Buddhist Monks In Firsthand Tour Of Wilpattu Squatter Settlement

As desperate squatters vowed suicide and lambasted a top Minister, Mannar GA, M.Y. Deshapriya has promised some relief action for the desperate squatters of Wilpattu at a patch of squatting grounds, in Wilpattu. Marichchikattu on 06 April.

100 members of squatter families also received a delegation of seven venerable Buddist monks led by Watareka Wijitha Thero (Secretary, Jathika Bala Sena and MP, Mahiyangana Pradeshiya Sabha) to their meeting.

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About 70 displaced families, squatting at this location, said that this very location was their original residence before they were evicted by the LTTE in 1990. "From this very location 150 families were chased out in 1990. We temporarily settled in Puttalam but recently, after 24 years of living there, we were deregistered in Puttalam and now we cant even enlist our children in Puttalam schools. We are not having any rights in Puttalam and we are re-displaced. Therefore we came to this Marichchikattu which is our original and traditional place of residence only to find our lands were declared as some form of a "reserved forest area" which clearly is not the case. We lived here across three hundred acres of land at that time and that three hundred acres have now been lost to us leaving us landless since those lands have become part of the 700 acres held by the Navy where we do not have access. And when we go about our livelihoods in the lands, the Wild Life officials harass us and again we are pushed out. We have no one to turn to" desperate squatters said.

Addressing the squatters, Watareka Wijitha Thero said: "We now see your situation clearly. We assure our support towards necessary steps to  help resolve your issue".

The  Monks also visited two thatched houses of the refugees to witness their plight first-hand and sympathised with them.

A tense scenario ensued during the meeting held between government officials, and the squatters which took place in the aftermath of venerable Bhuddist monks concluding the visit and leaving the vicinity.

Squatters shouted at government officials calling for action on their plight, suddenly pushing the govt officials between a rock and a hard place.

"You are our representatives and are well known. But look where our families are live today. We look for your commitment. If this issue continues, we will go ahead and commit suicide. We have no other choice at all" shouted Uthuma Haniffa, a head of a squatter household (of seven member family). Haniffa was among many who were shouting. "Just look at these children without even a toilet. Don't you people in the government have no children?" asked an emotionally charged Uthuma.