Fisherman Sundaram Somaradam and his family have been violently expelled from their own land. They returned to their homes in spring but their future remains uncertain.
“We have simply reclaimed our land,” says the fisherman Sundaram Somaradam. In March last year he returned and began clearing the land and weeding. “I’m going fishing in the lagoon again,” says Sundaram Somaradam. In addition, he adds with certainty, “I will remain to my land even if they kill me.” Sundaram Somaradam and his wife Sindathambi Suthukuma are from Raagamwela, in the region of Paanama on the east coast of Sri Lanka. The couple, both over 60 years old, have five children. Before their expulsion, the family lived from fishing and cultivating peanuts, cashew, ginger, cassava and coconuts which they planted on their land. But when Sundaram Somaradam visited the local authorities in 2009 to solve an administrative problem, he was deprived of the documents proving his land ownership. “I wasn’t told why,” Sundaram Somaradam said. Shortly afterwards, a fire broke out in the authorities’ building where the documents were kept.
Hit with iron bars, he runs away and loses all his belongings
It got even worse: on July 17th 2010, masked men invaded the family’s land, hit Sundaram Somaradam with iron bars and set fire to his house. He was able to run away, but he was admitted to hospital with serious injuries. The family filed charges against the unknown assailants, but the police did not initiate an investigation and the land was taken under the control of the military. The family lost everything: all their property and their livelihoods as fishers and farmers. Sundaram Somaradam had to live with his daughter in Paanama Town. Last year, two courts and a cabinet decision assured the former villagers from Raagamwela that the land belonged to them and that the military had to leave the occupied land, with the exception of a small section. However, even though Sundaram Somaradam and his wife have returned, their future remains uncertain.