by Veluppillai, Thangavelu, Nakkeran.com, December 13, 2012
Even before Sri Lanka (then Ceylon ) gained independence from British, the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan government had a long-term plan to sponsor state aided colonisation to settle Sinhalese people from the south in regions traditionally considered to be the homeland in the northern or eastern parts of the Sri Lanka. The subject of state aided colonization has been a bone of contention between the majority Sinhalese and minority Thamils and perhaps a major factor in inter-communal violence since 1956.
These state-aided and funded Sinhalese colonization schemes have transformed the demographic composition of the North and Eastern provinces drastically. Although it was claimed that these schemes were meant to provide lands to landless Sinhalese peasants in the South, not a single Hill Country Thamil was given any land in the North and East at any time.
Don Stephen Senanayaka, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is credited with the planning and execution of major Sinhala colonization schemes under the guise of settling landless Sinhalese peasants from the South. He for all intents and purposes was the master-mind responsible for opening the flood-gates of Sinhalese colonization in traditional Thamil homelands. He held the post of Minister of Agriculture and Lands in the State Council and later when he became the Prime Minister after independence he appointed his son Dudley Senanayaka to the same post to ensure continuity of his settlement policy.
Shortly after independence, the Sinhalese dominated government of Sri Lanka started projects to settle peasants in the jungles of Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts. The forests were cleared and water tanks restored and additional tanks built.
Not withstanding the fact as to which party was in the seat of power, the state sponsored colonization of the Thamil traditional homeland had gone on with a religious fervour and commitment unparalleled in the annals of the country’s history. This was evident during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Gal Oyawhen both Anurudda Ratwatte, Minister for Irrigation and Power and Deputy Minister of Defence and Ranil Wickremasinghe, Leader of the opposition United National Party standing at the opposite poles of the political spectrum sharing the same platform at Amparai.
As a consequence of these schemes the Sinhalese population of Trincomalee District rose from 11,606 (15%) in 1946 to 85,503 (33%) in 1981.
In the 1980s the government extended the colonisation schemes into the Dry Zone area of the Northern Province, drawing up plans to settle up to 30,000 Sinhalese in traditionally Thamil land.
In the nineteen fifties the first colonisation scheme was at Kanthalai Kulam (Kantale) tank where peasants from outside Trincomalee District were settled in the traditional Thamil village of Kanthalai, 39 km south-west of Trincomalee town. 77% of settlers were Sinhalese and the rest were Thamils/Muslims.
A colonisation scheme was at Alai Kulam tank, 25 km south of Trincomalee town. Out of the total 65% of settlers were Sinhalese and the rest were Muslims.
The colonisation scheme was extended to Thamil speaking areas of Anuradhapura District. A scheme was started at Pathavik Kulam (Padaviya) tank, 65 km north-east of Anuradhapura town. Parts of the scheme lay in Trincomalee District and as such were annexed to the Sinhalese dominated Anuradhapura District. Land Development Department employees from this scheme took part in the 1958 anti-Thamil riots.
In 1961 a colonisation scheme was started at Muthali Kulam (Morawewa) tank, 24 km west of Trincomalee town.
In the 1980s, funded by aid received from the European Community, a colonisation scheme was started at Periya Vilankulam (Mahadiulwewa) tank, 30 km north-west of Trincomalee town.
Thamils in the Eastern province have lost two-third of their land mass to Sinhalese and reduced to a numerical minority from 75.65% in 1827 to 41.90 % in 1981. Today the figure must be much less. More importantly, the geographical contiguity of North and East has been severed. This was a deliberate strategic move to weaken the demand for a permanent merger of the North and East that will constitute a single politico-economic entity. Finally, while the Sinhalese government and politicians of all hues have cause to celebrate the golden jubilee with pomp and splendour, the Thamils find they have been pushed to the wall. Today the systematic and planned state aided Sinhalese colonization of Thamil traditional homelands during the last 50 years or more has cast a long shadow as to pose a threat to the very existence of the Thamil people as a Nation.
