A team of civil officials and affected Tamil farmers, who went to witness illegal encroachment of pasturelands were blocked and sent back by the occupying Sri Lankan military in Koara’laip-pattu South and Ma’nmunai West divisions last week, news reports in Batticaloa said. The SL police was accompanying the visiting officials when the team was blocked by the SL military.
On 23 September, a meeting was organized following complaints of systematic harassment by occupying SL military and its paramilitary known as ‘Home Guards’ seizing the pasturelands of Tamil farmers.
The affected Tamil farmers met the SL Government Agent of Batticaloa District, Eastern Provincial Council members, divisional secretaries, SL police and military officials and explained how their pasturlands were being occupied. The arliamentarians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from Batticaloa were present at the meeting which was held at the Koara’laip-pattu South Divisional Secretariat.
A decision was made at the meeting to send a team of civil officials with police protection to inspect the occupation of the lands.
However, on 25 September, the Sri Lankan soldiers at Periya Maathavan blocked the officials who were visiting the area for inspection.
The Sri Lankan military has been occupying a number of pasturelands in five DS divisions, Poaratheevup-pattu, Paddip-pazhai, Vavu’na-theevu, Ea’raavoor-pattu and Koa’ralaip-pattu South.
30,000 acres of lands had been allocated as pasture lands for the benefit of 250,000 livestock in Batticaloa district. In practice, the Tamil farmers were using 50,000 for several years. But, in recent years, the Sri Lankan government has restricted the area to 30,00 acres. In addition to this official ‘reduction’, the SL military has seized several acres of the lands within the allocated 30,000 acres, distributing these lands to the families of Sinhala ‘home guards’.