The British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka spoke on the importance of returning land to its rightful owners at the launch of a British funded documentary and report on the Sri Lankan military’s occupation of land in the North-East. British High Commissioner James Dauris said his government was pleased to support a new report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) that found over 12,500 acres of land remained occupied by the Sri Lankan military and called for reparations and the restitution of land to its rightful owners. Also supported by the British was a documentary by Kannan Arunasalam entitled ‘Sampur’, examining the struggle of Tamils in the Eastern Province to reclaim back land occupied by the Sri Lankan military. “ Land is deeply and emotionally linked to family and identity ,” said Mr Dauris. “ It is not just a socio-economic issue. Land issues unresolved can become major sources of discontent and inhibit efforts to reconcile people and heal wounds .” “We warmly welcome the return of land by the Sri Lankan government to its rightful owners,” he continued. Watch the full documentary below.
A new report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) concluded that over 12,500 acres of land remains occupied by the Sri Lankan military and called for reparations and the restitution of land to its rightful owners. The report, “Land occupation in the Northern Province: A commentary on ground realities and recommendations for reform” , was based on four months of field research and interviews, with data from divisional and district level government actors that was cross-checked with civil society activists. “ Research findings indicate to land in the Northern province occupied by the army, air force, police and navy, among others ,” said the report. Though the CPA “ encountered gaps in the availability of data and in some instances a reluctance to disclose exact figures of occupation ,” it stated that a total of "12,751.240783478 acres of land... continues to be occupied in the Northern Province, with lack of clear information in many cases as to whether there is actual acquisition in adherence to the legal framework in Sri Lanka”. “As the research demonstrates, the rights of a significant population in Sri Lanka continue to be violated due to the occupation of land,” the report said.
Tamils in the North-East reiterated calls for self-determination, as the Sri Lankan government’s Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms launched its first meeting in Jaffna this week.
File photo: Relatives of the disappeared met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jaffna last week, as Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff reiterated the importance victim participation in an accountability mechanism.
UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein concluded a four-day trip across the Tamil North-East on Tuesday. Photograph: Mr Hussein on his visit to Nallur temple in Jaffna earlier this week.
Sri Lanka’s Independence Day was marked by acts of Tamil protest across the North-East. Families of the disappeared held marches and demonstrations demanding the whereabouts of their loved ones. In Jaffna University, students hoisted a black flag outside its premises in protest of Sri Lanka's independence day celebrations. Meanwhile in Colombo, the Sri Lankan government held a military parade with the president Maithripala Sirisena vowing to protect the pride of the armed forces, in the face of a United Nations resolution on accountability. See our earlier post: Sri Lankan president ‘determined to face UN resolution to protect pride of armed forces’ (04 Feb 2016) TNA welcomes singing of Sri Lanka's national anthem in Tamil (04 Feb 2015) Sri Lanka anthem in Tamil confirms hierarchical relationship of Sinhala Buddhists to others - TCSF (04 Feb 2015)
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena declared his government was “determined to face” a UN Human Rights Council resolution in order to protect the “pride and dignity” of the armed forces.
Photograph: Will Baxter/Freedom From Torture Tamil torture victims who suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan government called on the UN Human Rights chief to ensure that an “internationalised justice process” takes place, ahead of his visit to the island this week. In a report by UK-based charity Freedom From Torture and the survivor activist network Survivors Speak OUT, victims called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to “deliver a strong message to the President and Prime Minister about the need for Sri Lanka to comply with the commitments it made to the UN Human Rights Council and the consequences if it fails to do so” during his visit to the island.
The Tamil People’s Council called for the recognition that “Tamils constitute a distinct people with the inalienable right to self-determination” in a draft set of proposals, calling for a political agreement prior to a constitutional enactment in Sri Lanka.