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Deepening consequences as Sri Lankan military occupies civilian spaces in the North-East – SACLS

The South Asian Centre for Legal Studies (SACLS) released a report on the increased level of military presence in civilian life in post-war Sri Lanka.

Informed through primary research in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya, as well as secondary data, the report outlines the military’s involvement in humanitarian relief, infrastructure development, as well as the establishment of business enterprises –such as hotels, restaurants and farms.

For example, the Thalsevana Holiday Resort, the Chundikulam Nature Park Holiday Resort and the Golf Link Hotel, are just a few of the many military hotels and resorts operating in the North-East. The report states that such entities seem to rely on state resources, while being built and operated solely by the armed forces.

In addition, the Sri Lankan Army’s Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL), continues to cultivate crops and livestock. “In 2016, it was reported that the DAL had cultivated over 100 acres of land, and had entered into a joint venture with Browns Global Farm (Private) Limited and Aththama Quality Agro (Private) Limited.”  

The report examines the following concerns in response to such activities: "The lack of information regarding the legal and administrative frameworks within which the military engages in businesses; potential unfair competition and market distortion by the military's engagement in business resulting in the crowding out of private investors; lack of oversight over military businesses by the government, causing several rule of law implications regarding transparency and accountability; social and economic consequences particular to the North and East as a result of the military occupying an economic vacuum."

Namely, the distinct consequences in the North-East due to the Civil Security Department’s operations are significant. “In the North, the CSD purposefully recruited among WHHs [women headed households] and ex-LTTE cadres for employment. It could be argued that these are the most marginalised groups who are the most in need of livelihood opportunities. However, CSD employees in the North and East are made more socially vulnerable as a result of their employment.”   

“The CSD recently introduced loans of LKR 1,000,000 to farm employees, with interest repayments deducted from monthly salaries. Respondents suggested that around half of the employees in all CSD farms had taken out these loans […] Although all CSD farm employees are entitled to leave their jobs at any given time, those who have taken out loans are not permitted to leave until the loan is repaid,” states the report.

“CSD employees face further alienation from their communities due to strict rules imposed by the CSD, which in certain instances suppress their civil and political rights.”

The report concludes with recommendation that such businesses be transfer to public or private entities, “Ultimately, a transfer of ownership of military-run businesses will ensure greater accountability, transparency and equitable distribution of state resources and profits […] In the North and East, it would also prevent economic dependency on the military, while allowing marginalized groups to access sustainable employment opportunities that do not present the same social stigma and pressures.”

See here for full report. 

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