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Sri Lanka’s government claims it will resettle displaced families in Jaffna as the military continues its occupation

(Photo of Tamil residents of Kankesanthurai, Jaffna)

Jaffna District Secretary Kanapathipillai Mahesan and the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing have announced plans to resettle the 409 families in Jaffna which are internally displaced due to the armed conflict and are living in approximately 23 welfare centres in the district.

According to Jaffna Additional District Secretary, S. Muralitharan, whilst 90 families have reclaimed their land Sri Lanka’s Tri-Forces are currently occupying it forcing the District Secretariat to seek an alternative solution from the government in the course of this year. In September 2020, Sri Lanka’s State Minister, Sarath Weerasekara, told parliament that military-occupied land in the North-East will “never” be given back to the people, blaming Tamil politicians with “separatist agendas” as the reason for continued military control of these areas.

According to the announced plans, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing has claimed to have secured a resolution permitting the purchase of up to 20 perches of land per family for 233 internally displaced families in the district. 158 families have been asked to identify the lands which they wish to acquire following which the Government-mandated valuation would proceed.

The military’s continued occupation of land has been sharply criticised as it has forced those displaced to have not only lost their homes but have had their livelihood undermined by the military. What little land that has been released has been subject to a piecemeal approach, whereby the military chooses which land is to be released.

PEARL (People for Equality and Relief in Lanka’s) has highlighted that in Kankesanthurai (KKS), Jaffna, much of the land released remained inaccessible to former residences as “army camps remained and were even reinforced with barbed wire fencing”; “village roads remained unreleased”; “old homes and infrastructure were completely destroyed”.

PEARL further states that: “The militarisation of KKS and its surrounding areas has rendered fishing ports inaccessible to Tamil residents and increased surveillance on the Tamil public. This has led to increases in harassment of Tamil residents as well as increased attempts at suppressing memorials, such as the annual Thileepan Remembrance”.

Read PEARL’s full report here:  Sinhalization of the North-East: Kankesanthurai (KKS)

Human Rights Watch has further criticised the lack of support provided for those displaced noting that families in Sampur in Trincomalee and Jaffna were “more likely to have at least received the resettlement allowance”.

Despite over a decade passing since the end of the armed conflict, the government admits that there are at least “3,056 internally displaced families currently living with friends and relatives who have not received solutions either.”

Read more here.

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