1. Gal Oya Colonization Scheme
The Gal Oyascheme (originally called Paddippalai Aru in Thamil)) in the then Batticaloa district in the east could easily be described as the single most ‘accomplishment’ of the successive Sinhalese governments in colonizing Northeast with Sinhalese settlers since independence in 1948.
When the Gal OyaDevelopment Scheme was inaugurated, the late D. S. Senanayake stated that at least 50% of the new lands that were to become cultivatable under the Gal OyaDevelopment Scheme would be distributed on a 50 – 50 basis between the local citizens of the Batticaloa district and the would be colonists from outside. The opening of the Gal OyaScheme was a great boon to the Sinhala people and this has been used as a device to deprive the Thamils and Muslims to live and own lands under this scheme. Thamil/Muslim Lands forcibly colonised with the Sinhalese in Ampara District. The River Valley Development Board, the successor to the Gal OyaBoard, without any notice or compensation to the Thamil/ Muslim cultivators with LDO Permits, handed over the whole area to the Sugar Corporation. Hundreds of Thamils/ Muslims were thrown out on the road. The land take over from the Thamils/ Muslims proved a dismal failure for sugar cultivation. Later the Government settled Sinhalese brought from the South instead of giving the land back to the Thamils/Muslims who had developed these lands on LDO Permits.
The Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation at Inguruana, Tile Factory under the Ministry of Industries at Irrakkamam and the River Valley Development Board – the successor to the Gal OyaDevelopment Board, took over the fertile paddy fields of the Muslims without any regard to the provisions of the law relating to acquisition of land. Muslim lands forcibly colonised with the Sinhalese in Trincomalee District Before the introduction of the Kanthalai and Allai Colonisation Schemes, Kanthalai was predominantly Muslim. Muslims cultivated about 4,000 acres of paddy land at a place called Pottanai in Thampalakamam Pattu. When the Kanthalai Colonisation Scheme began in 1952, the promise and the policy of the Government was 50% for the locals and 50% for others. Quite contrary to this, the Muslim cultivators who had been in the land for more than 30 years were chased away without any compensation. These lands were given to the Sinhalese in 1954.
Gal OyaColonization Scheme is only one among several major state-sponsored colonization schemes launched by the Sri Lankan government . There were numerous others like the Allai –Kanthalai and Yan Oya colonization schemes in the Trincomalee district, Maduru Oya in the Batticaloa district and Weli Oya (Manal Aru) in the Mullaitivu district.
Before the ink could dry on the Independence Act conferring Dominion Status to Ceylon, D.S. Senanayake like a venomous and insatiate snake after its prey introduced and passed into law the Ceylon Citizenship Act No.18 of 1948 which rendered a million Thamils of Indian origin stateless.
In 1949 by the enactment of Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act No.48, which was an amendment to the 1946 Orders in Council on franchise, the Hill country Thamils who returned 7 Members to Parliament at the general elections held in 1947 were rendered both stateless and vote less. Consequently the electoral strength of the Thamils in the subsequent Parliaments was reduced to almost half to 11.92% from 21.66% as at the time of independence. On the other hand Sinhalese representation in Parliament rose from 71.60% in 1948 to 80.78% in 1959.
In 1947 the government under D.S. Senanayaka enacted Act No.51 under which the Gal OyaDevelopment Board was established. It was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake on August 28, 1949 at Ingniyakala. A dam was built at Ingniyakala to divert the Gal Oyariver waters. This water reservoir was appropriately named Senanayake Samudra – the biggest man-made tank in the whole of Ceylon.
Gal OyaDevelopment Board spent a staggering US 67.2 million dollars to build the infrastructure and settle the colonists. Gal Oyascheme covered 120,000 acres and a total of 40 colonies were established each consisting of 150 families. A single family was given 3 acres of paddy land and 2 acres of highland with a dwelling house.
In the first phase of the scheme 20,000 Sinhalese were settled in these colonies. Although 6 colonies were allocated to Thamils, they were driven out during the communal riots that broke out on June 5, 1956. Several Thamils were killed or maimed by marauding Sinhalese thugs. Those Thamils who returned to their homes were again attacked during the 1958 racial riots. Today the allotments in these 6 colonies are occupied by the Sinhalese.
