Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kombavil 'New Village' : Resettlement or forced relocation?

By Aru'loaviyam Maniram


There is a saying in Tamil, that “you will find the house, if there is a path”. It means, there won’t be residences without a path or road. It has a deep cultural meaning in Tamil.

Kombavil 'camp', will be the new form of famous Manikfarm camp. Earlier, the vanquished Tamil people were detained in Manikfarm camp, from where their cries at least reached outside world. But now, once more they are going to be relocated against their will, which will ensure that any such cries will not be heard by anyone.

This well calculated measure to forcibly transfer the war affected population in to the deep interior areas in North, which should be considered as a part of the long term genocidal strategy of Sri Lankan regime is very much supported by the so called humanitarian agencies too.

When the military of Sri Lanka, began to destroy the Tamil people and their assets in their traditional homeland, the international community not only remained in silence and failed to stop the tragedy, but also overtly and covertly supported the genocidal military actions. During the humanitarian catastrophe, same international community requested the people to move into government control areas, where barbed wired camps were waiting to greet them. Since the advent of the offensive, international community failed to take any adequate measures to protect Tamil civilians, apart from being ill prepared to provide the required humanitarian assistance. In most cases, either they just repeated the government fabricated stories or “obeyed” government “orders” rather than playing a role as international humanitarian actors, who must act with responsibility. Particularly, the UN and its bodies, provided open assistance to hide the casualty numbers, apart from backing government's claims about the reduced numbers concerning displaced civilians remaining inside the final battle zone.

Al though organizations like ICRC and MSF tried their best to ease the burden of the population, no one raised any serious questions about fake resettlement programs and “re-integration” projects.

Now, the unfolding Kombavil tragedy, which is nothing but an extension of the same genocidal policy of the state has got the same backing from the same international bodies. Under the new scheme, helpless Tamil civilians are going to be relocated to Kombavil without considering their true grievances and genuine concerns.

In Kombavil, 600 acres will be cleared or prepared by the military to "resettle" the Tamils who are now waiting to be moved out from the Manik Farm. In a meeting held in Mullathievu with the Government Agent of the area and the Sri Lankan Army(SLA) Commander in early August this year, it was decided that Kombavil will be a permanent 'settlement' for the people who were earlier detained in Manik farm. The government and its military are determined to make this happen before the end of 2011. As to a humanitarian aid worker active on the ground, “the people do not want to go to another Manik farm, they simply want to go back only to their places of origin (home)."

At this meeting, UN Resident Coordinator Subinay Nandy also took part after visiting Kombavil area. Even though the government has already hinted to the international community that they have laid the final plans to empty the camps, in reality the camps will only be moved into an area which will be almost inaccessible to many concerned parties.

Kombavil is going to be another militarized area and freedom of movement of the Tamil people will be further restricted. Each and every step regarding the Kombavil relocation will be carried out under the close scrutiny of the occupying Sri Lankan military, including the so called “Go and See” visits. According to a reliable source on the ground, the people from Manik farm have clearly opposed the decision to move them from Manik Farm to Kombavil. They told to the Additional Government Agent (AGA) of Puthukudiyiruppu (PTK) that “we would like to return to our own lands rather than moving to another camp situation.” But the AGA has assured them that the relocation will be “temporary” and it’s only until the demining work is completed. However, no one including AGA, UN or OCHA is aware how long will it take to complete the so-called demining operations. The AGA, who is functioning under strict instruction of the government, is planning to initially relocate at-least four hundred families before end of this year.

Many have earlier criticized the living conditions in Manik Farm voicing concerns over the detained population. But Kombavil situation will be worse than that. According to a leaked document, 7,506 individuals are still remaining in Manik Farm camp. Currently no health care services are available inside the camp (a clinic is available 5kms out) and only few teachers are available to educate several hundred children. Food rations provided by the WFP have been drastically reduced. UNHCR sources confirmed about cases of malnourished children “passing out” at school during the morning sessions. Individuals inside the camp are able to transit in and out, but have to use the old unwieldy pass system which needs multiple signatures and military approvals, plus a payment of 20LKRs, which effectively curtail the freedom of movement. If this reflects the grim reality prevailing in relatively well known Manik Farm, there is more than enough evidence to believe that the situation in unknown Kombavil will be far more horrifying

Therefore, a concrete action to prevent another humanitarian tragedy is immediate and important.

According to the Mullaithivu map (below), the demining operations in 8.5 Grama Niladhari(GN) divisions are yet to be completed. However, as to the information coming from sources close to the SLA Commander confirms , that the 3 GN divisions in the costal belt (marked in the Map) will never be returned to the people. Unconfirmed sources say that the plans are underway to convert
these 3 GN divisions into a High Security Zone (HSZ) and later into a special economic zone following the plans previously implemented in the East.

According to TNA Parlimentarian Sivashakthi Anandan, the IDPs from Puthumathalan, Mullivaikkal West, Mullivaikkal East, Ambalavanpokkanai, Valaignar Madam and Anandapuram in the Mullaitivu district who are presently at the Manik Farm camp at Chettikulam or with host families mostly living in and around Vavuniya will not to be resettled in their original home-towns. He also accused the government of preventing people from returning to their original lands in a desperate bid to cover up war crimes. He further said that “these were the areas where the final phase of war took place and thousands of people died. The government is depriving these people the right to return to their lands, in order to cover up the evidence that would confirm the atrocities committed during the last days of war.”

Meanwhile, a considerable section of the international relief agencies which are otherwise allowed to provide humanitarian assistance, have been prevented from getting involved in Kombavil relocation program. The government is already in the process of setting up new military camps surrounding the area to closely monitor the day to day activities of the war affected population, effectively maintaining a climate of fear among the people. It is obvious that the Sri Lankan state is determined to pursue the same old genocidal strategy against Tamil people by carrying out forced population transfers even two years after the war. But the important question is how the reputed international organizations, such as UN and its affiliated OCHA can support such a project backed only by the naked military might of the state.

If timely action is not taken by the responsible parties , the entire Tamil areas will end up by being transformed in to a huge military run camp like Manik Farm.


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