Champoor Tamils to join hands with Muslims in opposing controversial coal power plant
[TamilNet, Saturday, 22 August 2015, 23:29 GMT]
"Our resettlement was blocked 3 times within the last 8 months between the Sri Lankan Presidential Election in January till the SL Parliamentary Elections in August. We have seen the Gazette notification, legal cases in Colombo and the SL president visiting before the election and after the election. Again, Champoor has gained focus because of the much awaited OISL report in September,” Tamil activists from Champoor told TamilNet on Saturday after witnessing the much orchestrated visit by SL President Maithiripala and former SL president Chandrika Kumaratunga. In the meantime, the people of Champoor will soon to join hands with the Tamil-speaking Muslims in Moothoor in demanding annulment of the controversial coal power plant in Champoor, they further told TamilNet.
“Colombo and its international backers are now trying to water down the conclusions in the Geneva-based OISL report through the showdown exercises such as the one we witnessed in Champoor on Saturday involving the New York based UN System,” the activists said.
The UN Residential Representative, US, EU officials involved in the coordination of diplomatic and NGO affairs in Colombo accompanied Sirisena, Kumaratunga and R. Sampanthan of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the trip to Champoor on Saturday.
In the meantime, informed sources in Colombo told TamilNet that the UN Residential Coordinator in Colombo was also trying to get the Sri Lankan President Maithiripala Sirisena to address the UN Human Rights Council Session in Geneva this time.
The move seeks to influence the OISL process to water down the conclusion in favour of a ‘domestic’ process.
At Champoor, 25 families received a symbolic piece of paper and 13,000 LKR each from the visiting SL president on Saturday.
Although a significant number of families have already entered into their lands, they are yet to receive official papers of ownership.
There was no mention about the removal of Sri Lanka Gateway Industries (SLGI), which was still operating with their container-based offices with recently repaired CCTV surveillance.
The 818 acres of lands, previously given to SL Board of Investment (BOI) and transferred to SLGI, were released to the owners following a Gazette notification.
The released area is still surrounded by four SL Navy installations, Waru-rana navy camp, Parakum Navy camp, Naval academy and Santhosapuram navy camp. Neither Sirisena nor Kumaratunga talked about demilitarising Champoor.
Ms Kumaratunga came with the empty rhetoric that she would do everything under the Presidential Task Force on Reconciliation (PTFR) to accomplish the resettlement of the uprooted people in Champoor.
A proper resettlement would require, de-militarisation, handing back agricultural lands to the people and the annulment of the planned controversial coal power plant.
The focus on Champoor so far by the new regime has been to get rid of the Chinese-affiliated Rajapaksa's ‘development’ family enterprises in Champoor.
But, all the politicians, including those in the TNA, remain tight-lipped on the Indian construction of Trincomalee Thermal Power Plant (TPP), which has also been part of the same ‘Industrial Zone’ game, conceived by Colombo involving all the powers locked in the geopolitical game of occupation.
The USA has promised $1MM and the European Union $3MM for the resettlement in Champoor, according to the foreign officials who accompanied the SL President to Champoor. India has also extended the number of houses to be constructed by 200, they said. The SL State and NGOs have promised assistance on putting up temporary shelters and toilet facilities for the people to continue the resettlement.
So far, the people have been clearing their lands without any support. They are expected to receive official papers confirming their ownership to their lands through the SL Government Agent before the end of this month.
In the meantime, Tamil activists involved in the campaign against the construction of the coal power plant in the area said a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has to be produced after the resettlement of people in Champoor if Colombo and New Delhi still wanted to proceed with the coal power plant project.
The present EIA report, prepared by New Delhi based Mantec Consultants (Pvt.) Limited, has not taken in to account the real demography and the density of population of the resettled Champoor and Koddiyaar Bay.
The current EIA states: “The area surveyed and the surrounding area is presently uninhabited. [...] The area now is covered scrub and there is no agriculture being done in the area.”
Former SL Minister of Resettlement D.M. Swaminathan, SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem, Eastern Provincial Council Chief Minister Z.A. Nazeer Ahamed, Eastern Province SL Governor and former Defence Secretary under the UNP Government Austin Fernando, Resettlement and Education minister in the EPC Mr Thandayuthapani (TNA) and Tamil parliamentarians Mavai Senathiraja, Selvam Adaikalanathan and M.A. Sumanthiran also accompanied the visiting SL President Maithiripala Sirisena and his Task Force chief on ‘reconciliation’ Chandrika Kumaratunga.