ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 10D
Posted on December 30th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Rehabilitation and resettlement would help to ‘erase’ the Eelam victory. Keerawella observed in 2013 that despite the practical constraints the government was able to send most of the IDPs back to their villages within a period of one and a half years.   In 2013 the media reported that 1299 families in Valikaman North had been resettled and that     12,000 were counseled and reintegrated into society, some have entered universities. We have even started resettling second generation of IDPs the government said in 2013.Sri Lanka Army said in 2014 that 98% of the IDP displaced due to the war had been re-settled.

The inmates were sent to their families.  Most of them have families.  We reintegrate people only when have an address of known relatives. We locate them and then only we reintegrate them to society, said the army.  This is being done by the military intelligence. We provide them with the information given by the inmate. So, they are going back to the people they know. There is no case of any individual being released without background being checked, said the army.

These individuals were not just cast adrift, observed Michael Roberts. The process of resettlement was organized with the cooperation of   International Organization for Migration (IOM). IOM has been heavily involved in financially supporting the resettlement of civilian IDPs from the Menik Farm and other camps. IOC has been a conduit for monies channelled from the governments of USA, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Japan and UK. Australia provided funds through AusAid. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia (DIAC) became one of the agencies working through IOM.

The returnees were helped to re-start their lives. Most were in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Most were working as laborers, machine operators, carpenters and so on. Commissioner General of Rehabilitation stated that the government had given loans up to Rs 250,000 at low interest, to 1800 LTTE cadres for approved self employment projects.  Payment was through a bank.

Local banks were asked to grant low interest loans with grace periods and a repayment period of ten years.” Arrangements had also been made to get them employment in Middle East.   IOM used donor funds to provide the returnees with equipment and tool kits. The private sector gave three wheelers.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) was satisfied with the work on resettlement of IDPs in north and east. Not everybody agreed with this assessment. 

A study conducted by de Croos (2011) explored the subjective experiences of 15 former detainees. It showed an alarming picture’, said Roberts. Several stated that they had received little training. Not all had received IDs and everyone had been instructed to seek permission if they travelled beyond their village All ex-detainees stated that the CID and Army visited their homes at least once a week or once every fortnight and checked on their whereabouts and details.”

Groundviews (2012) spoke of the bitter end to Menik Farm. Throughout August and September 2012, people from Puthukudiyiruppu and Maritimepattu Divisions in the Mullaitivu district, who had been living in Menik Farm, were dumped in schools and roadsides to find their own way home. Home” was mainly shrub jungles, open air spaces under trees and destroyed houses with doors, windows, roofing, and toilet equipment were looted. Some had to seek shelter in churches and schools, as their home” was simply not habitable. Another group we met had been compelled to stay in a small church as the Army was occupying their land. Clearly, the government which had waited for more than three years to send these people home, were now in a might hurry to send them home, without even clearing up jungles.

Yahapalana also disputed the rosy position given by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. There are a lot of things that we ought to do in the North and East especially and what we have done so far is building roads and infrastructure. But there is a lot more that we need to do to ensure these people are able to get on their own feet and survive.” Said Yahapalana.

 In 2016 Sampanthan observed that there were 31 welfare camps in Jaffna district and 936 families of 3260 members.  682 families did not own land or houses. In 2018 it was observed that in the Jaffna District 34,248 families were temporarily resettled in their own land and 721 families were yet to be resettled from 29 welfare centers. A further 8,987 families needing resettlement were living with friends and relatives.

Yahapalana found that it was not possible to send the IDPs back to their original homes   though the military had released 3,800 acres of privately owned lands back to their owners, because there were no houses. 170,000 houses were needed. That included 60,000 houses for IDPs who have lost all their properties during the 3 decades of conflict said Yahapalana in 2018.

 Yahapalana planned initially to provide steel prefabricated dwellings from Arcelor Mittal but this was objected to as most unsuitable. The plan was discarded. In 2018 Cabinet approval was given for the construction of 25,000 houses for the North and East. under the first phase of this project, 15,000 houses would be constructed giving priority to the internally displaced and those who have been living as refugees in India and are returning to the country. Then in 2019, Yahapalana said that it could not allocate money for this, but would set aside around Rs 8 billion in the forthcoming budget to fund 7,000 prefabricated concrete houses in the East. These will be built by a recently incorporated local entity, Yapka Construction Ltd.

