Despite media reports to the contrary, resettlement in Jaffna High Security Zones is still awaiting government approval. On July 4th Ada Derana reported that resettlement would begin within Jaffna High Security Zones, citing Jaffna Government Agent K. Ganesh. When reached for comment, however, Ganesh denied this report saying “There is only a preliminary arrangement, no resettlement without MOD approval.” When asked for clarification military spokesman Brigadier Medawala confirmed that resettlement has not been announced, saying “An initial arrangement has been made, it is under consideration, by government, the military and the GA.” The Derana report said that “civilian authorities in the North have been given the go ahead to resettle displaced civilians within the High Security Zones.” This is denied by government officials. The issue is still very much pending.
The High Security Zones have left over 100,000 people displaced and unable to return to their homes. Dismantling them is a major demand of the Tamil National Alliance party (TNA). Both candidates in the Presidential election agreed to this request. In January President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his intention to replace the HSZs with 300-meter buffer areas around military installations. To this date, however, little progress has been made in returning people’s land. The Sunday Leader has reported extensively on this issue in the past. To quote from that report:
TNA Parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran says that the thousands of displaced in the Jaffna peninsula due to the HSZs live out of the rations provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) due to the inability to engage in their livelihoods.
“Apart from their homes, these people have also lost the lands they used to cultivate. They are unable to cultivate paddy, which used to be their main source of income,” he said.
The HSZs have also resulted in restrictions on fishing in several areas in the northern peninsula. The HSZs extend to an area of 42 square kilometers in the Jaffna peninsula. Premachandran explained that the HSZ around the Palaly airport and the army camp covers one whole electorate, the Kankesanthurai electorate. There are also about two HSZs in Thenamarachchi in the Chavakachcheri division.
“The most number of HSZs are located in the Jaffna peninsula. The Sampur HSZ in Trincomalee has prevented about 6,000 families from returning home,” he said. He further noted that the loss of land to the HSZs has resulted in many socio-economic issues.
“Some parents have been unable to give their daughters in marriage due to the inability to give a dowry after losing their lands. There are many girls in Jaffna who are unmarried and families without any source of income. It is the rations provided by the NGOs that help them survive,” he said.