Feature Article

Austin Fernando has failed to deliver what was promised to Champoor families: EPC Councillor

[TamilNet, Saturday, 29 October 2016, 21:50 GMT]
Responding to accusations coming from the resettled Tamil families at Champoor that they were deceived to hand over their lands to the occupying SL Navy with the promise of alternative lands compensating their losses at the presence of Tamil politicians of Trincomalee, Eastern Provincial Councillor K. Nageswaran told TamilNet that the ultimate responsibility rested with the administrative system, especially with the Governor of the Eastern Province, Mr Austin Fernando. “The Governor told us that he wanted to satisfy both the SL Navy with relocating the training base and at the same time satisfy the Champoor people to regain their lands. What was promised to SL Navy was delivered in terms money and land. But, the Tamil people languish without proper compensation for their losses,” he said in an admitting interview to TamilNet.

SL Navy seizure of lands
SL Navy relocated its base northwards from Champoor claiming it was facilitating resettlement of Tamils in 2015. But, in 2016 the occupying navy has seized agricultural, Chenai-farmlands and pasturelands. The area contains at four large reservoirs, according to Tamil farmers from Champoor.

Mr Nageswaran was attempting to tone down the real extent of the problem throughout the interview. However, facing various questions on the same problem, he ended up reluctantly revealing that the SL Navy had seized lands beyond the limits of understanding reached with the SL Governor last year.

During the parliamentary elections, the people brought the dispute to the Tamil politicians as the SL Navy began to expand its military zone towards the road. The navy was citing ‘security’ reasons. The understanding was that only a few lands situated close to the coastal zone would be used by the Navy and that the people would be allowed to engage in agriculture, he said.

The Tamil politicians in turn approached the Eastern Governor. But, Mr Fernando was simply telling them to observe patience without making it an issue during the times of parliamentary elections. He was telling them to imagine what would happen if Rajapaksa’s party gained more seats at the SL Parliament. Citing this as an excuse, Tamil politicians were again silenced while the SL Navy went on with its expansion.

Later, the SL Navy started to claim two hilltops, citing same ‘security’ reasons. They said that the people would be allowed to engage in agriculture.

A map showing occupied military and economic zones with important places in the surrounding area
SL Navy and SL Board of Investment seized lands from Tamils after the area was seized from the administration of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2006. The map shows the positions prior to 2015. SL Navy had to release more than 200 acres of lands back to the people, but seems to have seized more lands northwards seizing some residential lands and a lot of agricultural and Chenai-cultivation lands.

Initially, the Governor seems to have downplayed the extent of lands that were to be seized by the SL Navy. He said that the lands exceeding the 200-meter coastal boundary would be around 140 acres and there would be around 270 acres of lands in total.

But, now it seems like that the SL Navy has calculated the total appropriation excluding the 200-meter zone taking up more Chenai-cultivation lands, Mr Nageswaran said.

Narrating the entire discourse between the SL Governor, officials under him and the resettling people, Mr Nageswaran said according to the understanding reached between the parties, the arrangement dealt around 40 to 60 acres of privately owned lands to be transferred to SL Navy and that suitable and matching lands would be provided by the civil authorities without delay.

The Tamil politicians had even identified suitable public lands to be alienated as compensation. But, the SL officials are dragging the process citing paperwork, Gazette notification and clearing of these lands. There has been no progress at all despite repeated complaints.

It took only three days to get the people to get deceived into an agreement with what the Eastern Governor wanted to deliver the SL Navy without going through the time-consuming paperwork.

But, it has not been possible by the same system to act upon the identified compensation, Nageswaran said promising follow-up action on his part in the near future.

A Tamil Farmer, Irasiah Pathmathan, has said that around 50 families have lost more than 200 acres of their residential, agricultural and Chenai-cultivation lands owned by them. The SL Navy has seized hundreds of acres of public and private lands. Four big and five small reservoirs with pasturelands in addition to their residential and farmlands have become ‘no go’ zone for the people and their cattle, Mr Pathmanathan told TamilNet in an audio interview this week.

The Tamil politicians have failed to take a proactive and offensive line with regards to claiming compensations for the losses caused to Champoor Tamils during the Rajapaksa regime.

The lack of proper leadership to take up the struggle on behalf of the people has brought more miseries to the resettled people in Champoor, Tamil civil sources in Trincomalee commented.

Maithiripala Sirisena of the SLFP and his Eastern Governor from the UNP are operating along the same genocidal paradigm as all their predecessors, they further commented reminding the Tamil politicians that the external powers were the real culprits upholding the same-old Colombo-centric paradigm.

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