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Thousands of vehicles unclaimed in North Lanka

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 13:58 No Comment]

The land opposite the public playground in Kilinochchi, the former capital of the LTTE in north Sri Lanka, is now a dumping ground for over 17,000 civilian vehicles which government troops had recovered from the war zone last year.

At the last count, there were 6,250 motobikes, 11,000 bicycles and 45 other vehicles parked there.  

Though it is a year since the war ended, most of the vehicles are yet to be reclaimed by their owners.Many of them are dead. Most of those who are alive, have no documents now to prove ownership.    

These were lost or abandoned in the desperate rush to quit the area in the closing days of the war, when the LTTE had suddenly loosened its grip on the 280,000 civilians it had held hostage, and the Sri Lankan army was poised to deliver its knockout blow.  

Braving deadly crossfire, the frightened civilians had treked to the army’s line, with little other than the clothes they were wearing.  Most of the 50,000 families in the battle zone had to abandon their gold jewellery and property documents to make the most of the fast dwindling opportunity to get out of the LTTE’s tentacles and save their lives.

But now that about 210,000 refugees have returned to their native villages, and are trying to restart their livelihoods, thousands of them flock to the Kilinochchi grounds daily, to see if their motobikes, bicycles, vans or tractors are there, and if so, if they are in a usable condition.

But most go back disappointed. They either cannot locate their vehicles, or if they do, they do not have the documents to claim them. According to the Tamil daily Virakesari some refugees show pictures of their vehicles in the hope that the authrorities would accept them as valid identification.

“If a person shows his vehicle registration papers or any other acceptable document, we will hand over the vehicle,” the Government Agent of Kilinochchi, Rupavathi Ketheewaran, told Express on Tuesday.

Government has apparently made up its mind to overlook the fact that in most cases, the vehicles would have been registered by the LTTE’s Tamil Eelam Transport Department, with number plates carrying the letters “TE”.

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