Login    Forum    Search    FAQ

Board index » Socio-Economic issues » Human Rights




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) in Mutur
 Post Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 5:29 pm 
Mutur IDPs: Battling a man-made tsunami in the guise of war

With the Vakarai resettlement now completed the government is considering returning around 150 000 IDPs from Vaunativu. Exactly when these resettlement programmes will be launched is still a mystery and pipeline plans for IDPs from Mutur and Trincomalee remain as murky as the skies overhead. Without even food in their bellies it is at best difficult to predict when these people will have a place to call home and if their lives will ever be rebuilt to include hope and happiness.

Ninety five families live in neatly rowed tents in this camp, where they arrived on 20th December to live out a bleak Christmas and even more depressing New Year as things went from bad to worse. At first they were looked after by local NGO Sarvodaya who provided them with vegetables in addition to the 200g of rice, dhal, sugar and other meagre dry rations that were provided by the World Food Programme(WFP). Sustenance that currently has all but run out, with the government doing nothing to replenish the dwindling food resources in Batticaloa.

Dealing with rough living conditions, dismal weather and an empty wallet is still a better option for these people than going home. However, because of the overcrowding in the camps the government has suggested that some families from Vinayagapuram camp be moved to the camps in Valachcheni vacated by families that have been resettled in Vakarai. Another plan is to move the IDPs from Mutur and Trincomalee to a half-way camp in Killiweddi. Both proposals have drawn the ire of these people who insist that they want to remain here until they are sent to their original homes in Mutur, Sampur and Pattalipuram.


By Uditha Jayasinghe
@ DM /17APR2007


Burnt to the tinge of ebony by the sun, wearing a dust coated sarong and a neatly buttoned shirt surrounded by igloo like tents that comprised of the Vinayagapuram camp E, Lingeswaran looked like a typical Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) with one exception, he had lost a leg due to a landmine.

The first hint of his “uniqueness” was given by the green handled crutches he leant on. Lingeswaran like 158 000 other IDPs had fled to Batticaloa to escape the escalating fighting in the East. Hailing from Mutur he lost his leg in May 2003 while gathering firewood in Pachchanur, near his village. He was only 24 years at the time.

“We go frequently into the jungle to gather fire wood. There were no markers or other indication that it was a mined area. This clump of jungle was 5km from the nearest army camp and as far as we knew there was no LTTE in the area either,” he recalled. Duped by this seemingly innocent plain of land Lingeswaran sacrificed a leg, the insidious mines that have maimed or killed hundreds in the decade’s old war toted up another victory.

Stories such as Ligeswaran’s is far from uncommon because landmine victim statistics clearly show that there are more male victims than females. This is because men move around unprotected areas far more than women to gather fire wood and gather produce, hence they are more likely to fall victim to landmines.

Never to give up Lingeswaran rebuilt his life, eventually marrying a year later and fathering a daughter, who as her father mentioned, ran gaily up and hung on his crutches gazing up at us with mischievous curiosity. Even with an uncertain future facing them and worse living conditions, deprived of food, a livelihood and schooling for his precious daughter Lingeswaran is grateful that he at least still has his family.

A scant comfort that is denied to Thilleinayagam Pidaparam (53). He too left his home to find peace from the incessant shelling and after hundreds of miles of walking finally found his way to this camp accompanied by his wife and only daughter. Heaving a sigh of relief that they were finally safe he settled down in one of the tiny tents to await resettlement by the government once the fighting was over. However, more misery lurked in the shadows. In spite of electricity wires running around the camp and bulbs twinkling like miniature suns inside homes just yards away, along the camp boundary, officials refuse to provide electricity to any of the camps. Instead they were given candles.

On the night of March 5th after a tedious day Pidaparam lay sleeping on the sandy floor of his new “home” when the smell of something burning woke him. Glancing around with eyes stinging from bellows of smoke he saw flames licking at the canvas. Panicking he grabbed his wife and daughter and hurled out of the tent, desperately trying to smother the flames that rapidly engulfed his daughter. Sustaining deep burns on his arms, legs and back he desperately tried to put out the fire swallowing up his eight year old Darshani, but all his efforts were in vain.

When we met Pidaparam he looked like a caricature, a lost soul wondering around the camp, silent in his grief with a face that has had all its happiness beaten out. To him life is too long and has lost all meaning.

