17th July 2010
HE Mahinda Rajapakse,
President of the Democratic
Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
High Security Zones and Military Cantonments in the North
I write this on behalf of the Tamil National Alliance as a matter of urgency after reading the statement of Media Minister Hon. Keheliya Rambukwella on the above at the last Cabinet Press Briefing which was given wide publicity in the media yesterday.
You will recall that we raised these issues with you at the talks held at your Secretariat on the 7th of June 2010 .
Your response to the issue of the large extent of lands maintained as High Security Zones for over a decade, mainly in Valikamam and other places was that you had directed the military to immediately identify the extent strictly necessary for military purposes and to release the rest of the land for the people of the area to resettle.
On the issue of Internally Displaced People not being able to return to their land in Thiru Murikandy, Santhapuram, Keppapulavu and Sannar (Vide – pages 12 and 13 of our Report submitted to you), you will recall that Hon. Basil Rajapakse informed us that the delay in resettlement in these areas was only due to roofing sheets not arriving on time. To our query as to how much longer these people should wait, he stated that in a couple of months the ships would arrive and that they would be resettled soon thereafter.
Your Excellency will appreciate that we accepted these responses in good faith and agreed with you to continue to be engaged in these matters with the government, although we had information that some steps had been taken to acquire land (totalling 4,811 acres) in Indupuram, Thiru Murikandy for the purpose of establishing a military cantonment. In this background, the announcement by the Hon. Media Minister after a Cabinet meeting comes as a shock to us and to the people who have been kept away from their original places of dwelling.
We wish to reiterate to Your Excellency that we do appreciate and understand that the government must take steps in keeping with security considerations, but it must also heed the interests and concerns of the people, since the country’s security is nothing more than the security of its people. Katunayake, Ratmalana, Kolonnawa and even the environs of Temple Trees are declared to be High Security Zones. But people are not prevented from residing within those zones. Similarly in the North and East too whatever military installation that is set up can have a surrounding high security zone, without preventing the people from living in their original lands.
Presently though, in view of the contradictory positions taken up by two cabinet Ministers, we think it has become necessary for Your Excellency to clarify the position to the people concerned and alleviate their anxiety in regard to their resettlement in their original places. We trust Your Excellency will also see it fit to assuage the feelings of these people who have been away from their homesteads for over 1½ years now. Such a step will go a long way in the process of reconciliation that Your Excellency is very keen to initiate with the Tamil People of this country.
We also urge Your Excellency to quickly dismantle the so called High Security Zones in Valikamam and other places in the North and the East, enabling the people of those areas who have lived as displaced persons for over a decade to resettle back in their original places and begin their lives again with dignity. This again will only reassure everyone concerned of the good intentions of the government and curb suspicion and mistrust from exacerbating.
M A Sumanthiran
Member of Parliament
TNA – National List