2018 To Walk the Earth in Safety: South and Central Asia--C and D Sectors of Muhamalai Pachchilappali Division, Kilinochchi District, Sri Lanka
The recently released C and D Sectors of Muhamalai lay quiet except for the odd rustle of leaves, birdsong, and a few local residents silently milling about picking up branches for firewood. It is mid-December 2017, and after more than 20 years of being contaminated, it is now cleared and back in the community’s hands. From November 2012 to completion in June 2017, HALO cleared 256,225 square meters (63 acres) of land and removed 5,322 landmines.
HALO finds Mr. Sinnathampy Rasaratinam walking around this section of land, which the Government Agent for Kilinochchi District officially released on December 12, 2017, during a handover ceremony. More than 50 people attended, most of whom were of the 24 families expected to return, plus officers from the Ministry of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs who assisted returnees in filling out land registration forms. While HALO’s work on this section of the minefield is now over, it marks a new start for the families returning home after decades of war.
Rasaratinam shows us the cement posts he has been planting to mark the boundary of his land, around 500 square meters (.12 acres) which he plans to split among his four children. Currently, he makes the journey from northernmost Sri Lanka, Point Pedro, while he waits for the construction of a semi-permanent shelter and toilet through HALO’s subcontractor, RAHAMA. Rasaratinam’s family plans to move as soon as possible to save money and be among their nearby relatives. They are hopeful their land in T Sector will soon be released.
In 2000, Rajakumaran Sarasu was displaced from Muhamalai village and her land became a minefield. Shortly afterwards, her husband passed away, leaving her alone with five children. Over the past 18 years, Sarasu and her family moved between welfare camps, temples, schools and relatives having no permanent home. However in January 2017, when their land was released following clearance, they were able to move back home. Like Rasaratinam, Sarasu received a temporary shelter and toilet from RAHAMA. Sarasu remarks on her return to Muhamalai with optimism, “This is just the beginning. Right now, the land is covered in bushes, but within a year’s time it will look very different.”