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Fonseka promises to return lands to Tamils

[Express Buzz, Monday, 4 January 2010 19:22 No Comment]

The opposition Presidential candidate, Gen.Sarath Fonseka, has told the Tamils of Jaffna that he will give back lands and buildings which the army had taken from them, when the areas in which they were located were designated as High Security Zones (HSZ).

He was speaking at a public meeting in Jaffna on Saturday.

According to the Weekly Virakesari a third of the land area in the Jaffna peninsula had been converted in HSZs in the last thirty years. But the Tamilnet website puts it at 26 percent. The one and only airport in the peninsula is also in the Palaly HSZ.

About 30, 338 families had been evicted as a result of these areas being designated as HSZ. Among the affected are 16,027 farming families and also 4,436 fisher families living on 81 kilometers of coastline.

As a result of the designation, 47 schools and 246 places of worship had to be closed.

According to R.Sampanthan, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP for Trincomalee district in the eastern province,  4249 Tamil families with 15,648 members were displaced when the Sampur  area was declared an HSZ in 2007.

Nineteen schools with approximately 6000 students  had to be closed. Eighteen temples and a Methodist Church were also shut. Sampur is known to be a major agricultural and fishing area, but it has become desolate now.

Fonseka had a different take on the HSZ when he was Security Forces commander in Jaffna during the 2002-2004 peace process. At that time, when he was  asked by journalists if he would dismantle the HSZ  to allow the original inhabitants to get back, he said that such a step would only result in the area being taken over by the LTTE.

“The LTTE is planning to settle 4,000 Maaveerar families there, and not the original civilians,” he said.

The Maaveerar families are families of the LTTE’s dead cadre.

However, now that he wants the Tamils’ vote, Fonseka, the politician, has promised to dismantle the HSZs.

He further told the Jaffna audience that he would also make Palaly airport an international airport.

The retired Army Commander said that he would lift curfews and Emergency Regulations and give amnesty to LTTE cadre except those who had cases against them. In the latter case too, he would see that the legal procedures were speeded up.

[Full Coverage]

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