08/26/2015, 00.00
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President Sirisena returns land to 300 Tamil families

by Melani Manel Perera
Land was expropriated from Sampoor villagers by former President Rajapaksa. About 825 families were forced to live as displaced persons in refugee camps. A Tamil: "We are happy, even if we have to start all over again." EU, India, UNHCR and UNICEF finance the construction of new homes. Sirisena appeals: "Let us live together as brothers and sisters, without fear."

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "We are really very happy. The president that we elected last January gave us what we had been promised, our land”,  says Kanamadipulle Lingeswaran, a Tamil man of 49, present today in Sampoor village (north-eastern Sri Lanka) at the official ceremony in which the president Maithripala Sirisena has returned parcels of land to a group of about 300 Tamil families (see  photo), displaced following the bloody civil war that ravaged the country for over 30 years. "Now we can breathe. Now we have a land to live on. We are very happy, even if we have to rebuild all over again, " the man told AsiaNews.

Lingeswaran says that since local media reported that the government would restore the land to Sampoor, about 300 families rushed to be resettled in their village of origin. The  818 acres of land was expropriated from the rightful owners by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the end of the civil war between the government and Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE). In this way, 825 families were forced to leave their property and to live as displaced persons in refugee camps. Most of them found refuge in the Kattiparichchana camp, in Trincomalee district.

The Lingeswaran family were farmers before the war. But now are forced to make a living with odd jobs. One of the older daughters managed to take her final school exams only this year, at the age of 22. "We have wasted our time in vain - she says -, we lost years of life. We do not want any more war or suffering. "

Since elected in January in what have been described as "the most important elections in the history of the country," Sirisena has harshly condemned the brutality of the war, for which the then government of Sri Lanka was also convicted of crimes war by a UN resolution.

In recent months Sirisena has expressed solidarity with the victims, allowing relatives to remember their dead for the first time, and has supported change in the country by permanently erasing former President Rajapaksa from political life.

During the ceremony in the village of Sampoor, Sirisena claimed: "More than any other, the Tamil population has experienced the trauma of war [the violence of which is still alive in the collective memory - ed]." He then assured the government's commitment to work with enthusiasm to provide the same facilities and also opportunities for minorities in the north-east of the country. He also revealed that his government has received aid from the European Union for the construction of 1,000 homes, Unicef ​​(140 homes), UNHCR (140) and India (240).

Finally, a call to build a united and peaceful society: "Wars seriously damage the sense of humanity, truth, mercy and love between people. War is not good for anyone. We should all live in harmony and love. These children - referring to the many children present - should have a future. We will work hard to improve education, health and economic conditions in these provinces. In this way differences of race or religion will no longer exist, and everyone will have the same rights. We must live as brothers and sisters, without fear”.

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