Tamils foil Sri Lanka navy bid to legalise military occupation

Residents of a Tamil fishing village in the north of Sri Lanka have managed to block an attempt to legalise the military occupation of a privately owned strip of land.

On Thursday, surveyors armed with a notice served by the local authorities tried to demarcate the land in Mathagal, Jaffna taken over by the navy for a coastal observation point, only to meet with strong opposition by the villagers.

The notice signed by Sandilipai Divisional Secretary U Yasotha said the minister for land and land development had directed the acquisition of the land by the sea.

The visit coincided with the inauguration of the new parliament session where the president in his policy statement declared that no one will be taken off the land that provides them livelihood.

“I assure you that without a proper alternative we will not evict people from their ancestral homes or farmlands,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa told lawmakers. Navy blocks access

Selvathurai Navaratnam, the fisherman whose land was taken over in Mathagal told journalists that the occupying navy had blocked access to sea, making it impossible to launch his boats.

He was joined by villagers who strongly objected government surveyors attempting to legally establish boundaries of the navy occupied land.

Police officers who visited the scene was told by fisherman Navaratnam that he is not prepared to hand over his land to the navy.

When instructed by a senior police officer to discuss the matter with naval offices, the fisherman’s lawyer said that they will be only expressing their strong objection to taking over the private land.

“There are so many state lands here and if the navy or the government wants, they can acquire state land,” said Attorney at Law Kanagaratnam Sugash.

Met with heavy opposition, police instructed Selvathurai Navaratnam to provide his objection in writing so that it can be delivered to officials.

After complying with the request Navaratnam told journalists that appeals made to various state authorities as well as the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission during the last eight years have failed to deliver justice.

A large number of intelligence officers in civvies were at the scene while sailors in uniform filmed protestors and journalists.



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.