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People’s Tribunal promotes justice

Court for the public highlights suffering caused by land grabbing

Saleemkhan presents her complaints before the 'People’s Tribunal' in Colombo Saleemkhan presents her complaints before the 'People’s Tribunal' in Colombo
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • February 1, 2012
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Activists have held a “People’s Tribunal” to call for justice and highlight the plight of victims of land grabbing.

Many people attending the event on Monday called on the activists to stop the government taking land and displacing people for so-called development projects.

The event brought a wide range of abuses into focus through the staging of public hearings.

“My land was seized by the government for a proposed project which has forced us to leave our homeland and jobs,” Faseeha Saleemkhan told the tribunal.

She said the project to develop the tourist industry in 14 islands around Kalpitiya off the northeast coast has already resulted in the destruction of mangroves and other ecosystems, and will displace more than 10,000 people from fishing families.

“I need money to send my eight children to school, to look after my sick husband and fight to save my property,” said Saleemkhan.

“Honorable Sirs, help me to get my land back or compensation,” she pleaded in front of more than 300 participants.

The tribunal was organized by the Alternative Peoples Forum for Land Issues (APFLI), an umbrella movement of human rights organizations, and held at the Sri Lanka Japan Cultural Center in Colombo.

Another group of plaintiffs complained that they would soon fall victim to developers in Colombo.

Priyankara Costa, 43, an APFLI spokesman said decisions made by the panel, which consisted of a Catholic priest, a nun, two Buddhist monks and two rights activists, would be subject to further action to support the plaintiffs.

“We organized the tribunal to encourage the judiciary to listen to people and investigate cases of gross human rights violation and environmental degradation,” said Costa.

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