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Intense police surveillance arbitrary arrests of our men and continuous harassment of women and children must be stopped

Mannar (Uppukulum) Muslim Women’s Collective Appeal to Human Rights Commission
We the undersigned affected civilians of Up pukulam village in Mannar Town would like to lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on the recent incidents of harassments of women and children over our struggle for regaining our fishing harbor (Konthaipiddy paadu). This complaint is purely on humanitarian ground and based on the struggle we, the returnees, are facing after we had gathered on 18 th July 2012 a distance away from the Mannar Court building to show our concern-unfortunately this turned violent- which was not due to our fault.
We were constrained to express our concerns and gather on that day as our representations to the civil authorities and civil society representatives did not remedy our grievances and we wished the judiciary to be aware of this . We felt that any determination by Governmental authorities made without due concerns of our rights and history and in favor of Vidathalthivu fishermen who have been relocated by a church in Mannar to useour fishing harbor would be devastating to us (Please refer the Independent Commission report attached herewith that details out our struggle in the last 12years in accessing this harbor).

We gathered twice in front of Mannar court on 16 th and 18th of July 2012. On the18 th other Returnee Muslims from Mannar Island also joined our protest and there were about 600 Muslims (among them were women and children). We were silently waiting there but when we heard that the order was in favour of the Vidathalthivu fishermen to use our harbor, some started shouting against the magistrate. Later riot police was brought and they used tear gas to disburse the crowd. At this point some of those who had gathered became angry and there was clash between police and those who had gathered . Police started to beat us and many women and young girls got beaten up. After dispersing the crowd the police arrested 13 people arbitrarily and among them were a 17 old boy who came to collect a copy of his birth certificate at the DS office. On 31 st July there was another court hearing and the same magistrate ordered the 13 suspects to be further remanded for additional 16 days. He also issued warrants for 27 men out of the 37 suspects. We are told that the police is looking for more suspects based on the video footage of the what happened on that day. Since this incident all our men have gone into hiding. On 21 st August police yet again randomly arrested 06 more men and there was a heavy police presence and search in our village. We all took refuge in our mosque with our children. Now our village is surrounded by police (every 100 yards there are police officers).

On 07th August there was a police round up during which police found a hand grenade by the side of a pond that we use on a day to day basis. We think that some mischievous element had planted this explosive to come to the village and do a cordon and search operation. Many of the families in our village returned back to our native homes that are now only ruins. We have a huge task of rebuilding our lives and our community and only way forward is restarting our livelihoods which is mainly fishing and selling processed sea food. Access to our harbor in Konthaipiddy is our only option to make our return permanent and sustainable in  Mannar Island. Now our village has become women only place and without our bread winners we women are forced to support our families and live in this insecure environment. Many of us are thinking of going back to Puttalum refugee camps so that at least we can feel safe and our children continue their studies without disturbance. We have gone through immense hardship since the eviction of our community from the north in 1990 by the LTTE but never were forced to live without our men and in this kind of hopeless and improvised condition, especially during the holy month of Ramadan which we just completed with immense suffering .

We kindly appeal to you to take swift and prompt action against this intense police surveillance in our village, arbitrary arrests of our men and continuous harassment of women and children and the failure of the authorities to protect the livelihood of our families and the deprivation of our fundamental rights to equality and equal protection of the law . Due to the action of the Police our men folk are frightened to return to our homes leaving us destitute and defenseless and depriving us of the means of survival at a critical time such as this.

Submitted on 23 rd August 2012

Signed by: 203


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