The Sunday Leader

Demilitarization Back In The Spotlight

by Easwaran Rutnam

High number of soldiers operating in the North is still a contentious issue

The high number of soldiers operating in the North is still a contentious issue which Northern based Tamil political parties feel is affecting the return to normalcy in the North.

Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran noted this issue at the Northern Provincial Council last week.

The issue was also raised in parliament by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) during the final few days of the 2016 budget debate last week.

TNA parliamentarian E. Sarawanabavan told parliament that the TNA supported the new government to win the elections without signing any agreement.

However he noted that the government, before it came to power, had given several assurances to the public in the North in order to win their support.

Sarawanabavan said that one assurance was that the presence of the military in the North will be reduced and civilian land occupied by the army freed.

He says despite the assurance given by the government, a strong army presence can still be seen in the North and they also continue to occupy private property.

 

Ensuring normalcy

The TNA parliamentarian said the government must not follow the policies of the former regime and ensure normalcy is restored in the North.

The US spending bill, which was to be passed by the House of Representatives and Senate last week, also noted the US military assistance to Sri Lanka should not cross US$ 4,000,000 and be made available for programmes to redeploy, restructure and reduce the size of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The bill said that American aid to Sri Lanka is subject to certification by the Secretary of State that it is addressing the ‘underlying’ cause of conflict in the country.

The government has already released hundreds of acres of land in the North but according to the TNA, land in Palaly and Vaillkamam North owned by civilians has not yet been returned.

TNA member Mavai Senathirajah said that the TNA has no objections to Sinhalese families who are the rightful owners of land in the North from claiming their property.

However, he said in some areas the former government had resettled Sinhalese families illegally on land owned by Tamils. Even the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in parliament last week raised the issue on the occupation of land by the military and said that several families who have been resettled in the North do not have basic facilities to resume their day-to-day activities. JVP parliamentarian Bimal Ratnayake said that some families are still living in camps, including in tents and need to be given proper homes. In the middle of this year the Ministry of Defence stated that 59 camps in the Northern Province were closed down since May 2009 but no camp was wound up this year. There were also media reports, quoting Major General Nandana Udawatte, that the number of army camps has come down from 152 to 93 [during 2009-2014].

 

Army denies reports

The Army also denied reports that 75 per cent of its divisions are located in the North, but refused to give the exact figure. “No army in the world would disclose actual numbers.” It pointed out that, “even identification numbers of army formations, naval and air fleets in many countries are not disclosed.” It said the troop deployment adjustment and the release of private lands [taken over by the Army during the war] are “continuous and ongoing processes”. It confirmed that in the last five years, it has released 19,159 acres in the Province, including 6,258 acres in Palaly.

The Army described the Thalsevana Holiday Resort being run by it in Kankesanthurai of Jaffna as an ‘R&R [rest and recreation] facility’. It also said the resort was open to the public ‘in a limited manner’ when rooms were vacant.

The investigation on Sri Lanka by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) also notes that while President Maithripala Sirisena appointed new civilian governors for both the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and the major security checkpoint leading to the North was removed in August 2015, the government is still to embark on any comprehensive process of demilitarization.

According to the investigations report, local civil society sources recorded 26 cases of harassment and intimidation by military and intelligence services in the North and East during the period from January to August 2015.

This figure highlights the reality that the structures and institutional cultures that created the repressive environment of the past remain in place and will require much more fundamental security sector reform.

 

Durable solutions

It noted that six years after the end of the war, many displaced populations have yet to achieve durable solutions, particularly with regard to livelihoods. One major continuing problem is the military occupation of private land, although the government has proceeded with some land releases in Thellipallai and Kopai in the North and in Sampur in the East.

Land issues have been further complicated by secondary occupation by civilians; loss, destruction and damage to land documents; competing claims; landlessness; and un-regularized land claims.

Care must also be taken to ensure that land distribution does not exacerbate existing intra- and inter-community tensions, since land disputes have become increasingly politicized and ethnicized in return areas.

“The military retains an oppressive presence in the war-affected areas of the north and east, still occupying extensive private land, expanding into commercial economic activities and maintaining a culture of surveillance and harassment of the local population and civil society,” the report said. OHCHR had urged the government to prioritize the return of private land that has been occupied by the military and end military involvement in civilian activities.

 

7 Comments for “Demilitarization Back In The Spotlight”

  1. raj

    If anyone believe that justice will be delivered by Sri Lankan administration to Tamils, they are fooling themselves. It won’t happen. As NPC council resolution pointed out, there is a silence genocide is happening without transparent and it is hard to prove. Only in the long term, people can realize the impact. If Singhalese regime cannot believe in Tamils, how can Tamil belive Singhalese government? There is a proverb that says never trust a person who suspect you, and never suspect a person who trust you. Likewise, Sri Lanka government have difficult time in trusting Tamils, so why should Tamil trust the government?