In 1990 twenty-nine Thamils living in Lagugala, near Poththuvil were killed and their houses destroyed by the Sinhalese. Another 314 Thamil families were driven out of Lagugala and they are now refugees living in the adjoining Thamil villages of Alaiyadivembu, Karativu, Vinayakapuram etc. The 1,200 acres of cultivable land belonging to the Thamils had been taken over by the Sinhalese with the help of the army. By 1960 an entirely new electorate called Amparai (now called Digamadulla) was carved out for the Sinhalese colonists on the recommendation of the De-limitation Commission appointed in 1959.
On 10th January 1961, the government created a new administrative district called Amparai out of the then existing Batticaloa district which sharply increased the tempo of Sinhalese colonization.
The Sinhalese population in the undivided Batticaloa district in 1911 was only 4702. In 1921 it was 7, 243. But after the Gal Oyascheme was launched the Sinhalese population began to rise by leaps and bounds as the following Table shows.
Table 1: Changes in Ethnic composition of Amparai District (1911-1981)
Source – Census data on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for the period 1911-1981
2. Sinhalese Colonization of Trincomalee District
The Eastern Province is 3,839 sq. miles in extent. Originally Trincomalee 1,016 sq. miles and Batticaloa 2,823 sq. miles were the two districts in this province.
According to the 1921 census, the Sinhalese were 3% of the population in the Trincomalee District and 4.5% in the combined Batticaloa and Ampara District. The Sinhalese were less than 4% in the whole of Eastern Province .This has contributed to the growth of tension and hostilities among different communities resulting in ethnic violence. The victims of such violence have always been the Thamils and Muslims.
In the Trincomalee district under Allai colonization scheme 65% of the allotments was given to Sinhalese and 35% to Muslims. Under Kanthalai colonization scheme the intake was 77% Sinhalese and 23% Thamil speaking. Under Morawewa (Muthalikkulam) scheme –though initially allotments were made on a proportionate basis, subsequent violence directed against Thamil settlers on a regular basis by the Sinhalese forced the Thamils to evacuate. Today it is a 100% Sinhalese colony. In 1972 Nochchikulam was re-named Nochiyagama and Sinhalese were settled down in 5,000 acres of land forcibly acquired from Thamils living in Kappalthurai and Paalampoddaru.
The brain behind this scheme was no other than K.B. Ratnayake, M.P. and the then SLFP Organizer for Anuradhapura District. In 1973 during Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s rule a total of 10,738 Sinhalese families were illegally settled in the Trincomalee District. Sinhalese colonists were planted all along the Thamil coastal villages like Kuchchaveli, Pulmoddai, Kumburuppiddi, Thiriyai, Thennamaravadi etc. For example in 1983 hundreds of Sinhalese illegally encroached and occupied the land adjoining Pulmoddai Agricultural Development Society. On December 2, 1984 these Sinhalese colonists attacked Thennamaravadi village situated North of Pulmoddai, and burnt 165 houses and 7 shops belonging to the Thamils. This resulted in the displacement of 749 Thamils constituting 147 families who were forced to irk out existence as refugees in adjoining villages.
During the sixties and seventies many Sinhalese villages sprouted in and around Trincomalee town. Srimapura, Abayapura, Mihintapura, Pattispura were some of the Sinhalese villages thus created often after driving the Thamils away. In 1984 Thamils living in China Bay and Kavathikuda were uprooted and Sinhalese took their places with the help of the armed forces. In October, 1998 132 Thamil families living in Linga- Nagar, a village 1 ½ miles from Trincomalee town, were forcibly ejected by the army on the pretext of expanding the nearby Sinhalese army camp. Earlier in September 1996, 47 Thamil families were forced out for establishing the original camp. Until the early 1980s areas targeted for Sinhalese colonization was confined to Thamil areas of mixed ethnic communities. This policy was subsequently ditched for obvious reasons and Sinhalese colonies came to be established in areas exclusively inhabited by the Thamils. This no doubt is ethnic cleansing of the Thamils in their land of birth with a vengeance by a Sinhala-Buddhist government bent on enforcing Sinhalese hegemony.
