Militarized charity and land grabbing: Experience of Keppapulavu in the Vanni

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Photo by author from Menik Farm: The tragic end of a bitter saga, from detention to forced relocation

I read with interest the article by Amal de Chickera titled “Racing Tanks with Bicycles: A Parable of ‘Reconciliation’ in Sri Lanka” and response to this by Sri Lanka Unites (SLU). I had often struggled with issues raised by Amal and SLU in my interactions with friends, colleagues and people in the North and East in the last six years, especially in the Vanni after the end of the war. I have a particularly strong attachment to the people of Keppapulavu referred to in both articles, because of my frequent visits to meet them last few years – in their present place of residence and when they were in Menik Farm.

The basic fact SLU hides – Keppapulavu is illegally occupied by the military
A simple basic fact that Amal’s article notes and SLU avoids, is that the people of Keppapulavu were compelled to go into the middle of a jungle as their village has been occupied by the military.  This information is by no means a secret and is widely available in the public domain, for anyone concerned and interested enough to find out. I have shared a detailed account of  and others too have written extensively on this in websites and some English and Tamil newspapers (see for example this article).

I believe that the omission by SLU of this simple and fundamental fact that is central to the Keppapulavu tragedy is deliberate. I could be wrong, and the omission could have been due to ignorance, but I think it is unlikely that a group such as SLU could be ignorant of this fundamental fact, considering their community contacts as indicated in their own article.

In my understanding, the occupation of Keppalulavu by the military is totally illegal. It does not follow procedures laid out in Sri Lankan law for the Government to acquire land. And I believe this is also wrong from a humane, moral, ethical, religious or spiritual perspective. It is daylight robbery. There maybe those who disagree, and I would be interested in knowing on how they would feel if the military, or anyone else for that matter, occupied their homes, land, paddy fields and properties that have been acquired as a result of generations of hard work and savings; without following any legal procedures, consultations with the community nor offering alternative options and compensation.

So to make it clear – these people are FROM Keppapulavu, but are now NOT IN Keppapulavu. They have been compelled to reside in a jungle area that was cleared up AFTER they were compelled to go there, when the Government had more than three years to make the necessary arrangements. It is in effect another camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); It is re-displacement, not re-settlement. It is another version of Menik Farm – with the military deciding who can visit them, and whoever is allowed in being closely monitored.  A part of this ‘eye-washing’ process was in the notice board that was put up at the entrance to the jungle patch where the people were sent, which read ‘Keppapulavu Model Village’.

Can and should we avoid fundamental issues by branding them as “political”?
The occupation of Keppapulavu by the military is a political decision, based on military interests. But for the people who have been robbed of their way of life and personal belongings, it is very personal, and not just political. So this is not a discussion about “political issues”, rather, it is a discussion about having people’s houses and properties being stolen; an entire community’s way of life being dismantled. This was the dominant and pressing issue mentioned to me, in the conversations I had with the community every time I met with them after they were compelled to reside in a jungle area near their own village. I find it difficult to believe people have not told SLU about this. Perhaps it is easier for some writers andcommentators to dismiss this daylight robbery by the military as being a “legal and political issue” when it’s not their land and property being stolen. Or perhaps because they are scared to discuss it due to reprisals from the military and political forces that made that decision, or their close alignments with them? Discussing issues that have direct bearing on people’s daily life are often political and controversial, and doesn’t mean those discussing are involved in party politics. Indeed, deliberately avoiding discussing this is also a political decision!

Anyone who makes the effort to go and meet the people directly will know the truth, as long as you go without military escort. I have personally encountered how people have stopped mid-sentence when military personnel are in the vicinity. If you do try and speak to the people independently, and go as friends or in a legitimate professional capacity such as a journalist or religious leader, you would have to contend with threats and arbitrary and illegal restrictions posed by the military – as I, and many others had to undergo. Some of us have even written about these threats and restrictions (for example, see Restrictions and intimidation on journalists covering resettlement process in the Vanni and Menik Farm And Beyond…). If these restrictions were based on any law, no one in the military or the Government has explained them to us, even though we had asked. To my knowledge, there has been no action taken against those who placed illegal restrictions on us. In my case, and at least in the case of another journalist, the Government Agent for Mullaitivu had expressly told us that we could go and speak to the people, and visit this civilian area, and even take some video footage of the area. Most importantly though, the people were eager to share their stories with us, and even queried as to why the military was stopping and intimidating those who wanted to come and hear their stories and tell them to country and the world.

