'Don’t use HSZ as a bargaining tool’ – NGOs

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 05 February 2003, 17:40 GMT]
At a conference held Wednesday evening at the Jaffna district secretariat in which the Indian defence expert, Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar, participated, representatives of people’s welfare organizations and non governmental organizations (NGOs) in Jaffna made a public plea to the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) not to use the high security zone (HSZ) issue as a bargaining tool in the peace talks between the LTTE and the GOSL, sources said

Several representatives appealed to General Nambiar to use this opportunity to help the displaced people, now languishing in refugee camps and welfare centres for more than sixteen years, to resettle in their own lands, and to help narrow the gap between the Indian government and the Tamils in Sri Lanka, sources said.

In a memorandum handed over to General Nambiar, the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) in Jaffna said that out of the 45 Grama Sevaka Niladhari Divisions (GSN) in Jaffna, 28 divisions completely and 5 partly have been carved out as HSZ. After the lapse of emergency regulations, “it is illogical for the government to continue to retain nearly two thirds of the land under the cover of ‘restricted areas.’ It appears that the credibility and the spirit of the ceasefire agreement between the GOSL and the LTTE are rendered irrelevant,” the CHA said in its memorandum.

The Thenmaradchchi People’s Welfare Society (TPWS) also handed over a memorandum to General Nambiar. " The impact of war is clearly seen in the faces of everyone in the Thenmaradchchi division. These people must be allowed to get resettled in their own homes immediately and restart their life again independently. To accomplish this task successfully, we earnestly request the military personnel occupying private houses, as well as in income producing lands, to evacuate these places and allow our people to get resettled. We anticipate and solicit your co-operation fully in this endeavor," said the TPWS in its memorandum.

According to the CHA, in the last 2-3 months, markers have been placed 600 m ahead of the current boundary of the HSZ. “People living between the boundary and the markers have reportedly been told that it is a military area, which they may be forced to vacate at any time. This has caused understandable concern and fear among those within the area, most of whom only recently moved back, into their land after being displaced,” the CHA said

“Incidents such as this are unsettling to the local population and are not indicative of conditions being suitable for the internally displaced people (IDP) and refugees to return,” the CHA said, and added, “We recall that during the occupation of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Jaffna, they did not declare a HSZ.”

The CHA memorandum continued, " People are of the view that non-democratic decision making processes still continue, and authoritarian rule by force prevails, instead of taking confidence building measures to resettle the IDP in their own homes. A progressive step in this direction would have enabled them to reactivate their own profession and be self-reliant. After nearly a year since the ceasefire agreement was signed, the agreement has not produced any benefit to more than 10,000 families of IDP languishing in the welfare camps and other temporary places without their basic needs fulfilled.

"To promote sustainable human development, a programme can be envisaged in two stages. To consolidate the peace process under the ceasefire agreement, immediate action is possible to resettle the IDP in all the Grama Niladhari’s Divisions that are considered not vulnerable to the security of the armed forces. Farmers should have access to cultivate their own agricultural land inside the restricted area.

" The Sri Lanka armed forces should have vacated all occupied houses, schools, religious places of worship and other buildings that are outside the restricted areas within the stipulated time frame in the agreement. The programme in the agreement has not been honoured yet. Similarly, on the basis of trust and confidence and as a progressive step, the Sri Lanka armed forces who occupy the houses in the proposed resettlement areas within the restricted zone can take positive steps to relocate outside the resettlement area.

"The CHA in Jaffna is confident that your approach as a neutral international advisor can propagate the active use of non-violence and respect for human rights. We are hopeful that democratic participatory decisions can help to enforce the rule of Law."

 

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