In 2019 it was also announced that action had been initiated to construct 10,000 brick and mortar/cement sand blocks type traditional houses. Under the first phase, 1500 houses for Jaffna , 670 houses for Kilinochchi , 630 houses for Mullaitivu, 450 houses for Vavuniya, 350 houses for Mannar, 625 houses for Batticaloa, 400 houses for Trincomalee and 125 houses for Ampara would be constructed. These houses have a floor area of 550 sq.ft, two bed rooms, kitchen, living room and toilet with Calicut titles. The estimated cost was one million rupees.

in 2017, 48 model villages were built for the war displaced. The National Housing Development Authority will build 125 new model villages in the Northern Province reported the media in 2018.  The model villages will be located in Mannar, Vavuniya, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Similar programmes were being implemented in the Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee district in the Eastern Province too.

There was landlessness in the north. 15,639 people were registered as landless in the Jaffna district alone in 2018. Landlessness is an issue all over the North and east, but it is most marked in the Jaffna district where the population is high and State-owned land is scarce. Some are on temple land, others on private land.

in 2018, Yahapalana made a special arrangement to provide Rs. 400,000 to buy a land and Rs 800,000 to construct a house for each extended family living in welfare camps in Jaffna.  In the same year, Yahapalana announced that government land has been divided and allocated to 25 families at Keerimalai.

 Twenty five houses have already been constructed in these lands with the local funding and distributed among 25 families. the balance 300 families have now given their consent to resettle them in the alternative lands. Before that In 2016, title deeds to lands in Sidhambarapuram in Vavuniya were given to 190 families. Sidhamabarapuram was a camp that housed refugee families from Jaffna who had been temporary settled there in 1990.

In 2017 it was reported that after the war, there was a growing trend of families borrowing loans at high rates of interest, simply to survive. Loans are taken by mostly women to start a small business, buy a few cattle or chickens to earn an income for the family. Due to restrictions from state banks to get loans, micro finance companies, offering high interest loans have taken advantage of the situation. These micro-finance companies are thriving mostly in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

 These micro finance companies were charging as high as 300 per cent interest. this is in addition to a fine when repayments accumulate. micro finance company employees go to the homes of clients at night to collect the installment. they use abusive language. the borrowers are committing suicide, families have broken up from the social unrest arising out of the inability to repay loans said the northerners. These insensitive micro finance companies must be brought under control. they said. Residents urged that these finance companies should be banned from Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Jaffna. Pyramid-type businesses are also springing up in the north, they said.

 Sri Lanka’s Central Bank will evolve a programme to help the country’s war-affected communities tackle the mounting pressure of household debt, promised Yahapalana. Central Bank was considering a three-pronged strategy, a moratorium, increasing the maturity of the loans, and exploring how interest rates can be reduced,  thereafter, Yahapalana decided to write off the loans. About 75,000 women will benefit with the recent government decision to write off the non-consumption loans granted up to Rs. 100,000 by registered microfinance institutions.

The returnees needed employment. Yahapalana announced that 2018 budget had made provisions to help resettle former LTTE cadres, provide them with soft loans for businesses and provide help in livelihood opportunities. In 2019 Commissioner General of Rehabilitation stated that rehabilitated LTTE cadres were paid money in addition to the allowance paid during employment training, 

The media reported in 2019 that the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation has spent around Rs. 110,442,018 for the provision of equipment for the rehabilitees to begin their lives and engage in self-employment after being reintegrated into society. Further assistance has been given to the rehabilitated ex-combatants through the relevant district secretariats.

For self-employment, Rs. 12,982,262 had been paid out in 2018 with Jaffna being allocated Rs. 7,650,726, Killinochchi Rs. 1,000,000, Mullaitivu Rs. 900,000, Mannar Rs. 599,956. Vavuniya Rs. 2,131,580 and Trincomalee allocated Rs. 700,000. For the provision of agricultural equipment of Rs. 7,067,838 had been allocated, Rs. 6,850,000 allocated for the provision of livestock for the reintegrated persons to carry on their livelihood and Rs. 899,900 allocated for the supply of fishing gear for them.

The first hi-tech vocational training centre, in the north, spreading over 15 acres, was launched in 2019 at Ariya Nagar, Kilinochchi with German aid. equipment valued at Rs. 350 million was donated by the Stassen Group.

In 2017 Yahapalana spoke of micro enterprises for the north and east. Plans are afoot to establish 1,785 micro-enterprises in the Northern and Eastern Provinces under the Enterprise Based Village Development Project, said Yahapalana.

