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Uprooted Champoor Tamils in Trincomalee: ‘Tell the world our story’

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 6 May 2014 08:09 No Comment]

The occupying military of genocidal Sri Lanka and its Colombo-centric investment board are jointly opposing the resettlement of Champoor people and even the name of the village has been officially deleted. The area constitutes more than 9,000 acres. But, the SL government has appropriated, through Gazette notifications, only 1,458 acres including the 500 acres that has been demarcated for the construction of a coal power plant. However, the occupying SL Navy is not allowing the people to resettle. The main problem is the policy of genocidal militarisation, the people say. The real problem of Champoor people in Moothoor East in Trincomalee district has not reached the outside world, the uprooted people and their representatives told TamilNet after they marked 9th year of their uprooted life with a prayer for resettlement at Paththirakaa’li-amman temple in Champoor on 26 April 2014.

The so-called High Security Zone, where people are barred from resettlement, consists of 4 entire wards and 50% of two wards, belonging to more than 600 families.

The militarisation is the main problem, says Tamil National Alliance councillor of the Eastern Provincial Council Mr Kumarasamy Nakeswaran.

The people from Champoor are firm in their stand that they should be allowed to resettle in their own land. Even if the SL military wants to stay, it could allow the resettlement as there is plenty of space, the TNA councillor said.

The SL government has stopped dry ration supplies from 2011. During the second round of Geneva resolution last year, 321 families were allowed to resettle in nearby Kooniththeevu and Navaratnapuram. But, they too are not provided access to their agricultural lands.

However, Champoor people were given hope that they would be able to resettle at least in 2014. But, all such hopes were dashed as the SL investment board and the SL military have jointly decided not to allow any resettlement further, blocking the 9,000 acres of lands for militarisation and Colombo’s corporate exploitation that accompanies the militarisation and future colonisation of the strategic Tamil lands.

Now, they have become refugees in their own division without even the recognition of their village in official records. The village officer (GS) has been removed.

TamilNet contacted the ‘uprooted refugees’ themselves to tell their story to the outside world.

Following are extracts of the story told by the people themselves:

Following an aerial attack on 2006 April 26, the people of Champoor were displaced to nearby Paaddaa’lipuram, Veera-maa-nakar, Nalloor and Uppoo’ral villages that were under the control of the LTTE, after seeking refuge in the nearby jungle for one night. The people didn’t take with them any of their belongings.

After a few days, the shelling by SL military also targeted Paaddaa’li-puram and the Champoor people were displaced again along with the people of Paaddaa’li-puram and moved towards Eachchilam-pattai, Verukal and Maavadich-cheanai under LTTE defence.

As the shelling continued to chase the people, they chose to cross over the Verukal river into Batticaloa district and reached Vaakarai, Kathira-ve’li and Panichchang-kea’ni. As the situation also worsened with SL military targeting LTTE administered Vaakarai region, where some of the Champoor people were killed and wounded, they had to flee towards SL military controlled suburbs of Batticaloa city.

Later, they were moved to temporary shelters put up at play grounds by the non-governmental organisations. An organisation named World Watch was providing dry rations.

After 3 years of continued displacement, the SL government agents of Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts were instructed by the Colombo government to move the people back to Trincomalee district. The GAs promised resettlement in their own villages, but only some of them were allowed to resettle in their own villages, Pa’l’lik-kudiyiruppu, Kaddai-pa’richchan, Cheanaiyoor, Ki’li-veddi and Meankaamam in Trincomalee district.

The remaining people from Champoor, Koonith-theevu, Kadat-karaich-cheanai, Choodaik-kudaa and Navratna-puram, were sent to four so-called welfare camps at Kaddai-pa’richchaan, Ki’liveddi, Ma’nat-cheanai and Paddith-thidal.

Some NGOs like World Watch and IOM were providing assistance. But, the assistance, except that from the World Watch, ended after some time. Finally, the Sri Lankan government also managed to stop the dry rations coming from World Watch in December 2011. The people are struggling without livelihood. Despite their repeated appeal to the SL Government Agent of Trincomalee and other divisional secretariat officials, there has been no action from them to resume the supplies of dry rations.

“Later, we received a message from Moothoor divisional secretariat that we would be resettled. But, there is consistent threat and intimidation to settle us at some jungle localities away from our native places. All these alternative places are not suitable for human life,” an uprooted person told TamilNet.

“There is no potable water or agricultural lands. The soil is not suitable to cultivate anything. There are no communication routes. The area is rocky and the low-lying land is not fit for the resumption of our livelihood,” the uprooted Eezham Tamil further said adding that the miseries of uprooted life will haunt them forever if they agreed to settle at these localities suggested by the Colombo government and its occupying military.

The people stay firm in demanding resettlement at their own village of Champoor. After some time, resettlement was allowed to some extent at Navaratna-puram, Choodaik-kudaa and Kadatkarai-cheanai. But, Champoor people have been totally abandoned. Foreign officials came and witnessed their plight. But, there was no sign of change, the uprooted people say.

“Three months ago, a group of our people numbering around 45 were promised resettlement back at Champoor and were taken in buses to Naavaladi-junction, not Champoor. The people were told to resettle at Malaiyunthal at Paaddaa’li-puram, but we refused as we would end up as permanent refugees there,” the uprooted Tamil man from Champoor said. After quarrelling with the SL military, they went back to the so-called welfare camp.

“On our way back to the camp, the Government Agent of Trincomalee met us and warned us that there would be no further ‘resettlement’ offer,” he further said.

“After two weeks, the Tamil village officer (GS) of Champoor lost his job. Now we have to approach the GS officers of other villages. They also tell us that the Sri Lankan government has deleted Champoor from their records of civil administration,” he said.

“We had no option other than getting together in front of Kaa’li temple of Champoor on 26 April this year to conduct a prayer uniting the people of Champoor to mark the 9th year of displacement. We invited the divisional secretary of Moothoor, but he didn’t come,” he said.

“We have no other choice than appealing to the God to give back our village that has been taken over by the outsiders. There is no one else to hear our pleadings.”

“Now we have received a new label, refugees. We have become refugees in our own place. We have even created a school of our own to educate our children among us. But, there is no official teacher. There is nobody to give us even furniture such as tables and chairs,” he said.

“We had to plead with the SL government, first to save our lives and then for food. Now we are pleading with the government to at least provide education to our children,” the uprooted ‘refugee’ told TamilNet.

“We are now forced to educate our children as we were doing 2000 years ago, on the floor without any facilities.

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