By Amantha Perera
Over 100 Tamil civilians who were evicted from Colombo on June 7 returned to the city yesterday after traveling 360 km within 60 hours following Friday’s Supreme Court order.
Even after arriving in the capital their ordeal was not over as they had to wait for hours at the Wellawatte and Bambalapitiya police stations for formal registration. Around 180 persons arrived in Colombo yesterday in five buses from Vavuniya.
They were among the group of 376 who were evicted from Colombo on June 7 and sent to Vavuniya. Some among the group had left to stay with relatives while another group had been sent to Trincomalee.
The remaining lot stayed the night at Gamini Maha Vidyalaya in Vavuniya without proper sanitation facilities. The ICRC provided food. Following the stay order issued by the Supreme Court of June 8 against the evictions, they were once again directed to buses around 3 p.m. in the afternoon for the 180 km return journey. Some among the returnees said that they went without food since late June 8 evening till their arrival in Colombo.
On the way the buses had stopped at police stations in Dam Street, Kotahena, Pettah and finally reached Wellawatte at around 8 a.m.
“We were herded into buses like cattle and even when we were told we could go back to Colombo, we were warned to finish our work there and go back to our hometowns, without staying in Colombo,” 19-year-old Ramalingam from Jaffna said.
He had arrived in Colombo to obtain a passport and a visa to work abroad. He was awaiting his visa when police told him to leave Colombo on June 7 early morning.
Seventy year old Sundralingam was in Colombo with his daughter waiting to go to India for her marriage when he got his eviction order. The daughter had postponed her departure despite obtaining the visa, as the bridegroom had not reached India yet. She too had to take the round trip to Vavuniya between June 7 and 9.
Jegan had arrived from Doha, Qatar to tie the knot and was in Colombo when the June 7 eviction order came. Police did not buy his story and sent him packing to Vavuniya. He too returned yesterday. Most of evictees awaiting visas were told by Police to go back home last week and return to collect the travel documents later. However, the civilians said that sometimes it could take as long as three months to make arrangements to leave a location like Jaffna.
Despite the stay order, human rights activists who were at the police stations to talk with the returnees said that last week’s mass eviction programme had instilled a deep fear in the victims.
“We didn’t have any answers to the question of many of the people we spoke to. They asked us whether we could guarantee that this will not happen again. Some had heard about the court order restraining the Police from carrying out such evictions again, but this had not instilled a sense of confidence that this will not happen again,” Rukshan Fernando from the Law and Society Trust told The Sunday Leader.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry yesterday said that the police had taken the decision to move out civilians from lodges following security consideration after the twin claymore attacks in Reclamation Road and Ratmalana and the discovery of over 1,000 kg of explosives in Nikkaweratiya.
“The growing security concerns have compelled the police to focus its attention on lodgers who are having extended stay for no valid reason and those who could not prove their identity,” the Ministry said on its website. (Names of civilians have been changed on request) [Courtesy: Sundayleader.lk]