. A whole Grama Sevaka Division has been declared ( Koppapulavi) as a High Security Zone. It is learnt that this place has been converted as a runway for the air crafts of the Air- Force. What is the need for such run ways when the war is over? If the government is really interested in a political solution , it doesn’t need to strengthen its military might.
The above mentioned facts were given to me by the people of Vanni, There may be more. Our Members of Parliament have stated that there are similar occurrences in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and the Eastern Province.
As land and sharing of water are linked to a political solution we request that until such time as a permanent solution is arrived at, land acquisition and the related new land registration ( Bimseviya) system and other projects of grabbing the traditional lands of the Tamil people must be scrapped and all related gazette notifications and circulars must be withdrawn immediately. The government must not promote such plans without forging strong relationships between the ethnic communities. Our people who depend entirely on agriculture, fishing and livestock farming for their livelihoods must be freely able to engage in these activities and must be allowed to go and live in their traditional lands. I call upon everyone in this house to come foreword to do everything needed proactively to make this a reality.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The TNA is surprised to learn of the contents of the September 12 address to the UN Human Rights Council by Hon. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Head of the Sri Lanka Delegation. We take particular exception to his claim that the government’s approach to reconciliation has been predicated on building trust and amity between communities. The experience of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka does not support this claim.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission [LLRC] of the government was appointed in May 2010. This flawed Commission with a limited mandate made very modest interim recommendations to the government, which included the following:
- Publish a list of names of those in detention.
- Expedite prosecution or discharge of detainees.
- Issue a clear statement of policy by the government that private lands would not be utilized for settlements by any government agency.
- Disarm illegal armed groups in the North and East.
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe claimed that measures have been taken to implement these recommendations ‘without delay’. Significantly, this claim comes exactly one year since the interim recommendations were made on 13 September 2010. Yet, not one of the above recommendations has been implemented, in whole or in part. The government, however, has been engaged in a constant flow of misinformation to the international community; for example, the Minister for External Affairs informed the Heads of Missions in Sri Lanka in January 2011 that a database containing the list of Tamil detainees was active and available for perusal by the next of kin. This announcement was pursuant to a concern raised by the TNA at the very first meeting of the talks with the government delegation in January 2011. However, not only was this information untrue, but even after several subsequent promises to make available the list of detainees, it has not been implemented to date.
The failure of the government to implement even the modest interim recommendations of its own domestic mechanism highlights the importance of a genuine, credible and independent mechanism to advance accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. As the democratically elected representatives of the Tamil people of the North and East—the worst affected victims of the war—the TNA affirms its belief that President Rajapaksa’s enunciated vision for Sri Lanka as ‘a society of peace, pluralism and equality’ can only be based on acknowledgment of the truth and securing justice to victims of atrocities committed by both parties in the armed conflict. In this context, the TNA welcomes the transmittal of the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council.
We wish to recall our statement at the time the Panel’s Report was released in March 2011. The TNA stated then:
We have consistently emphasized that the Sri Lankan government had a duty to ensure that unarmed Tamil civilians are protected and not harmed in the course of whatever military operations the Government conducts against armed combatants. However, the Sri Lankan government has persistently bombed civilian populated areas, used heavy artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers in such areas, carried out attacks by deep penetration units resulting in the death of and serious injury to tens of thousands of unarmed Tamil civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands of such Tamil civilians from their homes, destroyed their homes and all their occupational equipment and other assets, reducing them to a state of destitution, deprived such unarmed Tamil civilians of shelter, food, medicines, drinking water and other essentials, shelled hospitals and relief centers and prosecuted their military operations with scant regard for the safety, well-being and dignity of the unarmed Tamil civilians in conflict areas. The extra-judicial execution and enforced disappearance of unarmed Tamil civilians and the scourge of the white vans has continued unabated. These and other accounts of horrendous incidents were contemporaneously placed on record in Parliament by the TNA and brought to the notice of all concerned.
