Friday, October 13, 2017

People’s Alliance for Land Rights was Established in Jaffna

 A meeting among the leaders and representatives of the different causes and people in Jaffna was held on 29th Sept. to discuss the following steps in land issues. During this meeting, it was mentioned that, to some extent, this bureaucracy fight is “worse than the war on the people of this area”.
It was also recognized that everyone has their own agenda, but that they all work for the people, which should be the common base from which they build a bigger organization to put more pressure on government authorities. While most organizations do not like to discuss land issues, the people who reunited for this meeting all work towards resettlement and land rights.
Multiple districts have already created umbrella organizations that allow the smaller organizations to not only work on their regional goals but also to achieve more on the district level. Striving for a strong alliance would allow the people to be spoken for, and help the cause gain more national and international attention. No politician advocates for the fisher folks and their communities, hence the need of a united group to build a stronger case.

One of the problems on the rise is the lease of harbours to private companies by the government. There does already exist plans for the government to lease harbours on the southern coast to private companies for as long as 30 years. There has been no information as to what would happen to the already existing fishing businesses, nor what kind of quotas would be imposed on them.

While this issue is currently concentrated in the south, it will surely come to the northern coast, where the army is already occupying one of the biggest harbours. It is quite concerning, as the people benefitting from such deals will most likely not be the fisher folks and their families. Similar to the sugar cane business, the companies will aim for revenue and production rather than encourage small-scale fisheries.

These leasing plans are part of a bigger proposition the government is pushing forward, which is the building of megacities. These megacities would require for the federal government to grab lands and resources to build roads and other infrastructure. The representatives of the government will come see the groups advocating for land rights and try to convince them that building megacities are good for the country. They will act baffled when groups refuse to give up their fight because they consider land grabbing in the name of development to be for the greater good.

But is it really? For a long time now, people have been contradicting the government’s official numbers about money invested in resettlement and people resettled. Furthermore, people who have been moved for development purposes mention that they do not receive proper compensation for their troubles. If you ask government officers, they will say that a lot has been done towards the resettlement of displaced peoples in 2016-2017. However, people on the field didn’t notice any significant changes. This issue worries the civilians that there might be more corruption than they first believed.

The Act for Freedom of Information now allows citizens to fill a form requesting data such as the amount of money invested in resettlement projects, the number of homes built, etc. NAFSO encourages its partners to fill such forms and challenge government officers who are reluctant to give them the information. In the event of a refusal to answer the questions asked on the form, it is possible to fill one and send it directly to authorities in Colombo.

First intervention
·       In the North, people receive 750 000 LKR to build a home. In Colombo, there were incidents where people had to compensate for their homes, and they received 3 million LKR. Why is the treatment different? It should be the same for all.
·       Military camps and police stations are being built in bulk, even now that the war is over. In one area, the police simply started to occupy the locals of a school. They built a fence around their new quarters, and the well for the school to get water is within the fence. As a result, the children do not have water at school. Why is that allowed?
Second intervention
·       Fishing communities are being pushed away from harbours occupied by the military.
·       A lot of people are still in camps, and the authorities say that they will get their land back, but that the process will take a while. Little to no information is given as to why the process takes so long.
Third intervention
·       The traditional area where the people are from has been labelled as a Wild Life Sanctuary, meaning that police and Wild Life officers constantly harass the landowners. The government wants to make that area a park, most likely to increase tourism. For this purpose, they had planned to use 600 acres of land. However, they have since requisitioned about 48 000 acres of land. The people are trying to argue that their presence will not affect wildlife, as coexistence was already established amongst the species.
·       Furthermore, the fishers do not have access to the beach, which keeps them from fishing. They want to protect wildlife and do not believe the government’s park will sufficiently do so. They just want to be able to rebuild their lives.
This outrage amongst the representatives led to the creation of an alliance, called the People’s Alliance for Land Rights (PALR) of Jaffna. Strength is in numbers, and an alliance may very well have more impact than dozens of groups working incoherently.
One of the phenomena that were witnessed is that people rarely acknowledge that the government has started the process of resettlement. Hence, the tensions remain high, as most will believe the government is refusing to release all land, which is misleading. Additionally, it has become obvious that the departure of the numerous NGOs that were initially doing field work has badly affected the camps and the people within them.

NAFSO’s next Workshop of Land Rights will be held in Jaffna on October 14th and 15th, 2017. The team encourages people to attend both days, as the first day a course on Land Rights is presented and, on the second day, lawyers will be available on site to discuss next steps.