  2. Ikarus

    The most funiest is that US oders Sri Lankan Government to redeploy the Armed Forces stationed in North if it is to receive $4mil . However, the US is planing to open new Bases in Africa and Asia in addition to what they have around the Globe.

    It looks like Sri Lanka has to obey the orders of WORLD BULLIES all the way and the GONPALAKAYA will lick the boots for money and WILL DO AS THEY ORDER without giving a single thought that Sri Lanka is a democratic sovereign nation and not a colony or a protectorate of any WORLD BULLY.

    However, when Sri Lanka post it’s soldiers in provinces to secure and protect the country from any sort of unwanted activities, it becomes an eyesore to world bullies but it is O.K for them to station their soldiers in every state and around the globe for the security of their country. Why it is not correct when Sri Lanka post it’s soldiers in provinces to safeguard the security of the entire nation?. Is it because the bullies are HYPOCRITS and coming to Sri Lanka with ULTERIOR MOTIVES.

    It is about time that the SPINELESS GONPALAKAYA stand straight even with a help of a wooden pole and tell these bullies that they can SHOVE their help in the BUTT. This the way a NATION should stand up to protect it’s INTEGRITY rather than bending over so that WORLD BULLIES get their satisfaction for MONEY.

    Take Russia as an example, it did not bend over when the bullies slap that country with SANCTIONS and ISOLATED (the bullies said so). However, when Russia started to help, & protect Syria from ISIL Muslim terrorists and from US trained, armed, and funded ($5 Bil.) multinational terrorists to fight against the Syrian Government, these bullies are planing to cooperate with Russia.

    Russia is HONEST AND A TRUSTWORTHY NATION than others, because they are WOLFS IN SHEEPS SKINS waiting like HAWKS to attack you for their benefit.. .

  3. Just Society

    “TNA parliamentarian E. Sarawanabavan told parliament that the TNA supported the new government to win the elections without signing any agreement.”

    Well, TNA got the assurance like the rest of the country that there is a new dawn in the country as of January 8, 2015 and that will be good governance and just society in that dawn. There is no need for a separate agreement.

    That means that there will be no neo-colonial rule; that the security forces are for the security of the nation and not to oppress any people.

    We all wish for a society with independent judiciary and freedom for all people with their rights enshrined in that good governance.

  4. NIMAL SARATHCHANDRA

    The OHCHR jokers should first ask the Americans to demilitarize and withdraw
    Their troops from IRAQ,SYRIA, and AFGHANISTAN. Also JOHN KERRY, who
    The hell does he think of himself, coming to SRILANKA and giving orders to
    To the present govt.

  5. Bass

    “even identification numbers of army formations, naval and air fleets in many countries are not disclosed.”

    Scumbags of free education- Even the number of marines at Diego Garcia are available on WWW US defense.

    “No army in the world would disclose actual numbers.”

    It will not disclose to a neighboring nation but this is an internal matter.
    So you are agreeing that you annexed another weak nation and are refusing to leave- you plunder and loot.- thirisanno!!

  6. H.L. Vanstraten

    The NP Chief Minister has a point and so have the TNA parliamentary members. In order to improve the country’s finances a vast reduction in the strength of the army is the need of the day and in view of the present peaceful situation also possible. A cut in half or even less would be a meaningful start. As for the North let the military men and women return to barracks and no longer show such conspicuous presence in civil life as they do now. This would promote more peaceful circumstances and would be beneficial to the whole country.
    The present president needs to show that he really represents a complete policy shift from the former government by announcing such a shift. He would also do well by establishing a land rights commission with an equal number of Tamll and Sinhalese experts to make a complete inventory of land rights going back to the situation in 1983 and set up a court to remedy unlawful appropriation of land by either the military or civilians. The situation can of course not be rectified overnight and will take quite some time, but there is no process that could be started now that would promote peace better than an effective working of such a measure.

  7. srilanka government is not a army government ,srilanka government is a democratic government ,it could never happened ,srilanka the army was imported to the communal mr Rajapaska former president. the man with out education. The person mentally weak person want forces for him to help .he is creating a Sinhala budhhist monks as a communal , the monks has no rights to interfere in politics, the monks failed to understand the Buddhism .the army must withdraw from Jaffna,UN human right and USA will support the civilian in srilanka.the communal sinhalse has no place at last.

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