Why involve and glorify the military in charity?
It seems a cruel irony to make any donations via the same military that has stolen, and are currently occupying their homes and paddy lands and in essence, destroyed their way of life. Especially when that military that is very friendly towards SLU and their partners, threatens and restricts concerned individuals from hearing the stories of these people. Not to forget also that the military (along with the LTTE) have been responsible for multiple killings, disappearances, injuries and other trauma that these people have been made to undergo.

I recognize that some, if not all who have made donations might have had a genuine intention to help. And definitely cycles and school bags etc. were needed and would have been appreciated by the recipients, because the Government – whose responsibility this is – is not providing these when they seem to have ample funds to build lavish monuments and structures for the military. Even if organizations outside the Government such as SLU, would like to take on such projects, is there a need to distribute these goods via the very military? Some military personnel may genuinely want to help these people at an individual level, but surely they could do so in their private capacity? I have come across some who have done so quietly.

I admire and encourage charitable initiatives to respond to humanitarian and immediate needs, especially by youth. However, I believe that “glorifying” the oppressors – which in this case is the military, and contributing (deliberately or otherwise) to hiding the truth, can only stand to undermine all the good that is being done. I believe that type of charity must be condemned, challenged and discouraged. I have also been involved in such charitable projects in the Vanni and know others who do so much more regularly than me, and on a much larger scale, but without military involvement. Here, I seem to find some common ground with SLU, who says they don’t work with military on principle, and that they have not done so before, even as they admit to the Keppapulavu project being an exception.

So IT IS possible to donate and engage in charity without military involvement, in the Vanni. What is required is creativity to overcome restrictions by the military, and the courage to face up to any potentially inevitable threats and intimidation, and of course the conviction and commitment.

To tell the people’s story or our story?
Many of us who have been working with similarly displaced people, have tried to focus on relating the stories of the people whose struggles we are trying to support, rather than writing about ourselves and the experience of the project itself. We try and publicize photographs of the reality of their lives and the challenges they face, and their struggles, rather than exhibit our work. We try and leave ourselves out of the narrative, and rather relate the stories of those who would like to share their stories, but who are prevented or suppressed from doing so. This is what we tried to do in our many visits to assist the people of Keppapulavu.

Is it not fair that the stories of the problems people face should get at least as much publicity as is given to the success of a group’s charity project? And if a group feels strongly in favour of publicizing photographs displaying the involvement of the military, would they at least be willing to consider giving equal publicity to photographs of the lands, houses and paddy fields of the people of Keppapulavu, now occupied by the military?

The people of Keppapulavu have been struggling to return home –by means of protests, making appeals and courageously telling their story to anyone who would care to listen and then speak or write about them. SLU says they visited Kepapulavu people several times “to meet the people and discuss what could be done” and that their efforts were based on people’s requests. Based on my own interactions with the Keppapulavu people, I find it hard to believe that they had not indicated as their primary need (even if not the most urgent) as being able to reclaim their land, presently occupied by the military. Or did the people mention this, and SLU decided to ignore this? Even if SLU doesn’t want to support the struggle and aspiration of the Keppapulavu people, could they not clarify what their position is? SLU calls itself “non-political” and says “we do not endorse any decision made by any party in regard to this settlement”. Doesn’t their unwillingness to acknowledge the military occupation of Keppapulavu and lack of a principled (as opposed to a political party driven) position, make them aligned with political forces that made the decision to occupy the land of the people they claim they want to serve?

The story of Keppalulavu is not an isolated one – people of Mullikulam in the Mannar district have also been compelled to live in jungles due to their village being occupied by the Navy. I have known this community for several years and have admired their love for their village, land and way of life. I know of individuals and groups who have provided essential and urgent material needs in the absence of Government support, but without photographs or publicity. On the contrary, they have attempted to draw attention to the plight of the Mullikulam people, unable to access their homes due to the Navy’s occupation of their lands. I have also met many other people faced with the same situation as a result of the military occupation of their land – i.e. Iranathivu in the Kilinochchi district, Sampoor in the Trincomalee district and many others in the Jaffna district.

A parable of a stolen cycle
Charity to me is a positive thing, to be fostered. But it should be saved from being used as a tool to cover up land grabbing and other abuses – by perpetrators themselves or others.

I would also like to end with a story of a cycle I have heard from East Timor. Two boys were friends. One boy, the stronger and more powerful one, from an influential family, stole the cycle of the weaker boy. The boy owning the cycle did not complain nor fight. But the boys stopped talking to each other and the friendship ended. After some time, the boy who stole the cycle came around in the same cycle and told the owner of the cycle, “our friendship is more important than a cycle, so let us forget the cycle and be friends”. There was no mention or indication that he was going to return the cycle, apologize, make up for his actions in any way, or make a commitment never to act in that way again.

