21 June, 2024


Security Can Coexist With Human Rights

By Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

I felt sad to learn from the media that thousands who were displaced by the civil war were still roughing it out in refugee camps, waiting for their native lands to be released by the Army. According to the newspapers thirty one welfare camps are situated in seven Divisional Secretariats of the Jaffna District, housing 936 families, comprising 3,260 people.

The news took my memory back to 1997, when I visited the Poonthottam Camp in Vavuniya, as the first chairman of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Authority of the North. It was a pitiable sight with thousands of refugees from the Peninsula cramped in dingy enclosures. Moved by their sad plight, I started transferring them back to Jaffna by boat first through Trincomalee and then through Mannar as the west coast became accessible. But some of the transferees could not be settled in their own lands for security reasons, as neighbouring army camps were exposed to attack by the LTTE. It is this residue that is reported to be still suffering in makeshift digs that were then expected to last only a few months. It is painful to reflect that toddlers that I transported twenty years ago, have now grown up to adulthood but are still living without a roof of their own over their heads.army Colombo Telegraph

To my mind this stagnation is a result of the clash of two interests. One relates to security and the other to human rights. Understandably, with bitter memories of the ravages caused by the LTTE insurrection, the South gets worked up at the thought of reducing security camps in the North, imagining from their armchairs that such a move would jeopardize security, exposing the North to recapture by terrorist forces. In the first place, terrorism in the North has been so much controlled on the ground that its resurgence has become a far cry, as the Northern Commander has declared recently. Secondly, there is enough crown lands in the Peninsula to accommodate a perfect security regime without compromising its legitimate objectives. On a recent trip through the Peninsula, I noticed large stretches of abandoned land that was in use when I was a Cadet in the Jaffna Kachcheri in 1957.

In any event, settling the refugees in their own lands after three decades will not dislodge the existing camps. Judging from my memories of living in them initially, as I started my assignment in the RRAN, they should have enough territory to be able to allocate space for the settlement of refugees awaiting relocation. Besides the present security concerns may not tally with the demand that existed when the fight was on. Relocation of camps to meet the present needs by itself, may lead to the choice of new locations. If this position is explained to those agitated by vague rumours about dislodging the army in the North, they would not certainly object to placing in their own lands thousands of human beings who had suffered the rough and tumble of refugee life for decades, while they themselves were enjoying the comforts of a cosy life in their own homes. I am sure they are enlightened enough to appreciate a human being’s right to live in a house of one’s own choice.

In this background, it is up to the rehabilitation authorities to explain to the Public that settling the refugees in their own lands would not be detrimental to national security. The two are no longer incompatible concepts. The Human Rights Commission also has an important role to play here as a third party to the dispute. They have an urgent duty to get involved with the burning problem of the refugees and convince the protagonists that the displaced could be accommodated in their own homes without jeopardizing security concerns. The Commission should also assume the responsibility to oversee the resolution of the refugee crisis within a short time-frame.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Somapala what you have to understand is in Jaffna due to caste reasons there is a landless class. These are the ones idling still in the camps. The TNA is fighting to release lands under the security forces not for these families in camps. They are for the absentee Vellala Land Lords. These people are stuck in camps whilst the close to 300,000 war displaced are resettled mainly for this reason. Yes the government should give them a solution. But don’t just underplay the menace of the caste system that is a primary issue in North which is being masked by the Vellala Vigs, Samba and Sumanthiran. They are the real tormentors of the Tamils.

    • 4

      There are lots of educated, smart within the group of low caste people. Most of the LTTE caders are not from Vellala caste. So,the government should transfer alll Sinhalese low caste military forces in the North with the low caste LTTE Tamil people. This solves the problem of National security and refugee problem.

      • 1

        what matters is the density.

        Even if we see that over 93% the population is literate – their behavour in terms of any good moves – are being controlled by various thoughts – some times the majoratarian fractions behave as if they are blind and deaf. The best example is any talks being added on the investigative calls of Rajakashes – these folks just just ignores

    • 3

      Please do not show your ignorance, patriot

  • 4

    Nobody should be landless languishing in camps in North/East. Government can acquire land for public good but Market value compensation to be paid or alternative land should be allocated. As Patriot above has pointed out TNA cabal is playing with the lives of innocent people by demanding their ‘original lands’. Pity that people like Somapala Gunadeera have stepped into this pit. If this demand for original land were to be met in all cases no infrastructure project could ever be implemented by any government.

    Once again, market level compensation should be paid at whatever the cost.

    In a similar case I strongly support release of LTTE criminals on humanitarian grounds. But by calling them ‘political prisoners’ TNA is making the release impossible. Dirty intention is obvious. They think they have found a shortcut to Ealam by making their own people suffer.


