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Military bars Tamils from their homes

Some 15 Catholic families evicted just two weeks after returning to war-torn region

  • ucanews.com reporter, Mannar
  • Sri Lanka
  • June 26, 2012
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Military personnel evicted more than 45 internally displaced Catholic Tamils in northern Sri Lanka over the weekend, saying they needed permission from the Defense Ministry to resettle in their own homes.

The families had returned to the church housing project on Mannar island two weeks ago, after fleeing civil war violence in 2008. Naval officers said they not been informed about the resettlement, villagers reported.

“The military asked us to vacate the resettled housing scheme before midnight, and we walked over five kilometers with our children to the church,” said Pius Ananthakumar Asuntha.

Roughly 6,000 of the estimated 448,000 people displaced by decades of fighting, still remain in welfare centers, according to the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Priests discussed it with government officials, and we promised to give back the  houses on June 27,” said Father Avithapper Victon Saviri, parish priest of Our Lady of Victory Church in Pesalai, where the villagers went for shelter.

Saviri said before the families return, the Church will provide a list of their details to the military.

The Vetriman Housing Scheme consists of 50 houses on Church land and built by the Church-run Jesuit Refugee Service. It was handed over to families in 2006.

The United Nations Development Program Country Director Douglas Keh said that the issue of ownership and registration of land is an obstacle for successful investment and growth in the North.

"It is one thing that the UN system is more than ready to work with the government on, and this is going to be a very important element for the reconciliation process," Keh said.

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