05/24/2018, 19.34
SRI LANKA
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Tamil Catholics have the right to rebuild homes on Iranaitheevu, activists say

by Melani Manel Perera

About 50 families have been camping in the ruined church since 23 April. Their land was occupied by the military during the civil war. The displaced people are asking for help to build 200 temporary homes and transport to get drinking water from three kilometres away. They need eight tanks, 50 toilets, street lamps to light the road, and 15 solar panels and systems to keep the water sources clean.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - After being allowed to return to the island of Iranaitheevu, Tamil Catholics must now also have the right to rebuild their homes, this according to NGOs that met at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) on Tuesday in Colombo with Tamil representatives who came especially for the occasion.

For the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) and the Praja Abhilasha Joining Hands Network (PAJHN), the government must meet their basic needs and allow people to resettle on their land. This is an unescapable necessity that the government must satisfy.

The goal of the meeting was to focus attention on the sad fate of Tamil Catholics, who have been waiting since 23 April to take possession of their land, which the Navy and the Army seized during the civil war.

A month ago, 50 families landed on the twin islands of Iranaitheevu, on the northwest coast of Sri Lanka (Kilinochchi district), from where they were forcibly displaced in 1992.

They were authorised to return after a year of street protests. Since April, women, children and elderly have camped out in the old broken-down church waiting for the authorities to accept their demand.

Two of the island’s leaders, A. Anthony and Mudiyappu Emmiliampillai, spoke about the immediate needs of their community. They said the community needs immediate help to build 200 temporary homes and transport to get drinking water from three kilometres away. They need eight tanks, 50 toilets, street lamps to light the road, and 15 solar panels and systems to keep the water sources clean.

"For these people it is a great and courageous victory, but at the same time tiring,” said Francis Raajan, local PAJHN coordinator and secretary, speaking to AsiaNews. “After so many failed efforts since the end of the conflict, we really appreciate the struggle that has been going on since May 2017 and then since 23 April."

For Anthony Jesudasan, coordinator of NAFSO’s North-South Peace Dialogue, "the most critical aspect is that the government has not yet established any plan for the resettlement process. There should be a mandatory mechanism."

According to those present at the meeting, the government should take responsibility for relocating these people. It is not enough to give them the right to rebuild; the authorities should provide at least some basic items like temporary tents, drinking water, toilets and food. These must be granted in any case to give the Tamils ​​the possibility of resettling wherever they want.

Raajan and Jesudasan note that evacuation did not take place because the displaced wanted it or needed to. Thus, the government should assume responsibility for properly relocating them.

Finally, participants said they would organise similar meetings to ensure that public attention does not turn away from the suffering of the Tamil.

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