SLA interferes, sabotages civil group’s public awareness event

Sri Lanka Army (SLA) had interfered and had stopped Mannaar Government officials from attending an event organized by the Mannaar Citizen’s Committee (MCC) to bring awareness of the laws and regulations governing ownership and transfer of lands, the President of MCC, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Sebamalei, said in a media release issued during the second week of June. The agenda for the first two days of the event held for the NGOs was carried out without any difficulty, the organizers said, but that they had protested to the attendance of an SLA Intelligence officer during the first day of the seminar. Consequently, the organizers believe, the SLA took action to disrupt the event aimed at the Government officials, the memorandum said.

PDF: MCC memorandum on SLA interference

"We have observed discrimination in handling of state and private land matters in the Mannar district (and more broadly in Sri Lanka) and thought some awareness is necessary for the ordinary people and NGOs, especially those involved in dealing with housing matters under various housing schemes," MCC’s memorandum said.

The memo further said, "The Army as well as the Navy has arbitrarily occupied land without any land related laws and administrative procedures being followed in the Northern Province for number of years. In the last few months this has become very critical and controversial, with the Army trying to occupy more land and local people, politicians, clergy, civil activists protesting and thousands of people filing court cases against the military and the government."

"In view of this, the MCC organized an awareness program about laws related to land, through the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) based in Colombo," the memorandum said.

The MCC cautioned that "unlawful intrusions by the military into the activities of government officials, as well as the civil society, will continue," if the army officials who sabotaged the event are not identified and held accountable for their actions.

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