Menik Farm And Beyond…
The government last week announced moves to resettle the last batch of IDPs who were in the Kadiragamar and Ananda Kumaraswamy relief villages at Menik Farm for the past three years.
However, many of the remaining IDPs hailing from Kepapilaw Grama Niladhari Division and Manduwil area who have been re-settled in their respective villages, are still in small tents at the Suriyapuram camp.
Suriyapuram camp, situated in close proximity to the Security Forces Head Quarters in Mullaithivu is guarded by a group of army personnel and the media is yet to be allowed visits to the IDPs.
When The Sunday Leader visited Suriyapuram camp in Nanthikadal on Wednesday September 26 to report as to how the re-settlement program has been carried out, the army who were on guard wanted us to get the permission either from the District Secretary Mullaithivu or from Civil Affairs Officer Security Forces Headquarters Mullaithivu, Col. Bandara or Col. Fernando at 59 Division.
Col. Bandara was un-contactable and when visited Col. Fernando at 59 Division to get his permission to visit the IDPs, we were asked to contact the District Secretary (DS) Mullaithivu.
“Col. Bandara is in charge of all the security arrangements and is on leave for five days. Since he is not available, get the DS Mullathivu’s permission,” said Col. Fernando.
However Fernando failed to tell us as to who is next in command for us to get the permission.
“I am at the 59 Division and do not know who is second in command at the Security Forces Headquarters Mullaithivu. Sorry to have not been able to help you,” said Col. Fernando.
However DS Mullaithivu, Nagalingam Vedanayagam said that he has not imposed any restrictions. We then decided to go back to the army makeshift post once again to find out what the real reason was for not allowing us to go to the camps.
Meanwhile an army officer at the Security Forces Headquarters, Mullaithivu claimed that he had visited the IDPs in Zone No: 2 and 3 – Ramanadhan and Arunachalam relief camps and added that they lived a comfortable life there compared to the camp the last batch of IDPs were now housed.
“They were in tin sheet huts with cement floors but now live in a ramshackle huts with only a camp cloth above their heads,” he added.
We were then able to speak to two IDPs who had come out of the camp to visit their families.
Marimuttu Periyasamy, an IDP from the last batch said they were suffering immensely after shifting from Kadirgamar relief camp to Suriyapuram camp.
Manikkam was yet another person whom we met on our way beck. He too is an IDP in the Suriyapuram camp. “We were not given anything. Who says that we have been re-settled? We were taken out from the Manik Farm and brought to the Aranaganwila school day before yesterday (Monday September 25). There we were asked to go anywhere we wish to which we opposed. Then we were brought to this camp. We do not have proper drinking water or sanitation facilities. It was better if we were allowed to stay at the Manik Farm without re-settling us under the trees,” said Manikkam
Tales of woe of those who live in makeshift homes in Thimbili, Pudukuduirippu are as follows:
Sarasthwathi had to leave Kumaraswamy relief village on September 18 and is trying hard to earn a living for her family.
“I am not married and looking after my sister’s daughter. When this girl was away in school, a shell fell on to my sister’s house killing her and the son on the spot. I decided to be single to look after my niece who is now in grade 9,” said Saraswathy.
According to her, the government only provided cooked meals during the first few days at Kumaraswamy camp but it was an NGO that gave the dry rations after that till she left.
“Even it was they who brought us here and gave us camp cloths for the roof. The tin sheets that cover our ‘houses’ in the sheets were given to us. We were told that the NGO will provide us dry rations but so far we did not receive it,” she added.
Indrani is a mother of two who had come from the Kadirgamar camp on August 8.
She too said that she got the tin sheets and the camp cloth for her house but added that she was starving for two days.
“I am a heart patient and cannot do any hard work. Earlier I collected pieces of aluminum and sold them to feed my children. But there are no more aluminum but only metal pieces. But the army is not allowing us to collect them. However, men collect those secretly. I do not even have a cup of tea from yesterday,” she said.
Indrani’s husband too was a victim to a shell. On January 2, 2009 a shell fell on their house and he died because they could not take him to the hospital.
While Indrani was talking to us she immediately sat on the ground claiming she felt faintish.
“In the morning I took some medicine after having a cup of water. My whole body is lifeless now,” she said.
Manjula too is a single mother who undergoes severe difficulties to kee the home fires burning, has lost her husband on April 15, 2009 in Wellimulla Waikkal.
“We had a good life in Kumaraswamy camp. Now we are suffering immensely. No food, no proper drinking water and a decent hut to live with the children,” she said.
Sangeetha too had come from Arunachalam camp and said that her husband was taken away by the LTTE but did not return.
“I met my husband during school days. My husband was later taken by the LTTE forcibly,” said Sangeetha.
Meanwhile Ranjani narrated a different tale of woe. She was complaining that their lands had been taken over by the army and are not returning them.