Will such a model of reconciliation work?

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    A comment on the article by Amal de Chickera titled “Racing Tanks with Bicycles” has been published as another article.
    It is to be seen whether SLU and others who supported the “Charity” of the SLU would actually come out to defend the necessity that compelled them to hide the naked truth

    Most probably they will accept the last paragraph in the article as the way they want or have been told to bring in the “reconciliation” to hoodwink those who want the minimum by asking the Government the Recommendations OF ITS OWN LLRC.

    • Policyminded

      Two boys were friends. One boy, the stronger and more powerful one, from an influential family, stole the cycle of the weaker boy. The boy owning the cycle did not complain nor fight. But the boys stopped talking to each other and the friendship ended. After some time, the boy who stole the cycle came around in the same cycle and told the owner of the cycle, “our friendship is more important than a cycle, so let us forget the cycle and be friends”.

      ending 1:

      The boy was angry and hurt “you are a thief, you stole my bicycle” he said, “now you come here without even returning my property, without apologizing you want to be friends again”.

      The mother of the poor boy heard what was going on and came outside, she tried to talk sense into the rich boy, it would not work. Then she also got mad, she grabbed the boy by the ear and took him to the police station to make a complaint.

      At the police station the OIC recognized the boy who stole the bicycle, he knew his parents were very influential. He called the boy’s farther at once. A man in a uniform turned up a few minutes later at the police station, he threatened the women and whispered something in the policeman’s ear he took the rich boy, the bicycle and left in a brand new range rover.

      The policeman then grabbed the poor boy and put him in the cell. He was accused of trying to steal the bicycle and assaulting the rich boy. He eventually went into juvi and came out a few years later as a bitter young man.

      The first thing he did when he was out was to find his former friend and stab him to death. Thereafter he served a sentence of life imprisonment.

      ending 2:

      The poor boy did not forget nor did he forgive his friend that day. But he had a kind heart. He was also intelligent, perhaps beyond his years. He realized that his friend obviously doesn’t understand what he had done,or that he had done wrong. And besides he valued his friend more than his bicycle.

      So they started talking to each other again.

      Over time the boy who lost his bicycle was able to show how his friend that he had hurt him by stealing his bicycle. They were growing up and the boy who stole realized what a terrible thing he had done.

      He returned the bicycle and genuinely apologized to his friend. He resolved never to steal again.

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    Please be good enough to correct and read the last line in my earlier comment (01/15/2013* 8:14 am) to read as “asking the Government to implement the recommendations OF ITS OWN LLRC. Regret for the error

  • Raj

    I felt a sense of emptiness and vacuity in the words of Sri Lanka Unites after reading their entire website and blog, after speaking to people who have directly interacted with Sri Lanka Unites, and also in conversations with individuals living in the NorthEast who are aware of Sri Lanka Unite’s work.

    But until now i couldn’t place why. Amal’s critique, Sri Lanka Unites’s response, and Ruki’s excellent piece helped bring it together in my mind.

    Post armed conflict, post LTTE there was the just expectation that reconciliation in the form of accountability and power sharing should take place. It is obvious now that neither will be dealt with honestly by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) which has no intention of pursuing reconciliation whatsoever. In fact its actions (rape, colonization, impeachment of SC judge) support the exact opposite –elimination (first of the Tamil people).

    For the Rajapaksa regime, Sri Lanka Unites and groups like it (think Sri Lanka without Borders in Canada) operate a model of reconciliation that is perfect for it’s sinister agenda. It gives the international community a sense that reconciliation is being advanced among the youth when in fact nothing of the sort is taking place. Bikes and school bags help the GOSL and Sri Lanka Unites hide fact that Keppapulavu is illegally occupied by the military.

    Token charity where the main thrust appears to be branding and advancing your own personal interests (and those of their corporate sponsors and partner organizations like say the Sri Lankan Army) is NOT reconciliation. And by calling it such you are moving the country farther off the path (or is it the cliff?).

    My sense is the leaders of the organizations like Sri Lanka Unites or Sri Lankans without Borders are cognizant of their actions but the younger audience/participants are somewhat naive (which is being taken advantage of). Sadly Sri Lanka Unites is able to operate openly and with military assistance whereas genuine civil society organizations and NGOs who can advance reconciliation are limited in doing so by the GOSL.

    The future is lost if Sri Lanka Unites is the model of “reconciliation”. The other model Sri Lanka is known for is playing out in Syria right now. Let’s hope both models are soon relegated to the dustbin of history.

