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Panama Land Struggle; No solution even after the cabinet decision to release the lands to the villagers

Written By Freedam to the nation resettlement of IDPs on Friday, July 17, 2015 | 12:54 AM


"Today we are back to our lands" say Paanama displaced community
After forceful chasing away from their lands by unknown armed persons, Paanama, Raigamwela, Sashtrawela people were displaced since 10 July 2010.
However, it is well known fact that there is no possibility to enter outside group into their lands with out attention of military as they are within 500 meters away from their lands.
"We can not say exactly who but there is no possibility any group to enter our lands with arms and chased us away without the support of military." Says Punchiappuhamy a displaced but a land owner in the village.
Now the people are ready to go back to their lands with the Cabinet decision. Cabinet of the newly elected govt after 08th January decided hand over  340 acres in Ragamwela, Sashtrawela villages.
"We do not want any others land. We want our people's land back to our people. We are thankful to Cabinet ministers and President and PM for their decision to return our land." Said Rev. Paanama Chandraratana thero. "We want all people to assist us to settle our lands in peaceful manner."  Added Rev. Chandraratana.
There are hundreds of people eagerly awaiting to get back to their villages. But the leader of Paanam Paththu Protection Organization P. Somasiri was the key player in the struggle, a lagoon fisherman who lost his employment and land. He said at our meeting yesterday, "there is a Cabinet decision to give our land back. The Pothuwil magistrate court release us totally from the court case against us on illegal tresspassing the land. The human rights commission of Sri Lanka has recommended to release the land. What we want is to allow us to go back to our lands peacefuly." Somasiri said at a preparatory meeting  held at Paanama temple.

The villagers in Panama,  (15th July 2015) staged a protest in Panama demanding immediate actions to provide their lands back and tried to return to their lands but forcibly stopped by the police.

The protestors claim that though the cabinet decision had taken on 12th February 2015 to release the lands back to the genuine owners, today, even after 5 months of the decision, authorities have not taken necessary actions to return the lands back to the people.

The Government Agent (GA) of Ampara division and the Divisional Secretary (DS) of Lahugala were call up into the scene by the police to settle the issue with the people. GA and the DS said that they have not yet received the authorization letter from the presidential secretariat announcing the release of the lands and recommending further actions though the cabinet decision had taken to release the lands. They also said that once they received this letter, they can take next procedures to release the lands.

However, people argued with them questioning why only the Panama lands are not yet given back to the people whilst the other lands released under same cabinet decision are already given back to the people and the people are already resettled in the areas such as Walikamam North in Jaffna. The GA and DS were unanswerable to the people's questions and promised that they will take immediate actions to get the required letter from the presidential secretary.

The unsatisfied and angried people of their answers said that they do not believe their promises and went and tried to enter into their lands. However, hurried police blocked villager's way and prevent them entering into their lands. So, people sat on the ground saying that they do not go back until they get their land back.

After a while, with number of discussions between the villagers and the police, villagers agreed to provide two weeks to the authorities to settle the issue and provide the lands back to the people. After that, the villagers withdraw peacefully from the site.

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