Tamil villagers demand Release of more Army held lands

By Mirudhula Thambiah

Despite the release of 110 acres of private lands, by the Army, to the original owners in Keppapilavu, villagers were however, adamant that their 150 day struggle will not be called off until all their private lands are released.

Minister of Resettlement D. M. Swaminathan confirmed on Wednesday (26) that his ministry will release Rs 148 million to relocate the Army elsewhere.

Sivapragasam Ariyakala, a resident from Kepappilavu said although Minister Swaminathan had taken steps to release the lands from the control of the Army, their struggle will continue until all remaining lands are released.

“We have been on a satyagraha, with our children, for the past six months demanding the release of all our private lands. The army had requested a six-month period to vacate the lands. Now they have come down to six months from eight months, similarly until they release all our lands we shall continue with the struggle,” she said.

Meanwhile, Arumugam Velayutham, another resident of Kepappilavu said, “These are our ancestral and traditional lands. Our land deeds prove that these have been our traditional lands since 1970. We are struggling to regain our lands for the past eight years, but there is no end to our grievances. However, we thank Minister Swaminathan for doing his utmost to get our lands released.”

However, Minister Swaminathan said that although the residents demanded that their lands be returned inside a period of one month, the Army however, had requested six more months to release the lands.

“The demands of the land owners are genuine and the army had been cooperative in this issue. After the release of 110 acres the army had also agreed to release another 70 acres of private lands in Kepappilavu in which kovils are situated and the main army headquarters for Mullaitivu is located in this area too,” he said.

Villagers of Kepappilavu earlier complained to the minister that they were not allowed to step into the kovils situated on these 70 acres of land. However, the minister clarified on Wednesday (26) that people will be allowed into the kovils to carry out their rituals.

He made these comments at a media briefing held in Colombo on Wednesday.

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