I experienced a very serious illegal land grabbing endeavour by a group of Tamils on my visit to Jaffna on 6 December 2013. This is part of much wider land fraud perpetuated by the Tamil criminals in the north.
One has to experience the scandalous culture practiced widespread by Tamils against the fellow Tamils to understand the seriousness of the fraud that has become endemic in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. This appalling criminality is the product of the three decades old war that has made the very Tamils face the wretched conditions in a disproportionate scale in the hands of the fellow Tamils in the decaying socio-economic climate. It is time for the Tamils to articulate a way forward to overcome these criminality without conditioning the failures of the government to suppress our own ignominy.
The calculated land grabbing experience took place just a stone throw away from the Northern Provincial Council office in Kaithady in Thenmaradchi. Over 80 acres of land illegally grabbed were planned to be criminally transferred to poor innocent Tamil peasants by the unscrupulous predators without any remorse or fear of the law.
Our family home is located in the estate where my mother and brother were killed by the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1987.
On the 7th December early in the morning, my brother Dr Narendran was approached by several victims providing information about the land fraud claimed to be performed by an unknown local Tamil Housing Association in Kaithady. The desperate victims converged in the estate to deal with the chaotic situation created by the unscrupulous land grabbers.
What transpired was, the said housing association had illegally placed notice boards/posters claiming ownership of the lands in the estate. They had meetings with prospective buyers of the plots of lands and some of them had even paid deposits in cash. The criminals had sold or allocated the estate in small plots taking deposits from Rs 10,000 to Rs 35,000 per plot.
The land grabbers also engaged bulldozers to clear the lands, but could not proceed much due to pressures building up in the estate.
The criminals were so convincing that they even possessed copies of the deeds in bundles to show that they were entrusted by the owners to dispose the properties. When repeatedly questioned whether they hold power of attorneys to sell the properties, they had no answers.
In the gathering of the victims attended by the army and the land grabbers on 7th December, the predators argued that they have done nothing wrong and even went to the extent of threatening the victims for discussing in front of the army. The criminals portrayed a Tamil nationalist profile and demanded that the issue must not be discussed in the presence of the army and that no one should speak in Sinhalese.
They took exception when some victims spoke in Sinhala language. One of the predator too communicated in Sinhala language to sidetrack the issues and to appease the soldiers. They claimed in Tamil that no one should speak to the army that has raped and murdered our innocent Tamil women. One went to the extent of describing the gory killings by the army and them mutilating the private parts of the Tamil women raped and killed by them. One softy in the group was claiming that they are doing a laudable service by distributing the unused lands of the Tamils living overseas.
When the situation was turning against the agitated land grabbers, they quickly ran away from the scene. One of them threatened a local council member present of dire consequences for his involvement.
The army was clear in their engagement and said they were unable to directly involve in the issue as it is a police matter. However, they promised to discuss the matter with the police stationed at Kaithaddy. They also asked the victims to complain to the police and they spoke to OIC to help the victims.
I too was present when the victims attended the police station. The first meeting was sheer frustration as the police was not keen to entertain any complains saying that they have already entered a complaint from the land grabbers claiming their due authority to deal with the properties were threatened by some individuals. This clearly indicated pre-emption by the thieves and whether they had the backing of some police officers cannot be discounted. In the meeting, one Tamil police officer refused to entertain the complaint from the victims saying that it is a civil matter and requested them to proceed through legal process.
A Tamil Sergeant at the police station was very helpful and at the third meeting held three days after said they have received several complaints from the buyers of the plots and will now go ahead and arrest the criminals.
I felt sad for those who paid the deposits for the illegal purchase. One family with high hopes visited the land on the 7th December and were shocked to hear they had been deceived. Another spent Rs11,000 to tidy the land that he had agreed to purchase. Another elderly couple were keen to purchase, but had their doubts about the way the sale was promoted. A 78 year old father of a land owner living overseas travelled by public transport to deal with the situation.
On 10th December, the police arrested two members (one female) of the gang and they were later remanded in custody. I also came to know another had been arrested subsequently. Remaining members are absconding and according to information, the police had raided the property of the agent of the group and have taken away posters and building materials held by her.
The victims were regularly meeting and some said their effort to deal with the issue through the Jaffna GA’s office was not successful. The GA and an AGA told them that their hands were tight and directed them to take civil proceedings in the Court.
When the victims were campaigning for a resolution through the police with the help of the army, the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper published an headline news on 8th December claiming that TNA parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran had resolved the land dispute with the help of the Jaffna GA. This news was later published word to word in other Tamil newspapers including the Colombo based Veerakesari.
The victims who spearheaded the campaign were aghast such claim of credit was made by Suresh Premachandran MP. His claim distorted the facts and caused serious concerns for the victims. The Uthayan did not make any effort to verify the accuracy of the news they filed and said to be written by Suresh Premachandran MP. Neither Suresh Premachandran spoke to those involved in the campaign to arrest the problem.
It at all any credit is given, it must be first for the stand taken by the victims and significant part of the credit must go to the genuine police officers and the sympathetic army officials. Suresh Premachandran has played a very inward selfish and cheap self elongating game to become a hero at a stroke.
One dejected land owner said in disgust, ‘instead of Premachandran taking undue credit, he should have praised the courage of the victims and made a wider appeal to the others to follow their example to fight for justice’.