The occupying Sri Lanka Navy on Friday chased out at gunpoint 70 Eezham Tamil Catholics, who had resettled in the lands of the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Kurusup-paadu in Peasaalai, Mannaar. The Tamil families had resettled three weeks ago in the housing scheme area of 50 houses established by the the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), where they were living since 2004 till they were uprooted in entirety in 2007. The Church of Our Lady of Victory is one of the largest Catholic churches in the island. Peasaalai is a large village, situated in the North-West of the island of Mannaar, with a population of 8,000 Eezham Tamils and 90% of the population are Catholic fisher folk while the remaining are Hindu and Muslim fisher folk. The Sri Lankan military is alleged of scheming Sinhalicisation of Thalaimannaar Pier, which is the closest point in Mannaar to the coast of Tamil Nadu in India.
The resettled civilians were chased out at gun point during the night. The SLN even didn’t allow them time to take their belongings, the displaced civilians say.
First, the SL Navy stopped and harassed a family man from one of the resettled families while he was on his way to the settlement after purchasing groceries. The SLN told him that he and others had resettled without permission from the SLN.
Following his phone call to his family, people from the settlement rushed to the spot to secure his release. They pleaded with the SLN to allow them to live in their own houses at the 50-houses-scheme situated on the land of the Church.
Then the SLN personnel started verbally abusing the civilians and instructed them at gunpoint to leave the settlement. Around seven armed SLN personnel entered the settlement and chased away the resettled families.
The families who had returned to their houses had just restarted their fishing once again.
The offending SLN personnel had told the civilians that they needed to have permission from the SL Defence Ministry to resettle in their own houses.
The affected families immediately made representation to the Mannaar Bishop Rt.Rev.Rayappu Joseph and Mannaar District Government Agent about their plight. Mannaar Bishop promptly sent his Vicar General Victor Soosai and other priests to the site to ensure security to them.
On 17th June, 2006, the Sri Lanka Navy, in one of its brutal attacks on the village, shot at least four innocent Tamil civilians through their mouths and lobbed grenade on the civilians who had taken refuge at the church, killing a woman and injuring 44. Six civilians, one of them a Muslim, were killed by the SLN that day.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Mannaar has also been harassed and threatened by Rishard Badurdeen, a minister from the ruling SLFP of the SL president Mahinda Rajapaksa and by the intelligence establishment of the SL Defence Ministry.
In Mannaar district, Ko’ndachchi-Chilaavaththu’rai, Thalaimannaar Pier and Madu have been particularly targeted for Sinhala-Buddhist colonies by the genocidal government in Colombo.
Recently, expanding its presence, the SL military has also begun to construct large cantonments in several other localities of Mannaar district.
The Sinhala army, occupying the famous archaeological site Maanthai in Mannaar, where the sacred Tamil-Saiva temple Thirukkeatheesvaram is located, has brought in a Buddhist priest who is building a Buddhist temple at a forcefully confiscated private land, just 200 metres away from the Saiva temple. Although the construction of the Stupa has been put off following protests, the Buddha statue has not been removed and the extremist monk is still appealing for the continuation of the project, backed by the SL Defence ministry, civil activists in Mannaar say.