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Give our land back

Written By Freedam to the nation resettlement of IDPs on Monday, January 25, 2016 | 12:16 AM

Sri Lankan Milit(OU)arism!!!
What is the role of military in tourism business apart from security? This is an interesting question anyone can ask! But you have a very unusual answer lying here in Sri Lanka. In this strange place (it’s quite ironic that Sri Lankan tourism advertise it as ‘The wonder of Asia’!) military is running hotel business, grabbing land for investors and powerful politicians, running canteens in the name of Army Welfare Society, they even destroyed the homes of local people in the name of war and used the same building materials for constructing their luxury hotels (what a reusing and recycling strategy!) using prisoners for hotel construction, creating racist war museums as tourist attraction and so on. The word human right is seems like an extravaganza here. There many hotels are owned by Army, Air force and the Navy. They own golf courses, cricket stadiums; they train their own people to run tourism business. This is one of the best ways for them to keep their power.
It is also interesting to see how military keep local communities especially in the fisher folk away from the coast. Many people ran away in 1990 during the peak of the war and ended up to the camps and still living there without land or proper rehabilitation. Since then, the armed forces have claimed vast stretches of land in the north of Sri Lanka for themselves. During the war, many Tamils fled the north and settled abroad or in other regions of the island. Since the end of the war, many of them have wanted to return and reclaim their land. However, the army has other plans: the appropriated estates and land have become Military Camps, "High Security Zones" (HSZ) or "Special Economic Zones" (SEZ).The armed forces have laid claim to approximately 6,000 acres of land that they want to permanently convert into HSZ in Jaffna peninsula alone. The authorities used war as an excuse to displace communities without any compensation. Sri Lanka already announced 45 tourism zones and 4 Special Tourism Zones.
Now war is over but the high security zones are still remaining and budgetary allocation for armed forces increasing year by year (In 2009, the final year of the war, EUR 1.1 billion was reserved for military expenditure, while in 2015, the amount reserved is EUR 1.9 billion). Armed forces are still keeping major portion of the land and not releasing to people who once owned the land. In many places they are announcing their own projects (Military hotels, golf courses etc.) Special Tourism Zones and Tourism Zones.
In spite of this poor human rights record, the Sri Lankan government promotes a country that has returned to normality. This image of a peaceful and prosperous holiday destination is marketed globally. However, our experience in the ground very clearly shows the sobering reality behind the glossy brochures.
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