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Sunday, 10 February 2013





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People resettled in Keppapilavu:

Mullaitivu rises from the ashes

Resettling in progress

“The LTTE did not allow me to return home which was in Udugama, Galle since I was a Sinhalese,” said the man now resettled in a village in the Maritimepattu DS Division of the Mullaitivu district. Let us call him ‘Pathmanadan’. Born and raised in Udugama in Galle, ‘Pathmanadan’, like many in his fishing village travelled to different coastal areas to fish depending on the various seasons. One such place was the Keppapilavu village in Mullaitivu where he went as part of a team to fish in the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Pathmanadan would have never thought, not even in his dreams, that the lagoon that he made a living out of would one day mark the end of a battle against terrorism. His life had never been a bed of roses.

Pathmanadan and a few other young men had settled down in Keppapilavu village and raised their families. Things had been normal for them, just facing the usual difficulties in life, until LTTE terrorists started affecting their lives, starting from the mid ’80s.

Being a Sinhalese with a Sinhala name, he faced problems in many ways from the LTTE. Even his Tamil neighbours became helpless and he started feeling less secure. Thus, this young man changed his name and all his details and ‘became’ a Tamil. “It was very difficult to get permission from the LTTE to leave Mullaitivu for a visit to my family in Galle. And as time passed, my contacts with them faded away,” said Pathmanadan.


Today, in his late sixties, Pathmanadan is happy to live peacefully, back in his village. “I still go for fishing but it is becoming difficult too as we grow old,” he said. Many houses have been built in his village by the soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army with funds from the Government. A resettling family receives around Rs. 350,000 to build a new house.

The main problem in these villages is finding the man-power to build a house and transport material. Today, the Army personnel deployed in areas where people are resettling assist the villagers to build their houses and to those civilians who are not physically fit, the soldiers take the total responsibility to build a house.

Keppapilavu is the last village to be resettled and as the initial stage, the Army has started the ‘Fifty houses in ninety days’ project under the command of Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Jagath Jaysuriya and the direct supervision of Commander of the Security Forces in Mullaitivu Maj.Gen. L.B.R. Mark. The project is in full swing. More than 10 houses are already complete in the Keppapilavu village and the rest have started construction work.

Rasaiah Parameshwaran

Another villager, Murugesu (60) could only talk about his plans for the house-warming ceremony while chatting with us one evening during our tour. His new house, being built with the help of Army soldiers is almost complete. The temporary shelter built when he resettled back in his village is still there next to the new house.

Fishermen or farmers

Murugesu is also a fisherman by profession. Most of the villagers here were either fishermen or farmers over generations. Today, this village is coming up as a model village with all facilities a village would need. Life is surely getting back to normal for the people.

“My granddaughter joined the Army recently,” said Murugesu, talking about his eldest son’s daughter who was one of the 100 Tamil girls now undergoing training to become woman soldiers. “I’m very happy about her decision and she has a secure job too. That’s a relief and a big support to the family,” he said.

There are 262 families comprising 868 persons in the village, according to Rasaiah Parameshwaran, President of the Rural Development Society. The Grama Niladhari Division has four villages – Sooriyapuram, Keppapilavu, Seeniyamotai and Pelakkudiyirippu. After resettling, the villagers have formed a Rural Development Society to effectively coordinate the development work of the society.

“Eighty families are yet to come. They were living with their relatives and are now making arrangements to come back home,” Parameshwaran said. According to him, lands allocated for these families have already been handed over to them. Most of the people living in the Grama Niladhari Division had left the villages in November 2008, seeking the safety of the Government from LTTE terrorists. They were settled in the Cheddikulam Menik Farm village for displaced persons.

“President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to visit us. He understood what we needed to properly resettle. A visit from the leader of the country meant a lot to us,” he said.

Fresh water supply

Today, the village has eight wells and 10 tube wells that supply fresh water for drinking and other day-to-day activities of the villages. The Vatappalai School is the closest school for the children to attend. At present the school has classes up to Advanced Level and 178 children study there.

