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Tamils resist Sri Lankan navy’s occupation efforts of private land

The residents of Mathagal, Jaffna protested and expressed strong objection against Sri Lankan land surveyors' attempts to legalise the navy occupation of a privately owned strip of land, last week.

Tensions were high as locals gathered and expressed their firm opposition over the Sri Lankan navy’s attempt to seize privately owned land of a local Tamil man to expand a naval base. A large number of police and navy personnel were deployed to the area, causing the land surveyors to leave. Later on Friday, police removed protestors and journalists at the scene.

The incident comes after a parliamentary session last week in which Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa insisted that no one would be taken off land that provides him or her livelihood. He said, “I assure you that without a proper alternative we will not evict people from their ancestral homes or farmlands.”

The landowner and fisherman, Selvathurai Navaratnam, adamantly claimed that he was not ready to “surrender his land to the navy” and that the “occupying navy had blocked his access to sea” and prevented him from launching his boats.

Kanagaratnam Sukash, legal adviser and lawyer for the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), met landowner Navaratnam and spoke with the navy and police on his behalf. Former member of the Northern Provincial Council, Ananthy Sasitharan and Navaratnam spoke with Tamil journalists.

Land-related concerns and militarisation of the North-East are escalating since the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s president last year. Last month, locals in Mullaitivu and Vavuniya protested against land grab attempts by Sri Lanka’s Forest Department and military. In Mannar, Sri Lankan navy officers assaulted a group of Tamil fishermen, leaving one man hospitalised with severe injuries in late July. 

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