On 20th September 2011 the Government of Sri Lanka had announced that Menik Farm, hosting 7394 persons (2097 families) will be closed down.[i] The solution imposed on these people has been to send them to Kombavil, an interior village in the Mullativu district.
Although the government claims the people are not allowed to go back due to landmines, the latest Joint Humanitarian Update[ii] has stated that “8.5 Grama Niladhari Divisions (GNDs) that currently remain closed due to continued military occupation and thus, remain inaccessible for humanitarian mine action and resettlement”.
It is people living in these areas that are being forced to go to Kombavil.
Kombavil is a remote area, in the interiors of Puthukudiruppu, in middle of overgrown shrub jungle. When we were there, we observed that houses were very small and appear very basic. Workers confirmed that these houses would standard size of 12 feet by 15 feet, irrespective of family needs. The government had decided to send a first batch of 100 families to Kombavil on 5th October, but workers in Kombavil said it would be difficult to complete even the basic semi permanent shelters and toilets before 5th October.
When we visited Kombavil, it was clear that no infrastructure was in place. Fisherfolk would certainly face serious problems if they are compelled to live there. Infact, the people of Kombavil told us that even many of villagers from Kombavil have not yet been allowed to return after displacement.
The people are unhappy that after two and half years, instead of being allowed to go back to their own villages, they are being sent to an area they have never been to or known. Widows have expressed concerns about security and difficulties they would face in such an unknown area in rebuilding their lives and establishing livelihoods without support of men. Fears have also been expressed that no possibilities for fishing and farming exist in the proposed area and that no facilities exist for schools, places of worship, water etc.
There had been “come and tell visit” in which officials had briefed people about the plans to send them to Kombavil instead of their home villages. There had also been a “go and see visit” in which people to be sent to Kombavil were taken to see Kombavil. However, it is clear that these were just to present information after decisions had been taken, and not occasions where people affected could discuss options and alternatives.
Essentially, this is a decision imposed on these people, without any consultation and certainly not voluntary. In a petition submitted to the IDP Project Office for the Vavuniya district of the National Human Rights Commission on 29th Sept. 2011, people concerned have stated that “we want to go to our own homes and resettled”.
[i] See official Government websites: http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca201109/20110920menik_farm_to_be_shut_down.htm /
[ii] Joint Humanitarian and Early Recovery Update – No. 35, August 2011, available at http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/srilanka_hpsl/Files/Situation%20Reports/Joint%20Humanitarian%20Update/LKRN054_JHERU_Aug_%2027%20Sep%202011.pdf