Jaffna IDPs still waiting for Their original Lands

NAFSO team from Negombo together with the guidance and representation from Jaffna District Fisheries Solidarity visited four Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) Camps. 
Camp visits, September 28th
The four camps we visited were first used in 1990, meaning these people have been there for 27 years. All IDPs in four camps occupies in private lands.  According to the law in Sri Lanka, when someone occupies a private land continuously for more than 10 years, they can go to court asking legal right for the ownership and own the land. However, going to court would make their fight to get their land back useless as they could lose their original lands as a result of having a new (small) land plot. Meanwhile, the occupiers of the land are not allowed to build any permanent buildings on site.
Camp One -   Puliyadi
The first camp we visited initially had around 60 families in it. However, only 12 are left. The people remaining would very much like to be resettled at home, but they would accept a land that is similar to theirs. Their traditional occupation is agriculture; therefore a land that resembles theirs would allow them to start working again.
The official owner, who lives in Europe, is trying to have them leave the land. As aforementioned, the people who occupy the land could head to court in order to officially own it. The problem is, if they do that, the government will not give them their land back, making their fight useless. If the original owner decided to create an alliance with the people of the land, perhaps it would pressure the government to hurry in the resettlement.
Additionally, they have recently heard rumours that the government will be releasing their traditional land by January 2018. They believe the government will do the right thing, especially since other families were already resettled. Their hope has some negative consequences though, as it doesn’t encourage the remaining families to unionize and demand their land back.
  Camp Two  - Sapapathi
The second camp we visited lacks a peoples’ alliance, which appears to be their biggest problem. Only about five people participate in the meetings about the resettlement of the camp, while the camp hosts some 160 people.
Some representatives of the local government have offered these people alternative lands. However, they have never shown the people what the lands looked like, nor given them any updates on the situation.
Like the previous camp, the owner is trying to push them away, in order to take down the camp and develop in the area, and won’t help the people gain their original land back. Some people would rather stay in the camp and live their lives there, while others want to go back to their previous lands, which raises the issue of official landowning. If the people who want to permanently get installed go to court to ask for the land, they will seal the fate of the others who would like to go back to their homes.
Additionally, they believe the government will be giving them their land back for January 2018. However, they are worried about the government installing military stations close to all the resettlement areas. The government says they’re building those stations to protect the people being resettled since more people than 25 years ago would now occupy the lands.
Camp Three -  Needavan
The third camp, called Needawan is lacking a lot of infrastructures, especially school-wise. The children who do go to school must go very far in order to get an education. If the government is unable to provide infrastructure, it should at least aim at providing a bus for the kids to safely get to school. Furthermore, the women in the camp whose husbands died during the war mention that only the women who resettled receive the monetary relief the government engaged itself to give.
Some people have been relocated, but the process is taking a very long time. They have also heard the rumour that they would get their land back for January 2018, which has consequences similar to the other camps such as preventing the union of the people.
NAFSO encourages the people of the camp to attend their workshop on land rights. They also encourage the women of the organization to provide food and tea in order to attract people to the two-day intervention.
Camp Four – Konatpulam
The people in the fourth camp we visited have gradually been receiving their lands, which are being released by the military. However, they found that the lands were grossly divided, meaning that they either didn’t fit the original size, or didn’t find standard dimensions, making some of the lands very long and narrow, or both.
Additionally, the people who are resettled receive money from the government, but not nearly enough to build a home. These issues faced by the people living in the camps are very hard to discuss, as they do not know whom they should inquire to.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Family Heading Women gathered

Family Heading women members from several IDP camps in Jaffna gathered to Maradanamadu Agrarian training centre to restructure the Women society which was established and continued  since 2013 with the guidance of National Fisheries solidarity Movement. 
Northern  provincial councillor Anandi Sashidara participated as special guest and during her peach, mentioned  that whether there is a women section in Northern Provincial council it is not active and also she appreciate the activities of NAFSO conducting with northern area even under the pressure. 

Women Participants asked some questions from the Councillor, specially on lack of housing for the families came from wanni and she promised to talk those burning issues in council to get long term solutions.  

Campaign should be strengthen

Meeting was conducted jaffna Yalpady hall.IDP camp leaders participated that meeting and they build new association called Association of Internal displace persons .They decided to empower the 42 camps leaders and continue the campaign for their rights. After the meeting they had media briefing too.