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Sri Lanka: "Let my people lead normal lives!"

Let my people lead normal lives

The Bishop of Mannar, Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph told a delegation and officials that is on a fact finding visit to the district on the island’s northwestern coast Tuesday. “My people have endured great agony and suffering for twenty years. Let them lead normal lives like those in other parts of the country”, “It is imperative that they shouldn’t be made to wait any longer for their rightful share of the peace dividend which everyone outside the northeast has enjoyed for more than an year”, the Bishop said.

The bishop urged Sri Lankan armed forces to leave the homes, properties and places of worship which they continue to occupy.

Echoing the same concern, officials at the Mannar District Secretariat said more people are appealing to them for getting back their homes and properties still occupied by Sri Lankan armed forces.

“The demand is on the increase in this district now because more refugees are returning from India, eager to restart lives in their homes and cultivate their lands”, one of them told TamilNet.

“They have been away from their villages for so long that they are eager and clamouring to go back to their homes and properties. But in many places these are still occupied by the armed forces or are mined or destroyed”, he added.

“We have returnees coming to our offices daily, seeking redress but we are able to offer them little assistance because the government provides us little money to deal with their plight and we have no say over the problem of displaced persons whose homes and properties are still occupied by the Sri Lankan armed forces in Mannar, the official said.

The group visited many places in Mannar Island Tuesday. It was informed that fishermen in Thaalvupaadu, a coastal village near Mannar town, do not have direct access to the beach due to Sri Lanka Navy positions there and have to therefore take a long detour carrying gear every day. The visitors’ attention was also drawn to the fact that the Navy occupies Ceylon Electricity Board building in Sunny village in this area.

The group then visited Uyilankulam. The Bishop said told the Sri Lankan armed forces officers that Uyilankulam was one of the most busiest places in mainland Mannar before it was taken over completely by the army. He pointed out that the town has to be revived soon because it is the main marketing centre for nine agricultural villages in the surrounding region.

Uyilankulam was one of the biggest rice milling centres in the Vanni before the war. The town’s bazaar was generally busy round the clock. When the SLA took the main road to Mannar in early 1997, Uyilankulam was turned into a large garrison.

The village, including a Catholic convent and school, was occupied by the Sri Lanka army earlier. Community leaders here, who met the team, urged the Sri Lanka army to open the Convent Road, the village’s main thoroughfare.

The number of houses occupied by the Sri Lankan armed forces is higher than what these records show , officials point out.

© Scoop Media

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