05. March 2018
Vanni/Sri Lanka: military land occupations threaten traditional livelihoods in local communities
Nine years after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, the military is making it difficult for Tamil communities in the Vanni to return to a sustainable everyday life: this is the conclusion of a new report launched today by the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) in Mullaitivu. These organizations call on the military to provide local communities with unrestricted access to land and water, return occupied land back to the people and withdraw from its economic activities.
In their new report “The Vanni: Civilian Land under Military Occupation”, the STP and the NAFSO have investigated the negative social, economic and political impacts of military land occupations on the community. Although the war ended nine years ago, the military in the Northern Province still occupies vast stretches of land and is using it for economic purposes, among other things, with serious consequences. Countless people are still unable to return to their ancestral land, while many have lost their traditional livelihood as farmers or fishers. For many people in the Vanni, direct access to land and water was an essential requirement for a self-determined life without hunger. Restricting this access usually results in the impoverishment of affected families.
Continuous protests by affected communities
Many displaced persons continue to live in rented accommodation or with relatives or friends. Others have been relocated without their consent to areas where agriculture and fishing are near impossible, meaning they have to work as unskilled day labourers. In 2017, some local communities raised awareness of the injustices behind these land dispossessions through protests lasting several months. In certain places, the protests were successful and occupied land was returned. However, the inhabitants came back to completely destroyed infrastructure and often, in rural areas, a lack sufficient water for agriculture. Despite numerous promises from the authorities, many people are still waiting for the release of their land and, in two places, protests continue to this day.
The STP and the NAFSO therefore urge the Government of Sri Lanka:
- to demilitarize the Vanni by reducing the military presence and ordering the cessation of all commercial activities
- to ensure land rights for all displaced people by releasing all occupied areas to the public and resettle all displaced families on their traditional land
- to ensure unrestricted access to land and water for local Tamil communities in the Vanni.