07/03/2010, 00.00
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A people’s tribunal for people displaced by war and tsunami

by Melani Manel Perera
The government is derelict in its duty to help hundreds of thousands of people left landless. The Praja Abhilasha Network sets up a tribunal to “eliminate any legal barrier to solving problems for affected communities”.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – A People’s Tribunal will be set up on 10 July in Puttalam District, some 125 kilometres north of Colombo, Praja Abhilasha Network representatives said at a press conference last Monday. The Network is an organisation that defends the rights of people who are landless or who lost their land. It is linked to the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO). For its promoters, the goal of the People’s Tribunal is to “change existing legislation and eliminate any legal barrier to solving problems for affected communities.”

Prof L.M. Abeywickrama, in cooperation with the Praja Abhilasha Network and the People to People Dialogue (PPD), wrote a research report titled “Land Issues of Sri Lanka”, which was launched in June 2009.

The report reviewed a number of key displacement issues but it has not been followed up by real action.

For example, the government has done nothing for the 450 families displaced in Sampur as a result of the civil war who are still living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Killiweddi, Trincomalee District.

It has not solved the tragedy of 17,000 people stuck in refugee camps after they were displaced by a tsunami.

It has not helped families in Monaragala District whose homes and fields were destroyed by hungry elephants that went on a rampage.

“What’s the point of development if so many people are still displaced,” a Praja Abhilasha member said, as he talked about the thousands of acres of land set aside by the government for manufacturing plants and hotels for tourists.

“Last year, we sent the government a report on the IDP situation,” said NAFSO Secretary General Herman Kumara. “We got no reply. It seems that whenever we seek government help, we are turned down instead of getting aid for the people who need it. For this reason, we have decided to set up a People’s Tribunal”.

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