Oakland Institute Paints Grim Picture of Tamil Refugees’ Resettlement
By PK Balachandran
COLOMBO: The US-based Oakland Institute has in its latest report on Sri Lanka, painted a grim picture of the resettlement of Tamils displaced by the war.
“Seven years after the war, it is hard to remain hopeful. Despite changes in the government, multiple visits from international dignitaries, people still wait to return home,” say the authors of the report, Anuradha Mittal and Elizabeth Fraser.
The report quotes the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) to say that 12,751.29 acres of State and Private lands are still occupied by the armed forces. The government had released only 3,132.5 acres. In Jaffna, the Palaly High Security Zone alone had gobbled up more than 6,000 acres, out of which only 1000 acres have been released.
Even the released lands are unfit for occupation. In Jaffna, some of them are quarry lands, others are over grown with jungle. Original land markers have disappeared necessitating a fresh survey. All basic facilities had been destroyed. Old roads had been replaced by new ones impeding access to lands. The released places have no potable water, not to speak of electricity, schools or clinics.
No wonder then, the rate of return of owners is poor, with only 819 families coming back.
At any rate, even the released lands are adjacent to big army camps, which ironically create a feeling of insecurity rather than security among the Tamil returnees.
In Sampoor, in the Eastern Province, 818 acres were released recently. But the lands are still near a new navy camp built over 242 acres, 42 acres of which are paddy lands. The Indo-Lankan power project has taken 500 acres, 25 percent of which is paddy land.
The Northern Province, which was a stronghold of the Tamil Tigers till their decimation in May 2009, is today chock-a-block with Lankan troops. With 160,000 troops, there is one soldier for every six civilians!