In that year Yahapalana announced that it proposed to establish micro-enterprises in 113 villages in the two provinces and the project will be supported by a concessionary micro-finance funding through the Regional Development Bank and SANASA. The total estimated cost is Rs.446 million. Each Micro enterprise will receive a maximum assistance of Rs.250, 000.  Twenty five percent of the estimated cost of each initiative will be supported through a matching grant while 75 percent will be under a loan agreement. The interest will also be backed by Government funds. The sectors were fisheries, livestock, self-employment, micro/small industries, handicrafts and services. One hundred and thirty two women-headed families were covered under the first phase of the programme. The total cost of the programme was Rs.14 million. 

There were other forms of assistance too.  A new seed paddy variety Swayanhatha” which can be grown without agro chemicals, insecticides or fertilizer was introduced to 64 selected farmers in Kilinochchi. The National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry provided 85 bicycles to the schoolchildren of Mulankavil Maha Vidyalayam and Nallur Maha Vidyalayam in Poonalari Divisional Secretariat to avoid dropouts and increase school attendance.

Various industrial projects were started in the north. Special attention was paid to thePalmyra industry. It was given a special allocation of Rs 100 million,   with the objective of increasing exports of Palmyra-based jaggery and other related sap products,   Yahapalana also took steps to revitalize and strengthen the Palmyra Development Cooperative Societies in the Northern Province  which had 7,500 members.

Members of the Palmyra Development Societies met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and asked for a toddy bottling plant to preserve the excess toddy and to cater to the market during the off-season.”   There are also  plans to set up a modern jaggery plant, a sweet toddy bottling facility, a toddy bottling plant, a sugar candy production facility, and jaggery centres in the Northern districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu. a Rs. 20 million project has been initiated for a Palmyra-based food processing centre in Kilinochchi district. the Palmyra Research Centre housed at Kaithadi would be given support. the north had lost four million Palmyra palms during the Eelam wars. the Board would replace them.

The second phase of Atchuvely Industrial Estate Development Project was implemented in 2018.  Yahapalana would invest Rs. 100 million for this project, reported the media. This would be the second industrial zone for the North East, 50 percent of the electricity costs of the industrialists would be reimbursed by the government. The money required for this has been set aside in the 2018 Budget.

Two coconut projects were   publicized.    There would be a Coconut rehabilitation programme where over 18500 acres of coconut land in north will be rehabilitated and 25400 new coconut lands created. Treasury will provide 650 million and balance 2650 million be will foreign investments. there would also be a coconut plantation promotion project, collaboration with the Giriulla Silvermill Group, the Coconut Development Board and the army.

Pelawatte dairy would invest Rs 1.5 billion in three fresh milk processing plants in North, there are several abandoned milk producing factories in the north east. He will turn them over and provide employment for 200 persons, said Pelawatte chairman. Hirdramani opened Rs 450 million factory in Puthukkudiyiruppu. A Sri Lanka company headed by an Indian was given the green light from the government to start a bamboo cultivation project in north in Vavuniya.  Buddhi batiks conducted a CSR project for war widows in Batticaloa and Vavuniya to design woven shawls.

NGOs were  active in the north.  Daham Pahana Foundation, started by Brother Charles Thomas,  has facilitated many projects to donate school items and bicycles in collaboration with the Jaffna Security Force Headquarters. Under this initiative, 300 scholarships were awarded to deserving students on May 10, 2018, and again in June this year, another 100 bicycles was donated. other NGOs gave water pumps.    The Oxonian Heart Foundation launched a campaign in Colombo to raise funds for heart surgery in northern and north central provinces.  Patients are sent to Kandy and Colombo at present for the operations.

Appé Lanka is a   project to uplift the people of Poonakary, a village in Kilinochchi .Its 20,000 residents, have been severely affected by the civil war and are still struggling to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives.” They are struggling to rebuild their lives after the devastation and anguish that they were subject to when living in the midst of a combat zone,” said Appe Lanka.

Appé Lanka, which operates under the banner of Awakening Lanka, was founded by Shaan Corea in 2015. the project is further supported by a network of partners which includes Michael Ondaatje(Patron), Sampath Bank, Murad Ismail, D.L & F. De Saram and Olivia Bonnal Sansoni.  Three private schools run by the Church of Sri Lanka, (Anglican Church)    joined as the school partners.  They are Bishops College, S. Thomas’ College and Ladies’ College     The project is endorsed by the Sri Lankan Government’s Ministry of Rehabilitation and Resettlement

Appé Lanka has completed a pilot project that has provided solar home systems to 28 homes. It has donated bicycles for the children to travel to school.   all schools within Poonakary were equipped with safe usable water through a water purification project. it has also raised funds to donate 38 computers to 23 village schools. Next they plan to provide water for all 19 Grama Niladhari divisions in Poonakary. (continued)

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