    • Policyminded

      I think you proved SLU’s point in this sentence

      “Sadly Sri Lanka Unites is able to operate openly and with military assistance whereas genuine civil society organizations and NGOs who can advance reconciliation are limited in doing so by the GOSL.”

      if a tree falls in the forest and no one heard it or saw it fall, has it fallen?

      I guess the ‘genuine civil society organizations and NGOs who can advance reconciliation ‘ are those who do nothing because they can’t in light of the fact that they are so vocally principled in pointing out the faults and wrongs committed by the government?

  • eureka

    The whole of North is implicitly a ”keppapulavu”:

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=35938

  • Policyminded

    I think the author needs to take a closer read of the SLU response “we need not necessarily involve ourselves in discussing politics publicly.”

    He fails to understand the complexity in working in the real world to achieve reconciliation, which requires bringing two parties together. failure to come out bashing, oppose or denounce publicly is not akin to endorsement.

    SLUs approach is I think more or less correct. isolating one side or being ignored by it e.g. CPA (GOVT) by ‘standing publicly on principal’ against them or being dismissed by them for being extremists will in no way help SLU to be effective. If there is a balance that can be struck by using a toned voice in disapproval while continuing to help the people then it must be done.

    SLU says they tried to create awareness KEPAPILAVU in seven districts, im sure would have raised the issue of displacement, land grab, theft, illegality to multiple audiences, creating awareness. The tone they use in delivering the message maybe more subtle and creative but the impact would be much more effective than shouting from the rooftops.

    according to their article,http://groundviews.org/2013/01/11/response-to-racing-tanks-with-bicycles-a-parable-of-reconciliation-in-sri-lanka/ SLU claims that the event where the military was present was not organized by them, and that they were invited to participate.

    But I do commend you for picking up the point that there is a law in the country for land acquisition, and that unlike when the southern expressway , the upper kotmale dam, the hambantota airport were being built, the proper legal procedure has not been followed and the people have not been adequately compensated. I hope that SLU will live up to its commitment and take this matter up with the authorities and deliver results.

    As far as I know the pictures and the publicity that is the subject of these discussions came from a photographer and student from St Johns college Jaffna who is 17years old, and from his own FACEBOOK personal profile and not by SLU.

  • eureka

    ”Charitycised” Military:

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=35938

    Keppapulavu for IDPs and holiday resorts for army of occupation

  • eureka

    Not very far from Keppapulavu:

    http://www.army.lk/detailed.php?NewsId=5770

    • Panabokke

      Oh, No, since when did Catholic priests agree for pomposity usu. feted out to celebreties ?? or some politicians ??

      Going to Kilinochchi means that ??????

      • Mary

        Shocking and disgusting.

        Oh,if the North is militarised, then the whole of it is not only a kappapulavu as Eureka said, but also a kilinochchi !

        Is this govt really really mad in the South and the North ……..
        aren’t we getting mad?

        • Rita

          I’m absolutely petrified – Bishops didn’t say ”NO’ to this pomposity?

          I dread think of the people from Keppapulavu – what on earth would they have to put up with ?
          Oops, put up under the army boots??

          • deni

            As a genuine question, if the military did not occupy these areas that they see as strategic, if infact the whole military left the north of the country and adequate aid was provided to totally rebuild the infrastructure that was lost in the war. If there was a complete and open dialogue and punishment for crimes against humanity only against the SL armed forces (not the LTTE). If the economic situation in the north matched that of anywhere else in the country so that both Tamil and Sinhalese benefited equally…would there still be a resurgence of the LTTE or similar organisation bent on war?? I really don’t know, i suspect there would. Would another war achieve anything for either side??…perhaps displacement and occupation is the best we can hope for for now?? it IS wrong but, what are the “real” alternatives??..please forgive my ignorance and i offer my deepest sympathies to ALL those who have lost loved ones , homes etc during the war, i in no way mean to belittle anyone’s loss, and, support independent investigation into war crimes on both sides.

          • Ward

            The Bishops have a duty to ”say NO” to pomposity of the Kilinochchi Army which could and should trickle into other areas of army control.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Ruki and others who are quoting Amal de Chikera,

    Ruki says “I read with interest the article by Amal de Chickera titled “Racing Tanks with Bicycles: A Parable of ‘Reconciliation’ in Sri Lanka” and response to this by Sri Lanka Unites (SLU).”

    Amal has thrown accusations but has not had the decency or the guts to defend what he has written either to the responses to his own article or to that written by SLU in a separate article, that accused Amal of spreading misinformation.

