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Sri Lanka Special Task Force assault Tamil landowners

Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) officers assaulted and injured four Vavuniya residents who were clearing their land on Saturday.

The officers dressed in civilian clothing entered the land in the Maraiyadiththakulam, Vavuniya while the residents were clearing the underbrush that had overgrown on their land. They had received permission from the National Housing Development Authority to clear out the land of the overgrowth.

While they were clearing out the land, the STF officers entered and attempted to stop them, claiming that the land belonged to the Forest Department. When they failed, the officers left and returned in the evening and proceeded to attempt to stop the residents once again. When the residents refused, they were assaulted, resulting in the injury of Sachithananthan, 35, from Vignanakulam and Sitrampalam Kethisvaran, 50, from Maraiyadithakulam. The victims claimed that the officers were under the influence of alcohol when they returned in the evening and assaulted them. 

The victims sought the assistance of Vanni MP K. Thileepan, who took the victims to the hospital . When asked to comment, the MP confirmed that the residents were indeed clearing their land, and had obtained permission from the National Housing Development Authority. He also said that he had spoken to the Forest Department to ascertain whether there were any discrepancies on the ownership of the land, which he confirmed that there were none. Additionally he mentioned that he had lodged a complaint on the conduct of the STF officers to the IGP of the STF Pujith Jayasundara.

The incident comes amist a backdrop of growing disputes between landowners in the North-East with Sri Lankan state forces and agencies. The Sri Lankan Forest Department is a frequent perpetrator of landgrabs in the Tamil homeland.

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