3.4 High Security Zones (HSZ) in North & East
One of the main objectives that were prioritized by the CFA was to demilitarize North and Eastern provinces of the Island. It was believed that such a demilitarization process would assist a rapid implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction plans in the region. But the inability of the state to fulfil this important agreement had a drastic impact on the peace process as a whole. Militarization was seen as a way of maintaining a constant grip over the Tamil regions, even during the time of peace.
Declaring vastly populated areas as “high security zones” was one such important step towards achieving this aim. Having learnt about the relative success of such ‘security zones' in Israel, the Sri Lankan government started using the same strategy more extensively against the Tamil militancy since the late 1980s. There are four categories of zones declared from time to time through regulations either under the Public Security Ordinance (PSO) or Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA): 'prohibited zones,' 'surveillance zones,' 'security zones' and 'high security zones.' While 'surveillance zones' and 'prohibited zones' are marked at sea and the adjoining coasts, the 'security zones' and 'high security zones' are demarcated on land. The 'security' and 'high security' zones are the most controversial. They were basically set-up to protect military camps, strategic installations, and the lifelines of security forces in Jaffna peninsula. In the peninsula, government has maintained 18 'high security zones' (HSZs) covering about 190 sq km, since the beginning of 1990s. The ‘zones’ have led to the displacement and economic deprivation of nearly 1, 30,000 civilians (these numbers does not include the large number of civilians who were displaced during the recent military offensives.) The displaced persons have to live either with their relatives or at refugee camps. This apart, there are large tracts of agricultural lands that fall under these zones that have deprived many farmers of their livelihood.
Apart from the state sponsored colonization schemes, declaring vast areas as high security zones, displacing hundreds and thousands of people had been a common practice in the East too. On 30 May 2007, the Government of Sri Lanka gazetted Regulation No. 2 of 2007, which declared Muthur-East / Sampoor a High Security Zone (HSZ) in the Trincomalee district. By doing so, the government confiscated private land from the Tamils who were displaced from their homes by indiscriminate shelling and bombing in late 2006. This confiscation of lands is taking place while the owners are languishing in refugee camps in appalling conditions. The declared MZ in Muthur-East covers half of the present Muthur Divisional Secretariat, which is 179.4 square kilometres in territory. Thus the confiscated area covers 90 square kilometres, which is a very large area. This area includes 19 schools, including the leading school for this area, the Chenaiyoor Central College. There are 18 Hindu temples and one Methodist church. The area has 88 water tanks that are used for irrigating farmlands and grazing land for livestock. The people own about 2000 hectares of such land. [1 hectare = 0.01 square kilometers].
Even after the end of recent military offensives, hundreds and thousands of Tamil people are still languishing in internment camps under extremely harsh conditions. But the areas newly captured by the government forces have been subjected to intense militarization process, by building up massive military complexes and increasing the number of soldiers deployed in the areas. Even during the war, there were more than 40,000 troops permanently occupying farmlands and private properties belonging to Tamil civilians in Jaffna peninsula. This trend has been speeded up since the end of the recent war, according numerous media reports.