The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) observed in its final report that the “displacement of persons as well as loss of land and homes were major conflict related outcomes, and affected all communities throughout the period.”
The LLRC concluded that “measures and policies ensuring legitimate land rights, especially among the returning IDPs, would contribute significantly to restoring normalcy and promoting reconciliation”.
However, first-hand information gathered through site-visits and interviews with affected communities by the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) indicates that the Government of Sri Lanka is not honouring even its own National Plan of Action to Implement the Recommendations of the LLRC (July 2012).
Valikamam North (Jaffna)
Owing to the High Security Zone established by the military in Valikamam North division (especially around Tellippalai) of the Jaffna peninsula in 1990, some 9,905 Tamil families consisting of 33,353 individuals continue to be displaced according to the government’s own statistics. The HSZ encompasses 24 grama niladhari divisions, out of which 16 are completely out-of-bounds to their former residents. The HSZ also includes 18 kilometres of coastline between Naguleswaram and Myliddy. These Tamil families, who were traditionally dependent on farming and fishing for their livelihood, face severe hardship. The Myliddy fisheries harbour is occupied by the navy and not accessible to civilians. The Catholic churches in Kankesanthurai, Myliddy and Urani are inaccessible for worship and pastoral care.
Sampur was initially declared as a High Security Zone, and later re-gazetted as a Special Economic Zone for the construction of a coal-power plant and industries owned by Indians. More than 500 houses were destroyed and their Muslim and Tamil owners are prevented from access to their former agricultural lands and fishing areas. The areas proposed for their resettlement are of poor quality for farming and other livelihood activities. Iralkulam is marshy land, which floods and remains inundated for prolonged periods during the rainy season. There is not even 100 acres that is suitable for paddy cultivation. Access to water remains a significant issue in Iththikulam. There are 1262 families (or 4036 individuals) still in four IDP camps: namely Kilivetti, Pattiththidal, Manatchenai and Kattaiparichchan. More than 2,500 acres of productive paddy land are lost to cultivation and more than 2,000 families have lost their livelihoods.
Thiru Murugandi (Killinochchi)
Three hundred and eighty-two of the original 463 Tamil families in Thiru Murugandi grama niladhari division have still not been resettled, since their most recent displacement in 2008. Five hundred acres of land is occupied by an army camp. These lands belong to 120 households among the displaced.
Three hundred and seven Tamil families from the Mullikulam grama niladhari division within Musali Divisional Secretariat have been displaced due to the establishment of a naval base in that area. Owing to this informal High Security Zone, nearly 1000 acres of land and 5 irrigation tanks are now inaccessible to farmers. Families of Sinhala naval personnel have been settled in that land. Two hundred and six households have temporarily settled in the forested area of Marichchikattu; while 54 families are living in Kayakuli village. These households lack decent shelter, sanitation, potable water and livelihoods in both areas. The people of Mullikulam have been displaced at least four times since 1990.
In view of the above, the Peoples’ Alliance for Right to Land (PARL) Sri Lanka recommends:
- Immediate shelter, livelihood and infrastructure assistance to ‘old’ and ‘new’ IDPs in the Northern and Eastern provinces, especially women-headed households;
- The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and international standards on long-term housing and property restitution be adhered to by local, provincial and central government authorities;
- All the final recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission should be implemented, including on demilitarisation, impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, and the devolution of power to the provinces.
*This article appeared on Law & Society Trust – ESCR Newsletter Issue 5