The livelihood of people, the economy, infrastructure, resettlement and land re-acquisition were aspects that demanded attention after the end of the war in 2009 in Sri Lanka. However, it is concerning that there is no adequate progress in these areas even after 11 years after the war. Amongst many unresolved issues are the countless efforts of the public to restore land ownership seized by the security forces during the period of war.
It is noteworthy that people from 109 families have been engaging in a series of struggles to re-acquire 36 acres of land where the current Chilaw naval base is located. However, a naval spokesman declared that 12 families that lost lands were provided with 20 perches each from government-owned lands and that four of them were provided with houses by the government and that there was no plan to remove the Chilaw naval base.
The people who migrated from Silavathurai in the 1990s’ are fighting for their native lands and we were able to obtain information through the Right to Information Act (MU / DS / RTI / 2019) regarding the establishment of a naval camp in the 36 acres (The area of the land is based on information provided by the people of Silavathurai) of land owned by the villagers of Silavathurai under the Musalib Divisional Secretariat. At present, 6 acres and 88 perches out of 34 acres and 88 perches (Based on the information provided by the Musali Divisional Secretariat) of the population have been reported as released. 223 families are affected by the non-release of 36 acres of land and 223 families were granted land deeds. The affected families have resettled in the new resettlement scheme number 56 and 96 housing schemes in Silavathurai.
According to 2019 statistics, there are 2354 family members belonging to 651 families in the area. The landowners have not been duly notified of the setting up of a naval base in the land owned by the villagers of Silavathurai. As various attempts were made to reclaim the land, a letter was sent to the Secretary to the President requesting to remove the Naval Camp on 13.03.2019 as per a discussion held on 06.03.2019 under the chairmanship of the then Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.
In 1990, Muslims were expelled from the North and about 220 families living in Silavathurai during this period moved out and settled elsewhere. Attempts were made on resettlement in August 2009 after the end of the war.
Although 220 families were reported to be displaced, 625 families had returned to their native land. However, the naval base was set up in 34 acres of land which originally belonged to these people. The land reclamation struggle that began since then continues to this day without any progress. Even though 6 acres of land has now been released as promised by the former Prime Minister, it is almost impossible for all families to share the allocated land.
A total of 34 acres of land have been acquired by the Navy and 6 acres of land were released for public use later. 26 acres of land remained after two acres were allotted for roads. Out of these 26 acres of land, 35 individuals have an annual permit, 18 individuals have an LDO (under the Land Development Ordinance), four persons have a grant (donation), 13 have a deed and 12 have used the land illegally as their own. Meanwhile, during the inquiry at Vavuniya Human Rights Commission, Silavathurai naval camp in-charge has stated that the land acquired by the Navy in Silvathurai will not be released due to the national security concerns and that steps have been taken to acquire them.
As the issue gets intense, as now the question is about navy and naval bases stationed in the Northern Province and the lands of the families that used to inherit the said sites. Thus, the details of the Marines stationed in the Northern Province during the period of 2015-2018 as per the information obtained from the Sri Lanka Navy Headquarters under the Right to Information Act (DNA / ADM / 10 (SD) III) is shown in the Table 01 given below. Meanwhile, eight naval bases are reported as located in the Northern Province. SLNS Elara, SLNS Kanchadeva, SLNS Velusumana, SLNS Uttar, SLNS Agbo, SLNS Gotaimbara and SLNS Vasabha, are the naval bases located at Vetrilaikeni.
The income generated by the Navy in the Northern Province is as follows. The profit earned at the Port Hemanhill Resort in 2015 was Rs. 13,493,066.14 in January 2015, the profit earned at the Tambakolapattuna resort was Rs. 9,751,151.84. Since its inception in January 2016, the resort has been operating in connection with the welfare of the Marines with a view to making a profit.
The details of the salaries paid to the Marines serving in the Northern Province during the period of 2015 – 2018 is in the table below;
|Year||Amount spent on salary and bonuses|
The reasons for the immediate evacuation of troops stationed in the Northern Province were the original ownership of the lands by the people. However, one should not forget the various developmental projects that are carried out in the Marines stationed in the Northern Province. According to the information obtained through the Right to Information Act, 52 developmental projects have been carried out in the Northern Province.
Some of these developmental activities are:
- Construction of a Teaching Center and a Tower at Nainathivu Temple.
- Establishment of St. Anthony’s Church, Kachchadivu.
- Construction of Jetty at Eluvaitivu, Jaffna.
- Establishment of Water purifying Plant 2 for the University.
- Construction of a water tank for the Kirimalai area.
- Construction of a latrine for pilgrims at Kachchadi.
- Construction of Delf Jetty Phase I.
- Construction of a waterway at Kayts Jetty.
- Establishment of a water purifying plant for the Jaffna police station.
- Reconstruction of a water purifying plant for Eluvaitivu.
- Installation and building of Water Purification Drainage.
- Construction of Nainathivu Urani Fishing Port, Delp Jetty Preparation Phase II.
- Construction of a Water Purification Drainage.
- Construction of Jaffna Hospital and aPastoral Home at Jaffna.
- Fencing around the Auxiliary Father’s house near the diocese in Jaffna.
- Construction of a building for the Allapitiya Children’s School.
- Construction of a basketball court for the Velanai Central High School.
- Renovation of the tower of St. Philips Mary’s Church in Allapitiya.
- Construction of the “Nila Sevana ” on the west side of the Punguduthivu.
- Construction of Gramashakthi Building at Narandana.
- Construction of a PreSchool at Mandaithivu West.
- Construction of Primary Health Center.
- Construction of a new building at the Sivanoli Primary School at Vadamarachchi.
- Construction of a building at West of Nagarkovil.
- Construction of latrines and bathrooms for men and women in the Delft area.
- Providing employment opportunities to 36 Tamil women living there through the Naval Tailoring Center on Delft Island and thereby providing direct assistance to uplift their livelihoods.
- Obtaining up to 2000 liters of purified drinking water at the Sri Lanka Naval Shipyard for the islanders who are affected by the restriction of drinking water in this area.
- Planting 3000 marine plants near Mandaithivu.
- Various activities such as renovating the playground of Mandaithivu Maha Vidyalaya and constructing a preschool in Mandaithivu GS Division are also carried out.
Thus it cannot be denied that various development and reconciliation projects have been undertaken by the navy stationed in the Northern Province. At the same time, it is evident that several people in these areas have become homeless due to the establishment of the naval camps in their native lands . The land acquisition that has not been carried out expediting the resettlement process has caused this issue. Therefore, the government along with the Ministry of Defense should pay immediate attention to this issue and provide relief to the affected people.