  • 3

    Yes Somapala Gunadeera,I fully agree with you stating the fact that there are still many genune crown lands in the NE.
    I stand corrected but I believe the following projects were carried out on crown lands in the past:

    1. KKS cement factory
    2. Paranthan Chemicals
    3. Central Powerstation at Chunnakam
    4. Atchuveli Industrial Estate
    5. Valachenai Paper factory
    6. Glass factory and other factories near Trincomalee

    7. Police occupying lands and buildings within the Jaffna Fort and in the areas sorrounding the Fort. I am sure the navy camp within Karainagar.

    Another important fact you have left out is that armed forces are doing farming in the fertile red soil areas and denying the original owners who are ordinary farmers who used to make a living from these type of small/medium farm lands using ground water.

    The other fact you conveniently left out is the local fishermen are marginalised by the armed forces with latters vested interests.

    Another fact is armed forces are running commercial hotels or sea side resorts.

    To say the armed forces are angels protecting the country is a big joke.

    • 1

      Non PhD,
      Dollar and Kent farms manned & run by IRCs can be added to above list.

      The armed forces have never had it so good, as of now and invent ‘security threats’ to justify their rape of northern lands – private & public.
      The Governor sings same song.
      They will not dare to do this in the south.
      The ‘heros’ get everything free and the pay is saved monthly – the most blessed public servants in any country in the world.
      Then, they get a pension too!!

  • 3

    The threat to National security came first when JVP attacked police stations nationally in order to capture the power of the state. The second time when IPKF landed in this land in the name of peace. In 1989, JVP was nationally involved in terrorism against Srilankan forces. That is a threat to national security. The threat was challenged by LTTE, not Sinhalese armed forces or JVP terrorists. LTTE was never be a therat to National security and they didn’t have any intention to capture the power. If LTTE would have agreed with India’s intentions, Indian forces would be remain even now and all of the Srilankan military camps would have destroyed. LTTE’s armed struggle was to liberate the North East from the occupation of Sinhala Forces and oppressive Sinhala regimes who denied the rights of the people of North East.
    The people in the Should ask the following questions:
    1. Why Srilankan governments agreed to India to send its forces to this island?
    2. Why they couldn’t defend the nation against the invasion of Indian forces in 1987?

    I am sure you will never get an answer to these questions!

  • 2

    it is regrettable that outsiders having little knowledge about caste differences in jaffna are distorting the truth about the main contradiction prevailing among the major ethnic groups in SL. why dont’ they first accept that there is an ethnic conflict which overrides other differences such as class and caste? can the proponants of caste theory show any evidence that the so called depressed groups have their own organizations to look after their caste interests?can they substantiate that there are no caste differences at all among the majority?

  • 3


    What you see in the North, the other Sinhala leaders refuse to see it. Why? It is the land that recognises a race or community which occupies it. I have been reiterating for last five to six years of the huge amount of lands under the control of the Army and Navy, out of which many areas have grown to thickest jungles not utilised even by the army. The owners of these lands are still languishing in camps. These areas are mainly farming lands and the sea coast with huge fishing ports. The army says it is for security purposes they are holding these lands. Whose security? Is it for the army’s security, or the country’s security or the peoples’ security. It is a deliberate attempt to harass and inconvenience the innocent Tamil civilians for no fault of theirs and because they won the war.
    One of the recommendations in the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation commission that all private lands should be restored to the rightful owners. To show the world that the government is going in the right direction for reconciliation, few acres of land here and there were released. It is only a few portion of the large areas of land held by the army and navy. Under the Human Rights law, each person has the right to own a land and property, if violated then it becomes an offence.
    Mr.Sambanthan has extended his hands of friendship with the government, we will keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.

  • 3

    Yes! security can coexist with the human Rights.

    The government is for the people.

    People includes Tamils also!

    People are priority number one.

    Once peoples needS are satisfied the security concern could be addressed as a second priority.

    The government should deal with the issue with confidence and lead the people

    • 0


      “People are priority number one.”

      Who said so, where?

  • 1

    what happened to the Tamilduans migrated to Vanni EElam during the Velu was the president and Supreme Commander was there ?

    Have they got citizenships and lands already ?

    what about their human rights.

  • 0

    Over 3000 Tamils still in refugee camps in Sri Lanka.
    In London UK, Tamils celebrate a Hindu festival

    What a contrast between two democracies.

    • 1

      Ah, but that’s because they are perfectly willing to live as minorities under a English majority that gives first place to the Church of England. Strange isn’t it? What about self-determination? I doubt they can determine who they are.

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