Sri Lankan group flays military role in civil life

A Sri Lankan women's group is seeking an international mechanism to check increasing military intervention in the lives of civilians in the island's north and east.

The Women's Action Network (WAN) has also demanded the immediate end to military role in civilian administrative structures as well as development activities in what was the former war zone.

"Women's rights and security continue to deteriorate in Sri Lanka, especially in the north and east and a culture of impunity has been entrenched within the state structure," a lengthy WAN statement said.

The statement, made available to IANS, has hit out at what it says is entrenched militarization of the northeast despite the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009.
"Militarization of civilian and public spheres continues...

"Even though the Sri Lankan government has removed several checkpoints, women in these areas state that several military camps have been built in the interiors of villages.
"The military continues to engage purportedly in civil administration, agricultural and developmental activities," it said.

WAN is a network of 11 women's organisations based in Sri Lanka's north and east, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) once held sway until it was crushed by the military four years ago.

The statement spoke against the takeover of land in the northeast by Buddhist and Sinhalese groups with the backing of the military and the Sri Lankan government.
It demanded an end to the military mediating and intervening in land and resource disputes among civilians and in conducting civil affairs.

"Cases of sexual abuse and cases relating to maintenance, cheating of women by the military be brought under civilian court structures and immediate investigation of the same," it said.

It demanded action against military personnel "who threaten, coerce and harass civilians who wish to exercise their rights as citizens".

It also demanded the return of all civilian land taken over by the military.
WAN said that universities in the region had been militarized, with the security to the institutions provided by the defence ministry.

"Debate or dissent within the university structure is curtailed..."
WAN said there were several cases against the military  men who have promised marriage to women but have abandoned them after sexual intercourse and pregnancy.
"In some cases when women have complained, the soldier in question has been immediately transferred out of the area denying the women any ability to follow up the case.

"In several cases women have been threatened against advancing cases and in a few cases where the military head has taken up a case against the soldier, the process has been through a military court procedure.

"Women have not been able to access these procedures and evidence gathering is conducted by the military where several women have complained of intimidation."
It alleged that cases of sexual abuse by the military continued.

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