After ten years of displacement and over a month of protest, the people of Mullikulam in Mannar set foot again in their lands for the first time on Sunday.
Having been forcibly removed from their village on the 8th September 2007 as a result of the re-escalating ethnic conflict, the people of Mullikulam began a protest on the 23rd March 2017 outside the navy camp which was built on their occupied land. On the 38th day of continuous protest, the Sri Lankan navy agreed to return their residential lands.
The decision came after a high-level meeting took place with Tamil representatives and the Sri Lankan Navy commander at the camp on Saturday.
“The people’s continuous protest has delivered success,” parliamentarian for Vanni, Selvam Adaikalanathan said following the meeting.
Speaking to journalists, Mullikulam parish priest Father Anton Thavarasa said that in the days to come a committee will be formed by the navy to deal with issues such as paths to the coast. Father Anton also said that the villagers would shelter at the church until they have rebuilt their homes to a habitable state.
With regards to rebuilding houses, Mr Adaikalanathan also stated in his remarks that the resettlement minister, D M Swaminathan had promised to provide assistance to the people in creating provisional housing. A timeframe of 8 months was set to allow navy personnel living in 22 Tamil-owned houses to vacate the premises.
The villagers held a thanksgiving mass at the Heavenly Mother church in Mullikulam, still on navy-occupied land, and cooked and ate together in celebration of their impending returns home.