Military not returning land to 9,000 civil war displaced people in Jaffna
by Melani Manel Perera

The refugees live in precarious conditions in 43 refugee camps. Military leaders justify the decision on national security. IDPs claim the army built Buddhist temples on their land, when most of them are Hindu or Catholic. Government IDP figures do not coincide with those of activists.

Colombo (AsiaNews) –  Sri Lanka military leaders have announced they will not return hundreds of acres of land in 07 DS divisions they seized during the civil war to their rightful owners.

Since the fighting ended in 2009, about 9,000 of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been living in 43 refugee camps in the Jaffna peninsula in the northwest of the country, and are waiting for a home.

Since the announcement, the IDPs are living in anguish and fear for their life after it was turned upside down by the horrors of the war, and the hardships of the camps.

Tamils ​​were forced to abandon their lands because of the civil war that caused bloodshed for nearly 30 years.

On 18 August, the military announced that they would not return the lands in the northern peninsula for reasons of national security. Only those who can show "acceptable" title deeds will be moved to alternative sites.

"Where can we go?” asked some evacuees speaking to AsiaNews. “Instead of creating new settlements as promised, President Maithripala Sirisena has not solved our problems. The authorities speak of national security, but where is our security?"

"It is very unfair to seize land to create military bases,” said Anthony Jesudasan, coordinator of the North South Peace Desk of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO). “The government could build bases without depriving people of the land".

The activist added that the "top priority is to finish the settlement process [of IDPs], as promised earlier."

Some refugees also slammed the fact that the soldiers occupying their properties are building Buddhist temples. "But most of us are Hindu or Catholic,” they say. “We do not worship Buddhist idols; we do not want temples."

Commenting the statement of Ministry of the Resettlement, Anthony Jesudasan noted that the official figure does not add up with the number activists have.

Whilst the government talks about 936 people waiting for settlement in Jaffna, NAFSO reports the presence of 9,000 families in refugee camps. "Their calculation is wrong," said the group’s coordinator.