The occupying Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) in Mannaar has transformed illegally seized lands belonging to one of the largest churches in the island, into military-owned property during the regime of Maithiripala Sirisena. The SL Navy which occupied the lands in 2006 after carrying out a genocidal attack on the church killing a woman and injuring more than 44 by lobbing grenades on people who had sought asylum at the church, was telling the Parish Priest Fr. Vincent Patrick at that time the SLN was going to be stationed for a while as a temporary measure and that the lands would be handed back to the church. The lands seized for the camp were 3,000 square meters in 2006. But, later the SLN base was expanded to 8,000 square meters and now under Maithiripala Sirisene’s regime, the occupation has been further expanded to 14,000 square meters.
Despite the complaints to SL Police by the committee of the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Peasaalai and the villagers protesting against the surveying of the lands in 2014 and in 2015, the SL Navy has been firm in keeping the locality militarised.
The SLN in Mannaar has further managed to legalise the seizure of lands through a recent Gazette notification, the church officials said.
The Mannaar Magistrate’s Court dismissed a case last week on the grounds that there were no substantial evidence for both the claim and counter claim by the church committee and the officials of the survey department.
The church committee was complaining that the SL Navy was seizing the lands permanently violating the previous assurance it gave to the parish priest of the church. The counter-claim mooted by the SL Navy was that the church committee members were disturbing the work of the SL Survey Department.
The people of the area had donated 222 acres to the Church of Our Lady of Victory in 1914.
The Bishop of Mannaar was firm in objecting the continued military occupation of the church lands as the church has already set up a settlement for landless people by distributing the lands to the people.
Peasaalai is a large village, situated in the North-West of the island of Mannaar, with a population of 8,000 Eezham Tamils and 90% of the population are Catholic fisher folk while the remaining are Hindu and Muslim fisher folk.
The Sri Lankan military is alleged of scheming Sinhalicisation of Thalaimannaar Pier, which is the closest point in Mannaar to the coast of Tamil Nadu in India.
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