Kalkuda residents seek return of church, temples and homes

[TamilNet, Saturday, 01 June 2002, 20:35 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lanka army camp at Kalkuda junction , encompassing several public buildings including places of worship, a post office, a rest house and the thirty homes of local people, is being maintained in violation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Liberation Tigers, a petition to the international monitors by the village’s residents said Friday. Kalkuda is 32 km north of Batticaloa in eastern province.

"The Army camp at Kalkuda junction … should be immediately relocated and the displaced residents allowed to settle in their family homes," appealed several affected families in a signed petition handed over to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

“We have been living in the areas around Kalkuda junction for several decades. From July 1990, when the army located its camp at the junction following a confrontation with the Liberation Tigers, we have been displaced and are living among severe hardship with our friends and relatives.”

"With the prevailing improving conditions in the North and East due to the ceasefire and as the ceasefire agreement stipulates that the army should vacate public buildings and private residences, we are requesting the SLMM to take the necessary steps to remove the army camp and to allow us to settle down in our own homes," the appeal further said.

"After the construction of the Army camp, the roads leading the Batticaloa-Valaichennai highway, the road towards the Pasikuda tourist resort and the road towards Munai Sri Murugan temple have been closed. We urgently request the SLMM to open these roads and to allow civilian traffic," the appeal stated.

Among the buildings within the perimeter of the Kalkuda army camp are: a Catholic church, the home of the church’s priest, Kannaki Amman Temple, Santhi Vinayagar Temple, a rest house, a post office and the office of the Grama Sevaka.

Former Kalkuda residents say that more than 90% of private homes in the have been destroyed and that the army is occupying the remaining houses.

The Kannaki Amman temple has been destroyed beyond repair and religious services have not been conducted for more than 10 years at the temple premises due to the Army presence, they say.

K. Balachandran, a displaced teacher from Kalkuda who is currently living in Valaichennai commented that he longs to return to his birth place and to see the heavily militarised town return to its former beauty.

According to the ceasefire agreement which came into effect in February 23 (referred to as D-day in the document), “the Parties shall refrain from engaging in activities or propagating ideas that could offend cultural or religious sensitivities.”

“Places of worship (temples, churches, mosques and other holy sites, etc.) currently held by either of the parties shall be vacated by D-day + 30 and made accessible to the public. Places of worship which are situated in "high security zones" shall be vacated by all armed personnel and maintained in good order by civilian workers, even when they are not made accessible to the public.”


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