SL Forest Department remains unmoved by uprooted Tamils’ demand for resettlement

[TamilNet, Friday, 23 August 2019, 07:04 GMT]
The uprooted people of Kanakar-kiraamam village, a Tamil settlement located 7 km north of Poththtuvil in Ampaa'rai district, are yet to see any change in the attitude of the SL Forest Department, which has seized their lands violating the law of the SL State itself. The people have been staging a continuous protest since 13 August 2018. Former Eastern Provincial Land Commissioner Kathrigamathamby Kurunathan confronted the SL Forest Department on 20 July exposing the mischievous way the land grab was executed, and the officials attached to the department agreed to release the lands. However, nothing has taken place, even as the protesters completed 365 days of protest on 13 August. It is the SL Forest Department, which is the chief trouble-maker, says Mrs Rangathenna, a mother taking part in the protest.

Some of the protesters, who did not wish to be named, said Daya Gamage, a Sinhala extremist minister and businessman, who has already purchased the coastal lands of the village is collaborating with the SL Department to transfer the properties to other wealthy Sinhala politicians. The occupying SL military and the SL Forest Department have been blocking Tamils from resettling there in a coordinated manner, they said.

Before the settlement was known as ‘Kanakar-kiraamam’, it was populated by the people since 1960s, she says.

There were around 278 families divided into eastern and western sectors of the village that went to the extent of about 1,500 acres. The people were engaged in slash-and-burn cultivation there, Mrs Rangathenna said on Monday. She was talking to media on behalf of all the protesters.

Around 30 families received a housing-scheme through the efforts of minister M Canagaratnam, and the minister had promised to secure funds for the construction of more houses in 1981. Although the ethnic tensions and militarisation started after 1983 pogroms, the people managed to hold on to their village.

Finally, in 1990, the Tamils were forced to leave as their houses were all burnt down. They were forced to displace to Badulla, Ratnapura, Batticaloa, Kalmunai and Thirukkoayil. Many lost their ownership documents with their huts.

The SL military and the STF blocked the people from resettling when they attempted to regain their village in 1994.

After 2009, it was the SL Forest Department which refused the people accessing their village for resettlement.

After exhausting all avenues of influence, the people decided to launch the continuous protest last year.

The Forest Department is still bent on finding reasons to block the people from resettlement, the representative of the protesters said.

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