Northern Governor steps in to ensure assistance for Sinhala returnees to Jaffna

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Northern Province Governor H.M.G.S. Palihakkara has told Jaffna Divisional Secretariat that required state assistance should be provided to all those who had returned to the Jaffna peninsula seeking resettlement regardless of their ethnicity.

One-time foreign secretary, Palihakkara has emphasized that those wanting to re-build their lives shouldn’t be deprived of the support; they were entitled to it in accordance with instructions issued by the government.

The Northern Governor has intervened subsequent to a group of Sinhala families living in state land situated close to Navatkuli railway station making representations recently.

Chief incumbent of Sinhalarama Sammidhisumana Viharaya, Navatkuli, Ven. Hanwelle Ratnasiri yesterday told The Island that the previous government had failed to provide title deeds for land allocated to Sinhala war displaced in Jaffna. Ven. Ratnasiri said that 58 families had been allocated 15 perch blocks each in addition to land released for the temple.

army_jaffnaAppreciating the Governor’s swift response, Ven. Ratnasiri said the rights of the Sinhalese driven out of the Jaffna peninsula should be guaranteed.

Jaffna based Uthayan in its May 9 edition said that consequent to the Governor’s advice, the Jaffna District Secretary had sought an explanation from Divisional Secretary of Thennamarachchi with regard to their failure to provide required assistance.

Ms Sakunthala Wickremasinghe, who had accompanied Ven. Ratnasiri to the recent meeting with the Northern Governor, told The Island that they had fled Jaffna peninsula at the onset of hostilities in the early 80s. According to her, the Sinhala community had then been largely settled at Maniyamthottam in the outskirts of Jaffna town. Asked whether they were seeking government intervention to regain their property, Ms Wickremesinghe stressed that they had willingly given up their right to that property, the day they received state land at Navatkuli. “Any attempt to regain Maniyamthottam land can cause tensions between the communities. Therefore, our requirement is valid deeds for Navatkuli land. Let those who had suffered much more than we live in our land.”

Ven. Ratnasiri and Ms Wickremasinghe said that some of those who had returned to Jaffna in late 2010 again left for want of state assistance. Ms. Wickremasinghe said that Anuradhapira District UNP MP Chandrani Bandara had helped to secure state assistance. Unfortunately, some of those who could have helped us, ignored our plea, she said, adding that the government couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening.

Responding to a query, Ms Wickremesinghe said that there had been approximately 180 families when they arrived in Jaffna several years ago, to claim their land. However the majority left Jaffna for want of state assistance, she said while appreciating the support extended by nationalists’ organizations over the years.

The Governor’s Office confirmed the meeting, though it declined to furnish details.

Ms. Wickremasinghe said that a section of the media had been hostile to them. “I was among those 180 families who returned to Jaffna in late 2010. We reached Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya in three buses and several other vehicles and stayed at dilapidated Navatkuli railway station before the then government stepped in.”

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