Despite Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe’s claim of progress on reconciliation, the Tamil people of the North and East continue to be subjected to violence even after the end of the war. Manifestations of such violence include:
- The internment in 2009 of more than 300,000 persons of Vanni in military run camps. Those who have been subsequently permitted to go to their original places have been deprived of the assistance they are entitled to in order to resettle and recommence their lives.
- The continuing displacement of near 200,000 persons who have not been returned to their places of origin, who either continue to be confined in transit camps or have been compelled to take shelter with host families. Such persons include those displaced from Valikamam North in the Jaffna Peninsula, Sampur in the Trincomalee District, and several other areas in the Vanni.
- The forcible occupation of agricultural and occupational lands belonging to the Tamil people by the armed forces and by persons of the majority community. No action has been taken to remedy these blatant violations.
- The allocation of state land in the North and East without any public notification exclusively to persons of the majority community purportedly for development purposes.
- The settlement of persons from outside the North and East in different parts of the North and East and more recently, in the coastal areas of Mullaitivu and Vadamaraatchi East with the intention of changing the demographic composition of those areas and creating new administrative divisions.
- The destruction and desecration of Hindu and Christian places of worship and other cultural sites; for example the historical Agasthiar Sthaapanam in Kanguveli and the hot wells in Kanniya, so as to transform the religious and cultural identity of the said areas.
- The systematic use of physical violence to intimidate opposition political parties during elections.
- The quelling of legitimate public protests through the use of military force throughout the North and East, recently evidenced in Batticaloa, Pottuvil in Amparai, and Navanthurai, Kokuvil and Chullipuram in Jaffna.
- The use of sexual violence directed against women as a tool to suppress and subjugate minority communities.
We also caution against any uncritical acceptance of the termination of the state of emergency as evidence of normalcy being restored in post-war Sri Lanka. We have consistently maintained that the termination of the state of emergency needed to be accompanied by the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA] if Sri Lanka is to ensure a transition towards genuine democratic and constitutional rule. We have often highlighted the fact that some of the most draconian features of the recently lapsed Emergency Regulations—the enabling of arrests, searches and seizures without warrant; executive detention without charge; admission of confessions before police as evidence in court; and the reversal of the burden of proof in respect of such confessions—are also contained in the PTA and would apply despite the termination of the state of emergency. Notwithstanding the above, we shared the hope of the Tamil people that the end of the state of emergency would lead at the very least to the release of thousands of Tamil detainees and surrendees held under Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulation No. 1 of 2005. We are thus outraged by the government’s decision to retain a number of emergency era powers through the promulgation of Regulations under the PTA. These Regulations ensure the seamless continuation of emergency rule, replete with the grant of extraordinary powers to the executive over the liberty of subjects, despite the termination of the state of emergency.
We recall the preamble to the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law adopted by UN G.A Resolution 60/147. This instrument recognizes that, ‘in honouring the victims’ right to benefit from remedies and reparation, the international community keeps faith with the plight of victims, survivors and future human generations and reaffirms the international legal principles of accountability, justice and the rule of law.’ It is in light of such international norms that the government is inexorably obligated to genuinely address the grievances of the victims of international humanitarian and human rights law violations in Sri Lanka.
In fact, in its Joint Statement with the UN Secretary-General released on 26 May 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka expressed its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations. The Secretary-General underlined ‘the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.’ The government explicitly undertook to take measures to address those grievances. We urge the government to fulfill this commitment.
In the same Joint Statement, President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that ‘addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development.’ President Rajapaksa also ‘expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.’
We wish to point out that even after the expiration of over two years there has been no progress whatsoever with regard to the above commitment.
We hence urge the government to be more forthright and honest in its representation of the situation in Sri Lanka to the international community. For our part, we are committed to engaging with the government in a political process to resolve the lingering national problem in Sri Lanka because the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka, in the new circumstances, deserve the best and most sincere efforts of all.
Leader of the Tamil National Alliance
13 September 2011
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