The Resettlement Progress
- Increased Militarization Creates Problems in resettlement
By Gazala Anver
As of the second of January 2012, 6,660 people still remain in IDP camps, yet to be resettled, stated a report complied by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) looking into the resettlement of war-IDPs during the period October – December 2011.
Based on the figures provided by the Ministry of Resettlement used in the report, a total of 21,934 IDPs have been returned or resettled in 2011. 10,087 have been released from IDP camps for 2011, and 780 resettled from 19 October 2011 to 2 January 2012.
The TNA however maintains that there is a discrepancy with these figures causing a difference of 11,847 people (i.e. the difference between the total number of IDPs resettled and those released from camps.) “..the discrepancy can only be a result of persons not previously held in the above-mentioned camps being ‘returned’ or ‘resettled’ in particular areas. These persons could have been in the care of host families and thus not reflected in the net decrease of persons in camps.”
The TNA also adds that it is possible for these people not to have come from Kadirkamar, Anandakumarasawmi (Zone 1) and Arunachalam (Zone III) IDP camps or the Jaffna Ramavil Transit camp and that these people come from unspecified locations in Vavuniya, Mannar and Trincomalee (Pulmoddai). “However, to date, the government has not presented any official explanation for this discrepancy,” they said.
Status of resettled: In Santhapuram
The report, titled ‘The Resettlement Report’ for the months of October – December 2011, goes into detail of the status of selected groups in the Vanni, what their quality of life is and what difficulties they face.
As of the end of war, a total of 66,405 people have been resettled in Killinochchi, and 45,550 in Mullaitivu. The village of Santhapuram has been selected as a prototype of the settlements in Killinochchi, and most IDPs settled here were returned in August 2010.
According to the report, there are 517 families in Santhapuram. The total population is 2, 677 of which 1,378 are females. Of these, 173 households are female headed. There are 327 school-going children and 25 orphans (67 without one parent). There are a total of 42 disabled persons. Of the 517 families however, only 70 receive food rations, 101 have permanent housing, while 320 live in temporary shelters. According to the TNA however, the housing facilities are below standard, with the temporary houses having a poor state of sanitation which could result in the spread of disease. “At least 320 families continue to be in temporary shelters even two years after the cessation of hostilities,” the report stated. “It is reiterated that most of the families were resettled in Santhapuram in August 2010. Even if these families were recently returned, the fact that they were returned without adequate housing provided in advance is a matter of serious concern.”
The status of the female headed houses are predominantly below low-income lines. The main occupations are fishing (101 people), home gardening (217), small enterprises (17), large scale farming (8) and government servants(6). Therefore a total of 349 out of the 2,677 people are employed.
Assuming however that there is at least one breadwinner for the 517 families, 150 remain without any source of income and only 70 receive food rations. According to these estimates, at least 90 families are in dire need of assistance and do not receive any. “It is clear that the community is yet to optimize its livelihoods opportunities,” the report said, adding that there are significant challenges confronting the community. For instance, “fishing families requiring access to the Iranaimadu tank face severe restrictions and encroachment from outside communities. It was reported that during the past two months a dozen fishermen from Pathaviya had, with the help of Army, illegally encroached waters traditionally used by fisherman from Santhapuram. Moreover, the military has restricted access to certain fishing areas on the grounds that such areas are required inter alia for seaplane landing.” Where overall health is concerned, they have no access to health centres or maternity care centres and access to public care is less than satisfactory. According to the TNA, the government is neglecting to provide adequate medical facilities. This, in addition to the poor state of sanitation, causes problems.
In terms of education, the report says that an accurate date is unavailable, but the school buildings are inadequate to house the entire student population. As seen in the picture, students are compelled to learn outdoors due to the lack of space in schools. “The government is yet to fully implement a proper plan in respect of enhancing the levels of education within the selected community.”
According to the TNA, among the social problems the people in Santhapuram face, the biggest threat is militarization. For instance, with the support of the military, illegal liquor and narcotics are being distributed among the community. There are also cases of reported child abuse, but whether this has been attributed to the military is unclear in the report.
Moreover, the military is also “allegedly responsible for the distribution of pornography,” and occupying private land for the purpose of building a war museum. “It is reported that such land is capable of being cultivated. Hence such illegal occupation has adversely affected the livelihoods of the community,” the report said.
The TNA added that the Government needs to downscale the level of military presence in the Vanni and re-establish ordinary civilian life, with only the local police to oversee law and order. “However, each month, the President makes a declaration under section 12 of the Public Security Ordinance No. 25 of 1947, calling out the armed forces to maintain law and order in every single district of the country,” the report said, adding that since the state of emergency has been lifted, the government should take immediate steps to develop the local law enforcement force, while reducing the number of military personnel in the Vanni.
In addition, the government has failed to facilitate the proper transition of areas such as Santhapuram from a militarized environment, as during a conflict, to a “normal” environment. “It may be reasonably concluded that the military occupation is directly linked to several social ills and livelihood deprivations in the selected village.”