    Quote It must be stated at the outset, as indicated by Amal de Chickera himself, that his thoughts and ideas were spurred by browsing through images on a social media site. With all respect to the author’s best efforts and the website for their citizen’s journalism initiatives, it would surely have been better if the article was based on a wider and deeper level of information and the courtesy of a consultation with Sri Lanka Unites or connected groups involved in the project. Unquote

    The SLU has thrown down the gauntlet at Amal, calling Amal’s best efforts nothing but gossip. Amal for his part has taken the criticism lying low because it is nothing but GOSSIP.

    SLU states “We gained access to serve the community at Menik Farm through Sarvodaya. At the time, the current Sri Lanka Unites National Director was a program coordinator for Sarvodaya – a position he took on because he wanted to serve his people during a very difficult period. He had been an IDP his entire childhood. He had lived in multiple IDP camps, been a student of 13 schools as a result of the war.”

    Apparently, the SLU national director is also a Tamil and an IDP who has had his education disrupted multiple times but that is of no concern of those who have jumped on Amal’s gossip bandwagon.

    It is shameful to use what Amal has written and has failed to defend when challenged, to attack the SLU, just because Amal’s gossip suits the purposes of the other writers, what ever they may be.

    Ruki says “In my understanding, the occupation of Keppalulavu by the military is totally illegal. It does not follow procedures laid out in Sri Lankan law for the Government to acquire land. And I believe this is also wrong from a humane, moral, ethical, religious or spiritual perspective. It is daylight robbery. There maybe those who disagree, and I would be interested in knowing on how they would feel if the military, or anyone else for that matter, occupied their homes, land, paddy fields and properties that have been acquired as a result of generations of hard work and savings; without following any legal procedures, consultations with the community nor offering alternative options and compensation.”

    I would agree with Ruki that acquisition of Land should follow legal process. But who was in occupation of these lands, the LTTE or the actual owners? How do you establish ownership? Did Ruki peruse any documents to come to a learned conclusion about ownership? Establishing legal ownership has been a vexed problem to the authorities but Ruki in her wisdom finds it a simple exercise.

    What is the legal process that could have been observed when the LTTE controlled this area?

    Perhaps the LTTE, Ruki and the others knew, submitted themselves willingly to the authority of SL Law.

    The SLA subdued a Terrorist organization which ran its own courts and distributed land at it’s whim and fancy where the Mahaveer families took precedence over the Tamil population. What came under the SLA was taken from the LTTE and not from the ordinary Tamil Civilians. A 30 year absence of Civil Administration by the SL Govt and a 30 year domination by the Terrorists have blurred the legal ownership of land amongst the civilian population. Hence ownership has to be established and claims proved in conformity with the law of the land.

    The SLA has a legal right to be stationed anywhere within SL borders be it on Land or Sea.

    • Sie.Kathieravealu

      It looks like “Off the Cuff” (01/18/2013 • 2:28 am) is accusing the SLA as “hard-core terrorists” when he says that “What came under the SLA was taken from the LTTE and not from the ordinary Tamil Civilians” and further questions as to “who was in occupation of these lands, the LTTE or the actual owners?” and so he says that the LTTE was NOT the actual owners and so “affirms” that the SLA is a “replicate” of the the “LTTE”. The civilians are unable to voice AGAINST the LTTE or THE SLA for the same or similar reasons.

      He further queries as “How do you establish ownership? Hence ownership has to be established and claims proved in conformity with the law of the land.”

      The most simple way is the “deeds” for the lands which are NOT in favour of the LTTE or the SLA BUT in favour of the civilians. So his condition is easily proved in a court of LAW. Can the civilians go to Courts with the SLA as Defendants? And will it be of any use when he asserts that the “The SLA has a legal right to be stationed anywhere within SL borders be it on Land or Sea.” without excluding his own home and other properties.

      Over to you “Off the Cuff”

      • Off the Cuff

        Dear Sie.K,

        If what I have written can be interpreted or even can be viewed as having a semblance of an appearance of being an accusation of the SL Armed forces of terrorism, you need to take an intensive course in the Language that you have decided to correspond on, in this forum or elsewhere in the public domain, before you venture to write in that language.

        What you have done is to sidestep the main issue that I have highlighted and had decided to wear the cap of a dunce.

        The main issue is the Shameless use of the writings of a GOSSIP and a COWARD to slander the SLU (just in case you decide to confuse the ‘U’ with an ‘A’ please note the last letter in that acronym is ‘U’ and is not ‘A’).

        Apparently you neither have the intelligence nor comprehension nor the ability to defend your use of a GOSSIP, to Slander the SLU. You have been repeating Gossip and has become a Gossip monger as a consequence.

