Ashraff Nagar in Oluvil,

By Waruni Karunarathne
Three residents of Kasankeni, now known as Ashraff Nagar in Oluvil, Ampara is to submit a Fundamental Rights application to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) by tomorrow against the Army for allegedly causing continuous torture and harassment to remove them from their huts.
The affected residents have already informed the Human Rights Commission in Kalmunai, who had not been able to address their issue. Residents of Ashraff Nagar, P. L. Lathefa Umma, A. L. M. Mifaque and Katheeja Umma filed the case with the HRCSL to get the attention of the Commission on the alleged attempt to grab their land by the Sri Lankan Army.
They complained that originally 69 families engaged in agricultural activities lived in this village and since the Army started threatening the residents, many had fled to neighbouring villages while four families opted to stay. They added however, at present, only three families are living in the Ashraff Nagar village that was turned into an army camp on 5th November 2011. According to them, these families have been facing hardships in their struggle in securing their land to which they have valid permits for over 50 years.
They also reported to the Commission that the Army had meanwhile bulldozed all the houses and huts of the other families and consolidated their military camp and facilities while there has been a Supreme Court order for both parties not to construct buildings.
According to the petitioners, on March 4, 2014, P. L. Latheefa Umma and A. L. M. Mifaque were summoned to meet the Army chief whereas the two petitioners of the Fundamental Right application including Katheeja Umma were not present in the premises.
The petitioners added that the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the army camp and the Grama Niladhari of Oluvil Division – 01 were present at the meeting and the Army OIC had ordered the two families who were present to vacate their huts without further delay saying that the Army camp is going to be developed into a training station.
However the families said that they pleaded with the Army OIC not to evict them while bringing to his notice the pending cases related to the land issue. However the families complained that the Army Officer in Charge (OIC) ignored their requests and warned them of possible consequences.
Reportedly, the army OIC had restricted their movement as they refused to vacate their huts. According to the families, the army OIC has limited their movements from 6 am to 6 pm even though the families had explained their need to move about in the area early in the morning and in the night for prayers and to go to the adjacent jungle for calls of nature.
However, according to the petitioners, the Army OIC has limited their movement from 6 am to 6 pm saying that the other matters are not their concern as Army camp is a high security zone.
The families also said that they fear for their lives as the Army has told them that the Army would not guarantee the security of the families if they decide to remain in the area and move about freely.
Meanwhile, Army spokesperson Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya told The Sunday Leader that the local authorities have asked thirty four (34) families who have encroached forest land adjoining the Army camp at Pallekadu (some call the general area as Ashraf Nagar) to vacate the area as their occupation was illegal.
He aded, “Twenty nine (29) families had immediately followed instructions issued by the local authorities and vacated the premises thereby moving to their original habitat where they had their own land.  Five (5) families had remained claiming that they did not have land.  These five (5) families had thereafter been allocated 40 perches each by the local authorities from a government land in the near vicinity.”
According to Brigadier Wanigasuriya, one family had shifted to their own land elsewhere as they did not wish to remain there and another family has shifted to the allocated 40 perch land. However he said three (3) families remain in the formerly occupied land at Pallekadu and need to be shifted to the newly allocated land in due course.
He also added, “Recently, the family that shifted to the allocated land has illegally acquired another plot of 40 perches that has been allocated to another family as that family has not moved in yet”.
He said that once the Grama Niladhari of the area was alerted about this illegal acquisition, he has informed the family that forcibly acquired the 40 perch land to vacate that particular plot of land. Thus, according to the authorities, the land occupied by these three families is a state land given to the people temporarily for agriculture and was later given to the military.

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