01/25/2019, 17.22
SRI LANKA
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Tamils ​​camped out in northern Sri Lanka for 700 days to get their land back

by Melani Manel Perera

The army still occupies land in Kepapilavu, a village Mullathivu district. The authorities had promised to return it by today. Tamils ​​ask for southern support.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – A group of Tamils has been camping out for 700 days in front of a military area in northern Sri Lanka, demanding the return of their land, which was taken over by soldiers during the civil war.

Residents complain that the land was supposed to be returned to its legitimate owners by today. Instead the army is still occupying it and for now has not said when it will depart.

Locals claim to have been deceived for years by false promises. For Tamils, they are "all empty words". This is why they are protesting, asking for support from southern Sri Lanka and the international community.

On Tuesday, a delegation attended a press conference at Colombo's Centre for Society and Religion to highlight their demands.

The event was organised by the People's Alliance for Right to Land (PARL). On that occasion, Tamil representatives also met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe in Parliament.

The land they claim is located in the northern and eastern provinces, the regions most devastated by the country’s civil war, which lasted almost 30 years.

President Maithripala Sirisena had promised that the land in Kepapilavu, a village in Mullathivu district, would be handed back by 31 December 2018.

Later, at meeting with a delegation in early January, some government officials had assured them that the land would be returned by today. Instead the legitimate owners are still camped outside the occupied area.

Their hopes had been rekindled in December 2017, when the army returned part of the area. Since then, there is nothing about the other parts.

In Colombo, two women talked about what Tamils have had to endure for almost two years, surviving all sorts of hardships, including bad weather like wind, rain, dust, heat. In their plea, S. Adhiyakala and B. Sivabalapushpam insisted that "if our lands are not returned, we will reclaim them".

For activist Ruki Fernando, "700 days are endless. It is the longest protest ever carried out by a community in Sri Lanka. People have been living out in the open since 1 March 2017. They have resisted intimidation and harassment by the army, police and intelligence agencies.

"They have struggled to survive and yet have continued to send their children to school and take care of the elderly.”

Last but not east, “They have organised protests in Colombo and other parts of the country, as well as met with political and religious leaders, media and representatives of the international community."

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