These were among dozens of people we spoke to as we strolled under a glowering sky ready to empty its wrath on our heads in torrential rain. Though April is not a wet month, even the gods seem to have lost their pity for these deprived people who have litle else to take comfort in or look for help.

Ninety five families live in neatly rowed tents in this camp, where they arrived on 20th December to live out a bleak Christmas and even more depressing New Year as things went from bad to worse. At first they were looked after by local NGO Sarvodaya who provided them with vegetables in addition to the 200g of rice, dhal, sugar and other meagre dry rations that were provided by the World Food Programme(WFP). Sustenance that currently has all but run out, with the government doing nothing to replenish the dwindling food resources in Batticaloa.

“The food is not enough. We only got food to last us two weeks. There is little work to be had and even that is not consistent. We are labourers and are prepared to work but finding jobs in Batticaloa is difficult. We have no way of feeding our children and cannot go back to our homes because of the fighting,” explained K. Sammugarajah (55) who was displaced from Pattalipuram and is living here with his wife and two children, both of whom are married.

To combat the unemployment problem the Provincial Council provides them with work in road repairs, cleaning public places and other odd jobs. In addition to help pass the time these tasks also earn them a wage of Rs.400 a day and the full amount is paid once a week. However, since there are about 100 families in the camp and limited work the jobs are rotated on a weekly basis among 42 workers. Nonetheless Rs.2 800 is a fortune for these people who are otherwise dependent on handouts.

Dealing with rough living conditions, dismal weather and an empty wallet is still a better option for these people than going home.

However, because of the overcrowding in the camps the government has suggested that some families from Vinayagapuram camp be moved to the camps in Valachcheni vacated by families that have been resettled in Vakarai. Another plan is to move the IDPs from Mutur and Trincomalee to a half-way camp in Killiweddi. Both proposals have drawn the irk of these people who insist that they want to remain here until they are sent to their original homes in Mutur, Sampur and Pattalipuram.

“Killivedi is far from our homes. If we are moved there who can tell if we will ever be allowed to return home. To the best of our knowledge there are no landmines in our villages so if it is safe we want to go back. That is all we ask. If not we want to stay here. We don’t want to be herded around like cattle. We have been travelling constantly from April last year and we are afraid to leave,” said V. Kiridara (26) who is from Thalankuda and is living with his wife and child at the camp.

Indeed since 25th April 2006 around 1 500 people literally trekked hundreds of kilometers on foot, starting from Trincomalee. The first stretch of their journey covered the route from Trincomalee to Pattalipuram and then they were settled for a short time in Nallur. With the fighting getting ever closer they were forced to uproot again and continue southward passing Illpanthurai, Kadiraweli and Vakerai finally ending up in the outskirts of the Batticaloa town by the latter part of December.

Having come all this way together, neighbours were separated from each other when the government divided families at Welikanda before allocating them to camps. Some were sent to a camp in Kurukalmadam, which is 16km from Vinayagapuram camp and Ariyampadi, which is just a few kilometers away. But hospitality visits are rare and no one knows how the other families are faring.

Stunned by the hardships endured by these people, spawned by a problem they did not create but are paying for I asked if any of them had been displaced before. A resounding “no” was the answer but to my surprise a small woman clad in a torn red sari contested this verdict.

Nagamma belongs to one of 125 families who were displaced when the tsunami swept through Tharamundal in Trincomalee.

A man-made tsunami in the guise of the war has made her homeless yet again and hers is one of the three families that were displaced by the tsunami and subsequent fighting living in the Vinayagapuram camp. Even though 1/3 of the Batticaloa population has been displaced by the recent fighting, which is on par with the tsunami numbers no structured aid effort is forthcoming from the South.

With the Vakarai resettlement now completed the government is considering returning around 150 000 IDPs from Vaunativu. Exactly when these resettlement programmes will be launched. It is still a mystery and pipeline plans for IDPs from Mutur and Trincomalee remain as murky as the skies overhead. Without even food in their bellies it is at best difficult to predict when these people will have a place to call home and if their lives will ever be rebuilt to include hope and happiness.


Top 
  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
 
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 

Board index » Socio-Economic issues » Human Rights


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

 
 

 
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron