Villagers protest over forcible eviction

[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 April 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Between 500 and 1000 persons, forcibly evicted by the Sri Lankan army from Upparu, 15 km south of Trincomalee, staged a token fast at the nearby village of Aalenkerni today, between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. with the support of the Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party (EPDP), according to sources.

The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) maintained a close watch on the proceedings and prevented any pictorial record, said the sources.

The SLA forcibly evicted the residents of Upparu, who are now refugees in Aalenkerni, claiming that the village would be used as a staging post for attacks against the Sri Lanka security forces by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The protest today ended when the Divisional Secretary (DS) of Kinniya, Segu Ibrahim, offered a glass of soft drink as a 'gesture of assurance' that the protesters' demands would be taken up.

The demonstrators, who were protesting against their forcible eviction on March 18 this year, handed over a memorandum to the DS while another memorandum was dispatched to the Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The DS promised the demonstrators, who want to resettle at Upparu, that he would give a favourable reply within a week. The protestors warned that they would resume the fast if their demands were not met within the time frame given by the DS.

The EPDP, led by its chief organiser for the Trincomalee District, Mr. Seelan, was present during the entire demonstration. However, while EPDP sources put gathering as around 1000 persons, the DS gave a more conservative figure of 500.

The demonstrators held aloft placards with slogans such as: "We don't want a refugee life again", "Live and let us live", "Let us live in our homes".

The Upparu refugees were joined by the residents of Eechanthivu in Aalenkerni, where the displaced have found shelter. The villagers of Eechanthivu have also been affected by the eviction because they cannot take their cattle to pasture in Upparu.

The memorandum of the villagers of Upparu to the Sri Lankan President stated that they had been displaced in 1990 from Upparu and lived as refugees at Clappenburg camp in Trincomalee.

The memorandam also said that they were resettled in Upparu in 1994 much against their wishes and that they had been reluctant to live in Upparu due to volatile situation in the area. They had been asked to leave by the SLA on March 18 1998, and had to evacuate their homes immediately, leaving behind their valuables, they said.

Copies of the memorandum were sent to Anuruddha Ratwatte Deputy Minister of Defence, Gamini Fonseka, Governor of the North-East, Douglas Devananda, Leader of the EPDP and Trincomalee District Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) MP R Sampanthan.


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