Transportation is the problem the residents of this Grama Niladhari Division face and according to Parameshwaran, they have requested from the Mullaitivu District Secretary a solution to this problem. To prevent children getting affected by the lack of transportation that would discourage them from attending school, more than 200 bicycles were provided to families with schoolchildren in a move organised by Army personnel under the Security Forces Headquarters Mullaitivu. “Schoolchildren can regularly attend school now. It is helpful to the family as well,” he said.

“We received enough seed paddy for cultivation from the Government. This included four bags of seed paddy per acre of field. Fertiliser was also provided under the subsidy,” he said, explaining the commencement of their livelihood activities. “Thirty two women in our village are widows. With the help of the Army, sewing-machines were given to those who liked to start a sewing business. Thus 25 machines were distributed,” he said.


The development of the Grama Niladhari Division is the responsibility of the Army’s 59 Division under the command of the Security Forces Headquarters Mullaitivu. At present, the command of the Division is under Brigadier Kumudu Perera. Many of the resettling villages fall under the 591 Brigade’s area of responsibility.

“In this area, there are 17 Grama Niladhari Divisions and demining is completed in 15 of them,” said Colonel Sanjaya Wanasinghe, Colonel General Staff of the 59 Division.

Explaining the responsibility the Army shoulders in these newly resettled areas, Col. Wanasinghe said all the work the Army is involved in are requests that come from the people to the local administration. “Through local administration, especially through the District Secretary, the development mechanism is taking place. As we have good human resources we assist the Government’s development program with our man-power,” he said.

“The Government administration system in these areas is still being established. Thus, unlike in other countries, Sri Lanka’s Military, armed with huge human resources, cannot afford to be kept in camps, engaged only in their routine work. The country’s need of the hour is to ensure that people of this area get back to their normal lives as soon as possible. In this process, Sri Lankan military organisations have a greater potential in assisting the Government mechanism, as at present, they are the only well-established arm of the Government in these areas. Until the local administration is properly established, soldiers have a bigger role to play, going beyond their defence responsibilities”.

According to statistics provided by the District Secretariat, more than 6,950 women and more than 6,500 men live in the 17 Grama Niladhari Divisions. Brigades of the 59 Division have taken the responsibility of constructing almost 300 houses in the Grama Niladhari Divisions funded by the Government, Non-Governmental Organisations as well as well-wishers. As Col. Wanasinghe further explained, there is a greater need to assist the elderly and the families of widows. Accordingly, there are 590 widows in these villages of which 201 are below 50. With funding from various donors, the Army has managed to assist 86 widows below 50 to start a livelihood either in sewing, backyard poultry or various home-based industries that would empower them with a monthly income. Today, many women are flourishing in their business; starting from one sewing machine, several of them have now expanded their business and provided employment for two or three other girls from the village.

Army efforts

In addition to the efforts of the Sri Lanka Army, the Economic Development Ministry, with the aim of strengthening community leaders for national development, preparing resource builders and forging strong bonds between the North and South are conducting workshops for newly resettled villages under the direction of Minister Basil Rajapaksa. At present, over 1,825 persons, from the North as well as from the South have been trained. Covering nearly 21 districts, over 52 training workshops for community resources building have been held under this special program to strengthen mutual understanding and build friendship between the North and the South.

Villagers in the North and the South will appoint community leaders, who in turn will arrange meetings between the two communities. Accordingly, people from the South will be guests in homes in the North where the guests will spend time with host families, have meals together, exchanging a lifetime experience. Under this special program, the Economic Development Ministry has taken around 62 persons from the Ratnapura district to spend a day with people in the Peraru village in the Mullaitivu district.

After three years of ending a three-decade long battle against terrorism, Mullaitivu district, the inner-most area of the Northern Province, is rising from the ashes. Being isolated from the national development drive, which the rest of the country was privileged to enjoy, the Mullaitivu district demands special attention. Though not known to many citizens, Mullaitivu has been flourishing in the fishing and agri-based industries during the good old days. It is high time for the country to combine the enthusiasm of the Mullaitivu people and its resources to the national development drive. Within the past three years, since more attention has been given to the physical development of the area, it is time to empower the people and make them proud participants in the drive to develop Sri Lanka.


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