Jaffna Tamils have successfully pushed back against an attempted land grab by Sri Lanka’s Navy who began surveying over 7 hectares of private land belonging to 29 Tamil residents in the Mandaitivu and Mankumban regions of Jaffna.
Officials who were forced to back down were attempting to expand the already existing Velusamana Navy camp and had made previous attempts in June 2018 and April 2019 before facing fierce opposition from residents and Tamil parliamentarians.
Protesters and Tamil MPs have written to the District Secretary A Sothinathan demanding that government officials put an end to the continued land grabs by the Navy. Selvarasa Kajenthiran, a TNPF MP, has reported that there are already six army camps in this area. He further maintained that the military had no interest in resettling people in their own land but rather was an attempt to seize the land for their own interests.
Mandaitivu is known for its abundant supply of fresh water and fertile red soil which is used to grow crops such as tomato, chilli, onion and tobacco year-round. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, further report that the military has ‘diversified’ into handling other non-combat activities like livestock rearing, agriculture, teaching among others marginalising the general public. These civilian activities, they note, are being undertaken by armed forces and have deprived the public of their livelihood.
Kanakaratnam Sugash a local lawyer told reporters that not only were legal residents unable to question these land grabs, but they were part of “a well-designed ethnic cleansing activity against the Eelam Tamils”.
“When lands are grabbed, people who depend on it for their livelihood are forced to relocate to other places” he added.
Jaffna’s District Secretary, A Sothinathan, has responded stating that he will hold discussions with the concerned ministry and till such time the survey activity would be put on hold.
Land grab operations on civilian land continue to increase in the North-East under the Rajapaksa administration. Earlier this month, the navy attempted to acquire 14 acres of publicly owned land, including land occupied by the Malayadi Nachimar Temple for the Kottayam navy camp.
“The situation continues where our own lands are constantly being expropriated for the needs of the troops,” former provincial councillor B. Gajadeepan reported to the Tamil Guardian.