        Can you defend your writings with WISDOM instead?

        Remember that all Land to which a Legal Claim cannot be established reverts back to the Govt (or if in the UK the Crown).

        Over to you my dear friend, lets have an intelligent discussion if you are capable of one.

  • Ruki

    To Policyminded
    I think problem with SLU approach is their selectivity in what they discuss publicly – they discuss the good work they do, but don’t discuss the fundamental problem people face – in this case, illegal land occupation and illegal restrictions. And thereby give the impression that people are not worried about this and there is no such problem – intentionally or unintentionally helping the government’s narrative and undermining the struggles of the affected people. If SLU choose not to discuss also their charitable deeds publicly then perhaps there would be less harm and less wrong impressions created. I would not consider telling a plain truth – as disclosed by local people – as “bashing”. And in the SLU article, I don’t see even a “toned voice of disapproval” that Policyminded refers to, about the illegal land occupation and restrictions imposed by the military. I also have no idea on what basis Policyminded is sure that SLU has created awareness about land grab, theft, illegality – from the latest GV article of SLU, it seems quite clear to me SLU has done everything possible to avoid even a “toned voice of disapproval” about the illegal land occupation and restrictions by the military.
    It might be worthwhile to remember that even the very very minimal justice in terms of military occupied lands has come due to courageous and determined struggles, through courts, protests and public campaigns – led by people whose lands were stolen and supported by few others. Access to the church and school in Mullikulam after more than 4 years, access to some Jaffna High Security Zones after nearly two decades, and reduction of the occupied land in Sampoor are examples.
    To Off the Cuff
    Have you visited Keppapulavu people and spoken to them? I’m personally aware of many cases where the military just go and occupy lands belonging to civilians in the North – like Mullikulam in Mannar district, Jaffna, and Keppapulavu – I know this by visiting these areas, talking to people who held deeds and permits, seeing the areas military occupies, having looked at some deeds and permits, looked at court cases and even by admittance of military and government officials themselves in writing and verbally. Ownership of land can also be established by records in relevant Government offices.
    So I wonder on what basis you say “What came under the SLA was taken from the LTTE and not from the ordinary Tamil Civilians”? I’m not aware that LTTE had legal ownership of any land. Just because LTTE (or anyone else) occupied or grabbed land illegally (private or state), does it mean the military can also do same? Is it not the government’s duty to return any land occupied illegally (by LTTE or anyone else) to due owners instead of arbitrarily occupying it themselves? From the logic that Off the Cuff proposes, if the Police recover some stolen goods, the Police can keep it instead of returning it to due owners! Finder’s Keepings! On one hand, Off the Cuff agrees that “acquisition of Land should follow legal process”, but later on, seem to imply that the military (and perhaps even other government agencies?) can go and occupy any piece of private or state land at their whim and fancy. I wonder whether Off the Cuff would not mind if the military suddenly turned up one day, threw him / her out with family and decided to occupy their home, property and land?
    There is no law in Sri Lanka that allows the military or any other government agency to arbitrarily occupy land. If such a law exists, and is pointed out, I would be happy to be corrected. In meantime, I would refer Off the Cuff to the Land Acquisition Act.

    • Off the Cuff

      Dear Ruki,

      You ask many questions but failed to justify your use of a GOSSIP writer.

      Keppapulawu is on the Western side of the Nanthikadal lagoon in the middle of the LTTE heartland. Till it was liberated from the terrorist grip in 2009 it was under the control of the LTTE and has been so for 3 decades.

      You ask “Have you visited Keppapulavu people and spoken to them? “

      I haven’t nor did I pretend to have. Obviously you have and believe you know about Keppapaluwa and it’s people more than me, hence the question. But SLU have and has been involved with Kappapaluwa, a fact that you seem to resent.

      But the question is not about me. It’s about your use of the writings of a Gossip who has not written a word in defense of his GOSSIP column either under his own article or in response to SLU’s challenge in their counter.

      You and a host of others who decided to attack a Tamil IDP led effort, to help the people of Keppapaluwa, seems to project to the world, that you and them know more about these people who lived for 30 years under the jackboot of a Terrorist gang by interacting with some of them after the war was won and they were liberated.

      Now the pertinent question is, did you live with these people when they were subject to the Jackboot of terrorists? How many times did you visit Keppapaluwa before 19 May 2009? What personal experience do you have of the workings of the Terrorists and their administration? What personal experience do you have, of the people of Keppapaluwa, during the 30 years prior to 19 May 2009?

