The Sri Lanka Navy, which didn’t have a camp even during the height of the war at the coastal village of Paanama, situated in the southernmost Lahugala division of the Ampaa’rai district, is now at full swing constructing a large naval base at an area of 800 acres of lands, which it had appropriated from both the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The SL military is appropriating more lands in the division to be handed over to politically influential personalities, alleges Rasiah Chandrasena, the chairman of Lahugala Divisional Council (Piratheasa Chapai).
The construction work by the SL Navy, in the environs of the Paanama tank which is crucial for the livelihood of the people, has not only deprived the people of their livelihood, but has also caused environmental catastrophe in the region, according to him.
Paanama is a coastal village on the edge of the Yala-Kumana Wildlife Reserve. The region, with tourist attractions such as Arukam Bay, has always attracted the interest of the Western agencies.
Following the December 2004 Tsunami, the USAID was keen in developing the area, which was marooned by the catastrophe.
Tamils have been living in the area for ages, but have become a numerical minority constituting only 20% of the population. The remaining 80% are Sinhalese, many of who have their ancestors in the southern provinces.
Also in Kaaraitheevu DS division, north in the Ampaa’rai district, the SL Navy has appropriated two acres of lands belonging to Tamils in Ward 03, situated along the coast.
The lands at Ward 03 were first appropriated from Tamils following the 2004 Tsunami catastrophe. The SL government didn’t allow Tamils to resettle there as a portion of the coastal area came under the 200-meter buffer zone. Later, the SL Navy has taken these lands.
The SL authorities have also sought legal transfer of the land to the SLN at the land commission at district level, news sources in Ampaa’rai said.
Civil sources question how the SL government was allowing the SL Navy to set up a camp in the prohibited buffer zone, while disallowing the villagers to resettle there.