Islet residents protest military zone to SLMM

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 07 May 2002, 15:26 GMT]
A community group representing residents in the islets off Jaffna has appealed to the ceasefire monitors to allow Tamil Tiger cadres there and to put an end to harassment by the Sri Lanka Navy stationed into the area. The Jaffna based Tamil daily Uthayan said the residents’ two demands are detailed in a report the islanders were to hand present to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in a meeting Tuesday.

“[The islands’ residents] should be free to interact with the Tigers and they should be allowed to conduct political activities freely,” the report prepared by the Islanders Welfare Protection Body said. “Let us breathe the breeze of freedom like people in other areas.”

“The thuggery and harassment perpetrated by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) must also be brought to an end.” the report said.

“It is our organisation’s duty to express to you the disappointment felt by our people. The explanation given to you regarding his declaration of the status of the islets [as a military zone] by the northern navy commander Rear Admiral Sarath P Weerasekara shocks us.”

“We consider his comments irresponsible and damaging to the peace effort,” the report said. “The Tamil Tigers have been accepted by the Tamil people as their sole representatives. The navy’s ban on them entering the islets demonstrates its racism. What right do the navy have to stop us interacting with our sole representatives?”

“In an environment where even the Sri Lanka state has accepted the Tigers as the Tamil people’s sole representatives and wants to talk with them and create a conducive atmosphere for peace the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) has taken that right away from us. We have been stripped of our basic human rights,” the residents protested.

“We are angry that we can’t even see the people who have dedicated themselves to our service. But, we do not wish to disturb the current climate of calm. We have tolerated the inhuman activities of the SLN. Therefore, we present our troubles to you today in the hope you will help usher a good solution that will help peace take hold and for all peoples, including us the islanders.”

“These island have been slightly exempt from the curfews and economic blockades that existed elsewhere during time of war. But other difficulties such as thuggery and restrictions are prevalent here now. Also, our lands have been dictatorially pronounced ‘militarised zones’ and our rights and belongings have been taken away. Therefore we have to point out that our people have been suddenly made subjects of a ‘militarised zone’ and that their possessions have been stripped.”

The term ‘militarised zone’ has been used either out of dislike for the peace process, or because of having sold out to such forces or to hide the crimes committed in the islets. As residents of these islets we strongly condemn our home being declared as such and oppose our loved ones visiting us.”

“People from Velanai, Oorkavarthurai, Pungudutivu, Munkumban, Allaipiddy and Mandaitivu were displaced by a Sri Lanka security operation on 30 October 1991. Some resettled back in their homes in 1996. Their control transferred from the Sri Lanka Army to SLN in 1998.”

“Words cannot express the suffering these people have undergone ever since going back to their homes. The SLN has breached the ceasefire accord by refusing the rights of the people. They established forward defence lines in people’s land by using parts of the State of Emergency act. They have now taken control of those lands under the guise of ‘militarised zones’.”

“We ask you humbly to talk to the government and to ensure that our faith isn’t misplaced,” the the Islanders Welfare Protection Body wrote to the SLMM. The report also detailed other problems, such as transport, education, fishing and farming difficulties faced by the islanders.


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