      Since you have questioned me about my personal knowledge of Keppapaluwa, you need to justify how you acquired authoritative knowledge on how the LTTE disbursed Land, provided food, clothing, shelter, health care and education during the 30 years they dictated to the people of Keppapaluwa and deprived all civil liberties to them.

      The danger of this all knowing attitude of pseudo Civil Activism is the stifling of even the little help they get from organizations like the SLU.

      The irony of your question is that the leader of the SLU did have personal experience of the LTTE and their methods pre 2009. He has had his education disrupted and forced to move from place to place and forced to live a life of an IDP. He therefore KNOWS more about the Terrorist administration and the suffering of being a Tamil civilian under the LTTE than any of you who criticize. He knows what it feels to be deprived of an Education.

      It is laughable to see you ridiculing the SLU for involving the SLA, who are now in control of these areas in their efforts at helping the Tamil people. How did the multitude of NGO’s (including UN and the Red Cross) operate within LTTE controlled areas before it was liberated? Was it by being cooperative or by being antagonistic or by simply ignoring the terrorists?

      Don’t be naive Ruki, your simplistic indignation is misplaced.

      What is a Mahaveer family?
      Is it the family of a dead LTTE cadre?
      Are there non Sri Lankans amongst them (such as illegal immigrants from Tamil Nadu?
      Were they given land by the LTTE?
      What prevented the LTTE from using govt institutions and officers under their direct and physical control to issue deeds and other documents pertaining not only to land but NID cards and other documents of citizenship as well?
      Do they hold deeds?
      How much Land was thus alienated?
      Any idea of extent?

      Hence what is the value of the following paragraph of yours when even the highest to the lowest Government official (the Grama Niladhari) lived in constant fear of death under the LTTE? Do you want us to believe they could disobey the LTTE and do what is right?

      “I know this by visiting these areas, talking to people who held deeds and permits, seeing the areas military occupies, having looked at some deeds and permits, looked at court cases and even by admittance of military and government officials themselves in writing and verbally”

      Did you visit these areas when it was under LTTE Fiat?

      You further state “ Ownership of land can also be established by records in relevant Government offices”

      Yes true, but under normal circumstances. The 30 years under the LTTE was not normal circumstances. Surely Ruki you knew that. So why did you hide THAT fact?

      I do not know how far the following story is true but I personally know several Tamil friends who owned land in Jaffna and who now live in the UK, whose Lands were confiscated by the LTTE and given to Mahaveer families. The father of one of these friends was abducted by the LTTE and a demand made from the son in the UK, to pay an exorbitant some of money calculated on the number of years spent away from Jaffna for his release.

      Daily Mirror
      Members of the Jaffna Sinhala families evicted by the LTTE today said although they are in possession of their land deeds the government is not making any moves to resettle them as their lands are now in possession of Mahavir families. Displaying their land deeds at a media briefing the displaced Sinhalese who are now housed at Jaffna Railway station said they are now being looked after by their former Tamil neighbours and relations as their property had been given to ‘Mahavir’ families by the LTTE in their absence.

      Daily News
      Government officials in the Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts yesterday said that they get a number of complaints from people who have returned to the country after a lapse of 20- 25 years over the illegal occupation of their lands. Lands taken over by the LTTE were distributed among Mahaveer families by them during the time of the Ceasefire Agreement. The UNF Government had issued the illegal occupants of these lands official title deeds. An official of the Kilinochchi District Secretariat who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily News that the Government had issued title deeds to the people who occupied these lands illegally during the time when the Ceasefire Agreement was in force. The official said the LTTE considered the people who left the area under their control as traitors.

      The best help you can provide the unfortunate Tamil Civilians is to refrain from misinformed wild accusations aimed at discouraging those who are prepared to help and are helping like the SLU.

      I made an observation about the SLA’s legal ability to be stationed within the borders of SL which is the identical right any govt armed forces have in any country.

      I believe you should acquaint yourself where the burden of proof lies when a land claim is made. You should also be acquainted with Prescriptive Rights which is part of SL law. If I am not mistaken these prescriptive rights that comes in to force when a land is possessed and enjoyed by a person for a continuous period of 10 years was suspended from being applied in the LTTE controlled areas for the obvious reason of protecting the rights of the original owners.

      If you are still unable to comprehend the logic of my arguments, please feel free to point out specific areas that you are still unclear of. I will try to clear your doubts.

      Lastly I thank you for discharging your responsibility by answering posts addressed to you as an author of an article. This is a responsibility shirked by GOSSIP writers like Amal de Chickera and a host of other authors. I salute you in this regard.

