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Last updated: 20 June, 2007 - Published 17:02 GMT
 
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"We will fight for our rights"
 
Sampur refugees now living in Batticaloa insist that they be allowed to live in their ancestral lands in Trincomalee.

They say they do not want anything except to live peacefully in their traditional lands.

The refugees, who fled to Batticaloa from Sampur and Muttur East in Trincomalee, held a peaceful rally on Wednesday and appealed to the international community to come to their help.

Refugees in Sampur
Refugees in Sampur, Trincomalee

The rally organised by the Interfaith Organisation for Peace to coincide with the International Refugees Day was attended by refugees, religious leaders, and supporters.

One of the refugees said that people from twenty five grama seva divisions have been displaced for around one and half years.

Struggle for rights

“There are over one hundred tanks and thousands of villagers’ lands in the area. We have our kovils numbering over twenty. It is even difficult to think of leaving our villages and settle in a different place”, he said.

"We humbly beg the government to give back our lands and resettle all of us. If not we are prepared to sacrifice anything in the struggle for our rights".

Another female refugee said that they did not want any assistance from the government and all that they wanted was to live and die in their villages.

“For God’s sake please allow us to settle in our villages”,she said.

Rev. Dr.Jeyanesan of the Church of South India, American- Ceylon Mission said that this was a reasonable appeal by the people.

Appeal for international community

President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a gazzette notification on 30th May declaring Sampur and Muttur East as a High Security Zone (HSZ)

Protesters accused the government of creating an HSZ in order to make way for a coal power plant.

“This is a huge human rights violation. Therefore, we appeal to the international community", Rev.Dr.Jeyanesan said.

Ven.Ampitiye Sumanaratana thera of the Mangalaramaya Temple in Batticaloa said that when the tsunami devastated the area people were asked to keep 300 meters away from the sea.

Uncertainity

"This was because of the fear that the tsunami would attack again but if peace is being restored it means there is no war. But now the doubt is 'the uncertainity of peace'", the thera said.

Petition with 1000 signatures
Petition signed by 1000 handed over to UNHCR

The thera said that the refugees should be resettled in their lands; and it was the responsibility of the authorities to make arrangements.

"To make people angry means to make things worse", the Ven.Ampitiye Suamarathana thera added.

A petition was also handed over to the UNHCR Batticaloa office with over 1000 signatures to be handed over to the head of the UNHCR in Geneva

 
 
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