01/14/2016, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lankan Catholics say Sirisena is "deceiving" Tamils

by Melani Manel Perera
The President said he will give 100 thousand refugees "land". Sinhalese Priest: "He did not say he will restore their land. The distinction is important. " Tamil nun: "While Sirisena says that the army will return the land to its rightful owners, the military of the Navy are preparing to occupy another 617 acres of land."

Colombo (AsiaNews) - President Maithripala Sirisena has promised to give land to all the Tamil refugees on which to build their homes. But his promises "are only a deception. The Tamils ​​have been fooled in the past and still are", some Catholic priests and nuns tell AsiaNews.

They are reacting to recent comments made by Sirisena, saying he would supply land to those displaced by the civil war. The head of state also said he would return private properties occupied by the army in war zones. "But this is false - says a nun - because the Navy just recently commandeered a plot of 617 acres in the northern province to convert it into a naval base."

Sri Lanka was caught up in a lengthy and bloody civil war between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels from 1983 to 2009. The conflict has caused 40 thousand deaths in the latter stages alone and 200 thousand people were forced to flee their homes. According to the latest data, there are still 100 thousand IDPs.

President Sirisena has promised these land within six months. The highest authority of state said he was also "responsible for not having realized the miserable living conditions in which they live Tamils". "But this is ridiculous," according to Fr. Terrance Fernando, Sri Lankan priest and activist. "It is ridiculous to hear such a comment from someone who for 27 years was a member of Parliament and also government minister in the last 17. It shows that he completely ignored the problems of the Tamils ​​".

The priest adds that "the Tamils ​​do not need false illusions, but of concrete actions and justice." The activist also noted that the president spoke in general of giving them "land" and not “the land that rightfully belongs to the local population." A relevant distinction, he says, "that does not favor the people who lived in the eastern part of the country."

Sr Nichola Emmanuel, of Tamil origin and also an activist, adds: "Sirisena said that the army will restore the lands occupied during the war. But as he makes these statements, in Mulaitivu [on the northeastern coast - ed] the Navy wants to build a naval base. The legitimate owners of the land opposed this and held a rally. Another hundred families living in the jungle Sooriyapuram, near their village of Keappaa-pulavu, demonstrated against the regular army occupying their homes".

Sr Nichola reports that the armed forces still occupy various districts of the north, such as those of Beat and Mannar, and refuse to leave the territory. There are also cases of land grabs. "My impression - she concludes - is that for Tamils, the future will be bleak. The military does not leave the land, the issue of missing persons has not been resolved. The same fate also for political prisoners. Silence still shrouds everything".

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