Sri Lanka: Tamils targetted by fresh land grabs, abductions

May 9, 2014

The fifth anniversary of the end Sri Lanka's civil war will be marked on May 18. In 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who fought for nearly 30 years for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island, were defeated.

In the final days of the conflict, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in a horrific aerial, naval and land artillery bombardment carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The end of the war has not meant real peace. The oppression of Tamils continues. About four people a day are abducted by Sri Lankan military intelligence operatives in the north, according to the Tamilnet website.

The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) admits to detaining and interrogating 70 people in a two month period. Only 12 have been released, Tamilnet said.

The actual numbers are unknown, as family members of those abducted are often intimidated into silence.

Despite elections in Sri Lanka's Northern Province last September, the north remains under military occupation. The SLA ignores the wishes of the elected Tamil National Alliance provincial government.

New military bases have been built in the north and east of the island since the war's end. Large quantities of land have been confiscated for use by the SLA, settlers from the Sinhalese ethnic majority or commercial enterprises.

Northern Provincial Council member Thurairasa Raviharan says that since 2010, the Sri Lankan government has seized at least 30,000 acres (more than 12,000 hectares) of residential and agricultural land for Sinhala colonisation in the Mullaitheevu district alone.

Eastern Provincial Council member Kumarasamy Nakeswaran has raised the fate of the people of Champoor village in Trincomalee district. They fled their homes when the village was bombed by the Sri Lankan air force in 2006. They were not allowed to return to their village.

Some of their land has been confiscated by the government for use as the site of a coal-fired power plant, but most of the land is a “high security zone” under the control of the Sri Lankan navy.

Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka are the main victims of repression, but similar tactics are also used against people in the predominantly Sinhalese south. Some journalists and human rights activists have been murdered, others abducted and disappeared.

Protests by striking workers, or residents protesting against the confiscation of their land or the pollution of their water supply, have been fired on by the police or the army. Three people were killed at Welweriya in August last year during a protest over water pollution.

Support decreased for the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the elections for the southern and western provincial councils in March. The UPFA still holds a majority on both councils, but its vote declined by 10% compared to the previous provincial council elections.

This indicates that, while the Sinhalese chauvinist ideology promoted by the government remains influential, its hold is weakening.

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