      • Ward

        Peace Education as enunciated by LLRC:

        http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=Sri_Lanka_Air_Force_Batticaloa_Open_the_First_Ever_English_Tamil_Pre_School_20130116_04
        Air Force opens Pre-School in Batticaloa,

        ”As part of its community service initiatives the Sri Lanka Air Force opened a Pre-School in Batticaloa on 15th January. This is the first Pre-School operated by the SLAF where Tamil and English will be the medium of instructions.

        This long felt need was initiated by the SLAF Unit in Batticaloa. The Pre-School will cater to the needs of the children of the Tamil speaking community of the area. It is run by qualified personnel of the SLAF who have undergone specialized training in language and Pre-School teaching. These bilingual learning environments will create a better understanding between different communities and also help to inculcate good ethics within the children. ……………..”

        • Ward

          Reconciliation by armed force?

          http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=Rehabilitated_Ex_LTTE_cadres_to_teach_at_Pre_Schools_20121208_02
          Rehabilitated Ex-LTTE cadres to teach at Pre-Schools

          ”As a measure to supplement the shortage of qualifies Pre- School teachers in the North and East 400 youth from the region including rehabilitated ex-LTTE cadres have been recruited as Pre-School teachers.

          Under the directions of the Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Director General of the Civil Security Department Rear Admiral (Retd) Ananda Peiris had made arrangements to recruit these rehabilitation beneficiaries and civilians to the department as Pre-School teachers. …………………….”

          • Off the Cuff

            Ward,

            Ha ha haa which Gun are you referring to?

            Please make your argument if you have any.

        • Off the Cuff

          Ward,

          Hmm apparently the so called Tamil Civil Society has not been able to meet the needs of Tamil Civilians. Crocodile tears wont help the Tamil Civilians. How come the Tamil civilians choose pre schools run by the forces if there are such schools run by Tamil Civil Society? Are there any provided by Tamil Civil Society?

          Not surprisingly, the forces have had to step in to provide community service as those who talk the talk has failed to walk the talk.

          Ward please convince those war weary Tamil Civilians to give a hand to the Eelam project by boycotting any services provided by the forces.

          You have just looked up and spat.

          • Mapa

            Off the Scarf,

            How may these people who talk the talk walk the walk?

            Thanks!

          • Off the Cuff

            Dear Mapa,

            You ask “How may these people who talk the talk walk the walk?”

            Ok, since you ask, let me try and explain!

            A language is more than just words.
            Hence to understand it, you need a developed language center between the ears, Ha ha haa. Unfortunately for you Mapa, yours is still underdeveloped as seen by the question and the childish attempt at changing a pseudonym when you have nothing to offer intellectually.

            I also note that there are many posts addressed to you that you did not respond to in a previous thread. Probably you could not understand them either when you were stuck in a repeating grove with the singular question from Yapa about the 146,000 civilian deaths in just 18 days in May 2009.

            Hopefully, you will understand what I have written above despite the inherent deficiencies. The GV moderator did not like my previous two line reply, which given your deficiencies in language, you would have understood better. Please seriously think about getting help to improve the language you use without wasting space on GV and the time of others with silly questions that go no further than to expose your disability.

            Thanks

    • policyminded

      Dear Ruki,

      I think you are very correct in realizing that SLU is very correct in being selective in what it discusses publicly. And SLU says so in their response

      “There are obviously broader concerns to be addressed such as the legal and political matters which are admittedly direct concerns for reconciliation to materialize. As a non partisan youth movement we need not necessarily involve ourselves in discussing politics publicly. We need not necessarily be a political agitator. We need not necessarily challenge and agitate against the state.”

      Clearly you don’t understand the concept of different people in society doing their own part in order to make the society work. When a woman is sick you would think that that a lawyer should go and treat her. When the road is broken you think a nurse should go and fix it. SLU is a youth movement for reconciliation. Its role is to create a generation of youth who can take this country forward towards reconciliation, Not to just make pointless statments for the sake of being accurate on facts.

      And if you read carefully you will see that SLU doesn’t approve illegal land thefts.But not having a public stance means when SLU can meet with officials and directly lobby them where as most NGOs in this country won’t get a hearing. What’s the point of shouting at the top of your lungs when no one is listening? a whisper in the year which gets results is much more worth while, don’t you think?

      “We don’t believe that the reduction in the level of misery will delegitimize the inalienable rights of the people. ”

      “The plight of these people has not changed. The houses promised by the Indian government may well take another three years to materialize.”

      http://groundviews.org/2013/01/11/response-to-racing-tanks-with-bicycles-a-parable-of-reconciliation-in-sri-lanka/