“We came to Pudukuduirippu from Paranthan in 1995. This was a thick jungle and was under attack from both LTTE and army.
“However we cleared the jungle and got a house built which was along the main road. We had to drive away the wild elephants to protect our cultivations. But now we were not given our lands claiming that they have to be developed. However that land has now been given to two families that are known to the Land Registrar at the Divisional Secretary’s office. There is no one to stand by us. We are harassed from all quarters,” she added.
All attempts to get the exact details about the last IDP batch from Captain Suminda at Ananda Kumaraswamy relief village and Major C. Abeykoon at Kadirgamar relief village were not successful. According to them, details of the last batch of IDPs have to be given only with the Defence Ministry approval.
However a reliable source at Kadirgamar relief village on condition of anonymity said that 56 families who hail from Kepapilaw Grama Niladhari Division and 121 families who hail from Manduwil were re-settled on September 24.
“In this Manik Farm eight relief villages were set up. They were from Zone 0-7. Zone 0- was the Kadirgamar relief village, Zone 1- Ananda Kumaraswamy relief village, Zone 2- Ramanadan relief village and Zone 3- Arunachalam relief village. All these zones named after distinguished Tamil leaders. Rest of the zones from 4-7 did not have names but identified from the zone numbers,” he added.
Although he furnished details about those who left the camp on Monday September 24, he did not wish to make any comment as to where the IDPs were taken.
“Extremely sorry, cannot comment on that,” he said.
The Sunday Leader journalist and Photographer threatened
The Sunday Leader journalist and the photographer who were in Mullathivu last Wednesday and Thursday were stopped from entering the Suriyapuram camp in Nanthikadal by the army officers on guard.
This was the camp where the last batch of IDPs from the Manik Farm was brought to although the government claimed they were re-settled in their villages.
Not only did they stop us from entering the Suriyapuram camp, they threatened us not to write anything detrimental to them.
One of the army officers who were inside the makeshift camp shouted at this reporter to leave the area immediately and wanted not to write anything against the camp and the IDP grievances but to ‘mind her business’.
“You people are paid by the NGOs and whatever they ask, you are prepared to dance to their tunes.
Journalists job is the worst found in this country. They are trying to make a living from reporting detrimental issues, which is not right,” he said.
Seeing as to how this army officer was shouting at his colleague, Thusitha- the photographer took out his camera and captured a few photographs of this un-controllable group.
Realizing well that they were now on record, more than 15 army personnel surrounded Thusitha, some with assault rifles pointing at him. He was manhandled by them. They even attempted to pull his camera. However Thusitha was brave enough to stand by his feet shouting ‘if my camera is taken I will give wide publicity to this harassment over the independent media and see what will happen next,” he said.
Even the driver of our vehicle was not spared. He was not allowed to turn the vehicle to go back but forced to reverse to the main road which was quite a long distance. Meanwhile on my request,
Thusitha deleted the pictures which he captured in front of these army men. Meanwhile they wanted him to delete the pictures he had taken earlier, which he did not heed.
Send me an e-mail – Lakshman Hullugalle
Director General Media Center for National Security Lakshman Hullugalle wanted to forward the questions about the last batch of the IDPs to his e-mail promising to respond. However till the paper went to print Hullugalle did not respond.
The Plight Of Periyasami
Periyasami was one of the IDPs that were resettled on Monday, September 24 at the Kaiveli Ganesha Vidyalayam in Pudukuduiruppu. We met him on our way back after an unsuccessful attempt to enter Suriyapuram camp.
When we stopped our vehicle at a small junction in Nanthikadal to ask the directions to Mullaithivu town, Periyasamy approached us and talked in Tamil. We were lucky enough to have a Tamil speaking driver who spoke with Periyasamy.
Seeing as to how we were threatened by the army personnel who were guarding the Suriyapuram camp, Periyasamy related their tail of woes.
“At Kadirgamar relief camp we lived a comfortable life – in cement floored tin tents. But now we have been thrown from pillar to post. We were taken to Kaiveli Ganesha Vidyalayam in Pudukuduiruppu and asked to go to our native villages. If we don’t have any place to go where have we to get back. That was why we decided to protest against the ill-treatment. We were then brought here because President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to Mullaithivu yesterday,” said Periyasamy.
According to him the disabled are well looked after by the army but the rest of the people do not get much attention.
No Restrictions: District Secretary
District Secretary Nagalingam Vedanayagam when contacted to get permission to enter the Suriyapuram camp said that there were no restrictions for any visitor to enter the camp.
“I have not imposed any restrictions. Who said that anyone who wants to enter this camp area has to get my approval? This is not true. Tell them that I told you that restrictions have not been imposed,” emphasized District Secretary Mullathivu Nagalingam Vedanayagam