Army ends decades-long oc­cu­pa­tion of Tamil port

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Sri Lanka’s mil­i­tary said yes­ter­day it has ended its oc­cu­pa­tion of a ma­jor fish­ing har­bor af­ter 27 years and al­lowed Tamil civil­ians in the for­mer war zone to take back their land. Se­cu­rity forces with­drew from the Mayliddy har­bor in the Jaffna penin­sula on Mon­day, bow­ing to the long-stand­ing de­mands of fish­er­men and their fam­i­lies from the mi­nor­ity Tamil com­mu­nity who have been liv­ing in camps for dis­placed peo­ple since June 1990. “Ac­cord­ingly, 187 fam­i­lies... are able to re­turn to their orig­i­nal lands and re­sume their fish­ing liveli­hood af­ter an ab­sence of nearly 30 years,” the army said in a state­ment.

Sri Lanka’s 37-year-long Tamil sep­a­ratist war ended in 2009, but gov­ern­ment forces still main­tain a large pres­ence in the for­mer con­flict zones and keep a close watch on the lo­cal Tamil pop­u­la­tion. The mil­i­tary, which is dom­i­nated by the is­land’s Sin­halese ma­jor­ity, also runs ho­tels, trans­port ser­vices and other en­ter­prises in com­pe­ti­tion with lo­cal Tamil busi­nesses. The UN has been press­ing Colombo to step up rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts and re­duce the mil­i­tary’s pres­ence in for­mer war zones, in­clud­ing the Jaffna penin­sula, the heart­land of mi­nor­ity Tamils.

Tamil rebels fight­ing for a sep­a­rate home­land for the eth­nic mi­nor­ity were de­feated in a fi­nal mil­i­tary push af­ter decades of con­flict. Sri Lanka faced in­ter­na­tional cen­sure dur­ing the regime of for­mer pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japakse, who re­fused to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions that up to 40,000 mi­nor­ity Tamil civil­ians per­ished in the fi­nal stages of the war. His suc­ces­sor, Maithri­pala Sirisena, came to power af­ter promis­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and ac­count­abil­ity for war-time atroc­i­ties, but rights groups say progress on both fronts has been slow.— AFP

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