CHRD carried out a factfinding mission in Vetrilaikerni village on October 29, 2018––located 60 kilo meters from the Jaffna town.
The team met with ex-cadres, families of the disappeared, political prisoners and their families and people affected by land grabbing. The objective of the factfinding mission was to study the grievances and highlight hardships faced by the folks of Vetrilaikerni.
The village comprise 250 families and their main source of income is fishing—their traditional livelihood. However, due to the existence of a navy camp in Vetrilaikerni, it has become increasingly difficult for the villagers to carry out their livelihood activities.
Lands of 10 families have been taken over by the military to establish the said navy camp and as a result the villagers are under scrutiny of the naval officers stationed there. The Vetrilaikerni people live in an almost open prison because of the single entry/exit point to the village. This is due to the fact that the navy camp is located in an area where the movement of the people can be easily monitored.
People of Vetrilaikerni village being intimidated by the presence of the naval officers and the camp itself, feel their freedom of movement and expression is restricted. Many feel this has been one of the main causes for poverty and hardship of the people of Vetrilaikerni.
It is important to note, that during CHRD’s visit, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has called 05 villagers and asked them to take clear photos of CHRD staff and activists who are part of the factfinding mission.
Although the people of Vetrilaikerni are facing restrictions and fear exposing any information on rights violations, still some of the villagers met with the team in secret and revealed that the military and the police have joined forces to engage in illegal activities like drug trafficking, deforestation and sand mining.
They have also informed the team that in the 52nd Room of the Divisional Secretariat in Jaffna, a military officer is employed under the Ministry of Rehabilitation. Many are questioning the role of a military officer in civil administrative activities and speculate that he has been appointed there to monitor and share information with the military intelligence.
Further, the Ministry of Rehabilitation has provided livelihood support to the Vetrilaikeni villagers in an ad hoc manner; an ideal example would be the boats and fishing tools provided to villagers who do not engage in fishing activities. Similarly, sewing machines have been provided to families who do not know to use the machine nor their main source of income is tailoring etc.
The villagers state that not a single non-governmental organization has visited the Vetrilaikerni village to date. They feel this is due to fear of the presence of navy personnel in the area.
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