Sri Lanka army refuse to vacate historical fortress in Tamil area (VIDEO)

By Athula Vithanage

The Sri Lanka military chief vowed to continue with the occupation of a threatened historical fortress in a majority Tamil area despite protests.

Adamantly rejecting calls to vacate the seventeenth century fortress built on the seafront in northern Jaffna, the army commander claimed that the 22 hectare site “belongs to the military”.


Local civil society organisations have led protests urging the armed forces to leave the premises as well as the heavily militarised north.

“The army had been here for many generations,” Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake visiting troops stationed in the fortress told journalists in Jaffna.

“When you say it is a fortress, it very simply means that the fortress belongs to the military. Nobody else.”

He said the army have been occupying the fort “long back”.

Damaged structures

Like every other historical site in Sri Lanka, the Jaffna fort comes under the care of the archaeological department.

Archeologists have detected sections of its ramparts and most of the structures badly damaged as a result of the civil war.

Built by the Portuguese colonisers in 1618,  it had been later expanded and remodeled as a pentagon shaped fort by the Dutch, who captured it in 1658.

Sri Lankan archeologists who conducted excavations with international experts in mid-2017 have found medieval Islamic and Chinese ceramics.

“These artefacts hint at the antiquity and depth of cultural occupation within Jaffna Fort as well as its pre-colonial role within South Asia and Indian Ocean trade networks,” they said.

The excavations were carried out by archaeologists from the Central Cultural Fund (Government of Sri Lanka) led by Professor Asela Gunawardhana, University of Jaffna led by Professor Pushparasa Pushparatnam, and a team from Durham university’s UNESCO Chair led by Professor Robin Conningham.☐




Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.