There is an integrated development master plan for Trincomalee town and other surrounding areas. One of the proposed projects for Trincomalee under this plan is the special economic zone at Kappalthurai. The first phase costs Rs. 4,250 million and the second, Rs. 2,600 million. It will be completed in 2015. There will also be a small and medium industrial zone at Kappalthurai. The first phase costs Rs. 500 million and the second, Rs. 1,000 million. A new administrative secretariat will be established for Rs. 300 million. A new fisheries harbour costing Rs. 1,000 million is to be constructed by 2012 at Pudavaikattu. A new town development scheme for Andankulam-China Bay is to be built by 2010 for Rs. 1,500 million. A massive road project linking Uppuvely and Eechilampattu is to be constructed by 2010 for Rs. 10.3 billion. This proposed outer circular road will run through Sinhala areas of Seruwila division. This is an extension of a new road constructed in Trincomalee North. Two tourist resorts will be set up by 2012. They will be in Nilaweli and Verugal at a cost of Rs. 800 million and Rs. 1,750 million, respectively.
Following Sri Lankan army’s major military offensive in the east in 2006 more than 500, 000 Thamils were forced to flee their homes to become refugees. While a section of the people evicted have returned to their homes, 17, 000 Thamils living in 23 villages in east Muthur have been prevented from re-settling by the Government. In May, 2010 year the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have signed an agreement to build the coal power plant at Sampur in the Trincomalee district. The proposed 500MW plant, estimated to cost US$500 million, is expected to be completed in 2012. Sampur has been declared a High Security Zone (HSZ) out of bounds for civilians. The HSZ consists of a land area of 675 sq. kms (260.5 sq.mls) that would effectively prevent Thamils who fled Muthur East and Sampur in 2006 during the war returning to their homes. Over 6000 Thamils are affected as a result of the HSZ.
The cruel fate of these people of Sampur, who are still waiting to claim their right to return and re-build their lives, makes clear that the Thamil people will not find the security and justice they seek under this current administration which has blatantly disregarded their rights, wishes and needs.
Trincomalee District has not seen a Thamil Government Agent since independence in 1948. District Land Officers posts are also filled by Sinhalese to ensure smooth implementation and accelerated colonization without any clichés. The following Table 2 shows the dramatic increase in the Sinhalese population over the years.
Table 2: Changes in Ethnic composition of Trincomalee District (1827-1981)
Source – Census data on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for the period 1881-1981. Area of Trincomalee District– 2618.2 sq. kms.
There has been no population census since 1981, but one is scheduled for 2012. The full impact of the sustained Sinhalese colonization in the Eastern province under war conditions and army terror will be revealed after this census is completed.
The Batticaloa District was divided into the present Ampara District 1,775 sq. miles and Batticaloa District 1,048 sq. miles in 1961.
In 1881 the Sinhalese population was a mere 4.2%, but it increased to a staggering 33.6% in 1981 and constituted one- third of the total population of the Trincomalee District.
Population Increase between 1949 and 1981 Thamil population increased from 136,059 to 411,451 – 302%, Muslim population increased from 109,024 to 315,201 – 289%, Sinhalese population increased from 27,556 to 243,358 – 883%. The National average increase of Sinhalese during this period is only 238%. The sudden increase of Sinhala population is the result of Government planed Sinhala Colonisation in Gal-oya, Pannal-oya, and Ambalam-oya in Ampara District, and Kanthalai, Allai, Morawewa, Muthalikkulam, Pathaviya (Part), and Mahadiuluwewa schemes in Trincomalee District. State aided Sinhala Colonisations The Land Policies pursued hitherto by successive Governments after Independence have had their far reaching adverse effects.
(1) The Minorities have been denied their legitimate share of Developed State Land. (2) Deprivation of Land, more particularly developed land, to landless people in the Districts of Land alienation. (3) Substantial alteration in the Ethnic composition of the Districts in which State Land have been alienated.
The graphic demographic changes for the Eastern Province as a whole between 1881-1981 are shown in Table 3 below.
