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Attacks on farmer leaders: MONLAR condemns inaction of authorities

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Karunathilaka and Ajith Kumara

Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), on Tuesday (22) said that organised groups had assaulted two farmer leaders at Mayurapura, Walawe.

MONLAR has condemned inaction of officials regarding the brutal attacks on the leaders of the farming communities.

MONLAR has said: “The farming communities of the entire Mayurapura area have been adversely affected by water shortages following the delay in releasing water for farming in the yala season. There are 5,300 farmer families in Mayurapura which is a part of the Mahaweli Zone. The leaders of 86 farmer organisations in the area have been at the forefront in making interventions necessary for the farmers who face chronic water shortages, the brunt of the human-elephant conflict and many economic issues. The task of negotiating and pressurising the government to release water and overcoming many obstacles in providing water to the farmlands have become a Herculean task. Life is much easier for those who maintain large unauthorised farms who have tapped into the water supply illegally. These individuals use money, political connections and violence as tools to achieve their objectives. Leaders of the farming communities that oppose these powerful individuals have now become targets of violence.

“During the last month, two leaders of the farming communities in Mayurapura area have been brutally assaulted. One such person is still undergoing treatment at the hospital.

“The first such incident was reported on 27 July 2023 when K.A. Ajith Kumara, 47-years, was assaulted near the Bopele Tank at around 6 pm.

“About two weeks later, on 15 August 2023, G. Karunathilaka, 54-years, was assaulted near the 29 Tank at UD-60 area at around 7 pm. Karunathilaka was brutally assaulted and had sustained serious injuries to his arms and legs.

“Complaints have been lodged with the Harbour Police on 27 June and 17 August about the attacks. However, nothing has been done and the assailants remain free to terrorize others.

“We express our strongest displeasure at the Police for not taking action against the perpetrators of these attacks. We also believe that a powerful force is influencing the police.

“It has almost been 10-days since water was released to the Udawalawe Tank from the Samanalawewa Tank. However, this water has not yet been adequately released to farmlands. This is leading to conflicts and tensions among the farmers and those who maintain large scale unauthorised plantations. The Mahaweli Authority, Department of Irrigation and Ministry of Agriculture must immediately step in to prevent potential clashes between farmers and those who maintain large scale unauthorized plantations.

One of the best ways to ease tensions is to arrest those who have assaulted farmer leaders. If these organised groups are allowed to continue, the lives of farmer leaders are in danger. If the violence claims the life of a farmer leader, the police must take responsibility.”

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