Sri Lanka: villagers denied right to return home
During its push to defeat the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), the government uprooted many communities, some of whom continue to be displaced even though the war ended in 2009. One of these communities is the coastal village of Sampur.
Sampur was the initial target of the advancing government forces and the entire village was moved to Batticaloa. From Batticaloa they were moved to number of refugee camps, and they have been in camps in KIliveddi, Kadaiparichan, Malikaitheevu and Padithidal for the past two years. The war is over but those camps still exist and people are unable to leave and return to their homes.
It is good to remember the words of the President who said: “Our armed forces have captured Sampur for the welfare and benefit of the people living there.”
The same rationale could, of course, be used to justify the capture of all LTTE territory. But gthe fact that people remain in camps suggests that the operation was conducted primarily to achieve military aims rather than in the unterests of improving the “welfare of the people”.
The purpose for capturing Sampur is not people oriented, but a political oriented. The government refuses to allow those people to resettle in their traditional home.
Relocating an entire village is a violation of fundamental right. The government wants to relocate them in places like Ralkuli, and Santhanaveda which are far away from Sampur.
Those people are mostly fishermen and farmers. In the proposed locations they can do neither farming nor fishing. They had lands of their own but now the government is planning to give them a small plot of land which is insufficient and barren for cultivation.
Now how long will they have to be in the camps, as they refused to be relocated? What would be the fate of the children who live below safety level in camps? Who will take care of their social, educational growth?
All these questions must be discussed. It is the government’s duty and responsibility to make sure that these people’s rights are met and they be given equal opportunity to live as citizens of Sri Lanka in their own land.