The Sri Lankan government has banned the resettlement of Tamil refugees in Sampoor and Muttur East in the Eastern district of Trincomalee following the designation of these areas as High Security Zones (HSZ) through a Presidential gazette notification dated May 30.
Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told Hindustan Times on Monday, that the civilian refugees from this area would not be allowed to go back to their homes and lands "both for their own security and the security of the vital establishments to come up there."
The LTTE, which was using these places for war like purposes, might attempt to take them back by force, and the government had to ensure the security of the population and the installations, he said.
The new HSZ covers a vast area covering Foul Point, Illankanthai, Uppural, Thoppur, Kattaiparichchan and Mutur. The population here has been predominantly Tamil. It was entirely displaced in the fighting, which began in August 2006. The area had housed about 2,000 families, mostly engaged in agriculture and fishing.
The gazette notification, signed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said that "No person shall enter the area comprising Muttur East/Sampoor High Security Zone in any boat or vessel or in any other manner, or having entered, remain within or ply any boat or vessel within the Muttur East/Sampoor High Security Zone except under the written authority of the Competent Authority."
The Competant Authority now is Major General Parakrama Pannipitiya.
Unauthorised entry would invite legal action. If found guilty, the entrant would be given rigorous imprisonment ranging from three months to five years and a fine of not less than LKR 5 lakhs.
Special Economic Zone
The Sampoor/Muttur East High Security Zone is going to be a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with large local and foreign investments. One of the projects the government is keen on is a 300 MW coal fired power plant in Sampoor, to be set up with Indian help, preferably.
"Economic development schemes sometimes require the resettlement of populations. Earlier, the Mahaweli irrigation scheme in South Sri Lanka had displaced thousands, but no one objected to that!" government spokesman Rambukwella pointed out.
Referring to the charge of ethnic cleansing of a Tamil area, Rambukwella said that the new regulations could not be interpreted in that way as such displacements had taken place in non-Tamil parts of Sri Lanka also.
The LTTE's military spokesman, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, said that the move to bar Tamils from these traditionally Tamil areas was part of the "Sinhalisation of the Tamil Homeland".
"The government is fulfilling its racial agenda. It is a very sensitive issue. This is so even for India which has declined to set up a power plant in Sampoor," Ilanthirayan said.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP for Trincomalee district, R Sampanthan, said that government could take security measures, but it did not have the right to deprive the people of their lands, which were their private property.
"There is no state land in these places. All lands are privately owned. We are examining the possibility of going to court on this," he said.
Sampanthan trashed the claim of the Sinhala community that it had a significant amount of land here before the ethnic conflict began in the 1980s, and that the Sinhala landowners could reclaim them.