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Batticaloa farmers fear return of army's war-time pass system

The Sri Lankan army has been telling Tamil farmers in Batticaloa district to register their details with the army camp, creating fears among locals that the army is trying to revive the war-time ‘pass system’.

Farmers from the grazing land areas Mylathamadu and Periya Mathavanai in Koralaipattu South (Kiran) division who breed livestock were told by soldiers at the Mazhaimandi camp to submit their names and details to the Tharavai camp.

The army claimed they were instating this system to prevent illegal activities such as sand mining, timber smuggling and cattle theft in the area.

When the Batticaloa District Secretariat was informed of the army’s orders to the farmers, district officials said that no pass system was currently in place in the district and that if any such measures were needed, the army should contact the secretariat to carry out appropriate procedures.

The District Secretary also issued official advice to the farmers not to submit their names and details to soldiers.

Since the killing of two police officers in the Batticaloa district, security forces have been given free rein to step up their intimidation of locals, the affected farmers said.

Residents from the area said they have already been fighting lengthy battles to save their livelihoods and homes as attempts to evict local farmers from around 12,000 acres of grazing land had been underway since the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa and had carried on under the ‘unity government’ of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe.

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