Displaced families in Keppapulavu who have been protesting continously for several months, rejected the idea of being granted alternative lands, reiterating their call to be allowed to return to their homes.
"We don’t want alternative lands,” the families said on Thursday when they met with Praba Ganesan, the leader of Democratic People's Congress and the chairman of the President’s Vanni District Development Committee.
Speaking afterwards about the meeting, Ganeshan said, "I asked these people about their problems, they said that the military has grabbed the lands where they used to live and built buildings there."
"[Earlier] I met and spoke with the [Army] Commander of Mullaitivu District. He has given me a different kind of information."
"When I spoke to the people today - 104 families are protesting for many days without any political background - I asked them whether they would leave if more alternative land than their own land is given, they said we cannot leave the lands where we grew up," he said.
"I can see that they are persistent in wanting their lands back."
Ganeshan added, "even though it was said that all lands will be released by December 31, it was not fulfilled due to some practical issues. But I know that he will act to release all of them very soon. I will take the issues of people of Keppapulavu to the President and try to bring them a solution within the confines of my power.”
Although almost ten years have passed since the end of the armed conflict the Sri Lankan military continues to control and occupy vast swathes of land in the Tamil homeland, forcing families to remain displaced.
Keppapulavu families began their prolonged campaign for their homes in March 2017. The campaign, which has seen widespread support among Tamils across the North-East and diaspora worldwide, has reached out to several international bodies, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On January 28, residents of Keppapulavu intensified their campaign to have their lands released from Sri Lankan army occupation, getting as close to the camp and their lands as possible while military personnel and police were deployed to hold them back.
In October, the president, Maithripala Sirisena promised to ensure all occupied land in the North-East would be released by December 31, 2018. Following this unfulfilled deadline, families attempted to enter the army camp on their lands on January 1, however faced dozens of police officers halting the entry.