Editors note: On the day Menik Farm was officially closed, an urgent memo was circulated widely on the fate of the IDPs from Keppapilavu. The memo adds vital context to the following story, which also needs to be read in light of Government and Ministry of Defence claims that,
- there are no longer any IDPs in Sri Lanka.
- that they have all been resettled.
- that phrases like “Internally displaced people, relief camps & refugee camps” will not be there in Sri Lankan dictionary in future
— Groundviews (@groundviews) September 24, 2012
Also read Relocated to nowhere by the author, appearing in Ceylon Today.
The war displaced community in Seeniyamottai in the Mullaitivu District have a story that is different to others. Unlike other internally displaced persons (IDPs) living within the confines of Menik Farm, Sri Lanka’s largest internment facility as well as the world that officially closed last week, these 346 returnees were relocated instead of being resettled.
With Menik Farm formally declared as closed on 25 September, the final batch of IDPs, comprising 1,185 persons were expected to be resettled in their places of origin, Mandavil and Keppapilavu in Mullaitivu District.
The Keppapilavu group instead, found themselves ordered to board a bus that transferred them to a Vettraplai Maha Vidyalaya for a day. While they harboured hopes of finally returning home, they were surprised but did not protest when temporarily housed at the school, only to be unceremoniously asked to leave by the military the very next day. They left, again with the hope of returning to their homes after years of displacement and were instead relocated in Seeniyamottai.
The returnees have protested and petitioned against the decision to resettle them in a place other than the place of their origin. But it is now their fate to officially relinquish legal ownership of their various properties in their native village and commence a new life, in this new IDP village in Seeniyamottai.
These saddened people will be the only IDP group from Menik Farm’s resettlement programme to not return home. Relocated elsewhere, they feel their rights and identities have been disrespected by the State in order to facilitate the armed forces and their continued presence in Keppapilavu, enjoying thier homes and lands while they perish in an IDP camp elsewhere.
All photos by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapthipillai.
Very high resolution versions of the photos above available via Flickr and embedded below.