Table 3: Changes in the Ethnic composition of Eastern Province (1827-1981)
3. Creation of Amparai District
Under the Accelerated Mahaweli Programme, the land area coming under the Eastern Province is 15 9,000 acres or 44,312 allotments. More than 100,000 Sinhalese will be settled soon according to the new agenda. When the operation commenced in the proposed Heda Oya Scheme in Pottuvil, Ampara District, the demography of the East will be changed to 55% Sinhalese. Allocation of land areas in the demarcation of electoral and administrative units The 1976 Delimitation Commission demarcated the Seruvila Electorate for the Sinhalese covering 700 sq. miles out of the 1048 sq. miles for the 24% Sinhalese in Trincomalee District. The land area for the 76% Thamils and Muslims was the balance 348 acres. According to 1971 census, the population of Ampara District – 47% Muslims, 30% Sinhalese, and 23% Thamils. The Ampara electorate created for the, newly settled Sinhalese under the Gal Oyastate aided colonisation is 880 sq. miles. With the 370 sq. miles allocated for the Lahugala and Damana AGA Division, the 30% Sinhalese were given 1,250 sq. miles- 70% land area, wher as the 70% Thamils and Muslims are left with only 30% of land area – 5.25 sq. miles. Former Muslim majority Panamapattu DRO Division, 472 sq. miles, population 26,916. When re-demarcating the new administrative divisions, 19,831 – 74% Muslim majority Pottuvil AGA Division was given only 22% – 103.9 sq. miles and the balance 78% – 368.2 sq. miles land area was allocated for the 7,085 – 26% Sinhala majority Lahugala AGA division.
In the Sammanthurai Muslim majority DRO division, nearly 50 sq. miles of l and area covering the Hendy Institute, Ampara tank and town area was separated and added with the Wewagarnpattu South – Uhana AGA division. When comparing the land area of Sinhala majority Lahugala AGA division with the Muslim majority Kalmunai AGA division, the Sinhalese are having 208 times more than the land area of the Muslims. When comparing the land areas for the Sinhalese with the land area for the Muslims in the Muslim majority Ampara district, the Sinhalese land area is 13 times more. More than 65% of the people, Thamils and Muslim living in the coastal area of the Ampara district. But the Ampara kachcheri continues the administration in Sinhala quite contrary to the constitutional requirement of the language of administration in Thamil.
4. Colonization of Vavuniya District
In Vavunia District because of the influx of Sinhalese under the Padavia (Paavatkulam) colonization scheme, the government created a new Sinhalese AGA’s division called Vavunia South by bifurcating the existing Vavunia South into two. In this new division there is a village called Ambalangodalla peopled entirely by Sinhalese from Ambalangoda in the South. According to the 1881 census there were only 1,157 Sinhalese compared to 13,164 Thamils in the Vavunia District. But according to the 1981 census there were 15,794 Sinhalese as against 54,179 Thamils.
The following Table 4 shows the overall demographic composition of the Vavunia District (since divided into Vavunia and Mullaitivu Districts).
Table 4: Changes in Ethnic composition of Vavunia District (1827-1981)
*Includes part of Mannar.
** Now divided into Vavuniya and Mullaitivu Districts.
Thus while the Thamil population increased by only 383% the Sinhalese population increased by 1272% between 1881-1981! The Paavatkulam Colonization Scheme was introduced in Vavunia District in 1956. At the beginning 595 Thamil families and 453 Sinhalese families were settled under this scheme. However, the Thamil families were later chased away and it is now a 100% Sinhalese colony.
In the early eighties the Gandhiyam Movement re-settled about 85,000 Thamils from the Hill country who were victims of racial violence directed against them by the Sinhalese during 1977, 1979 and 1981. But the government of J.R.Jayawardena used the Sinhala army to remove the Thamil settlers by force in 1982 using emergency powers.
On 24 June 2011, 65 Sinhala families were settled in Thamil village Kokkachchaankulam in Vavuniya North without knowledge of district administration. Kokkachchaankulam is a Thamil village in Vedivaithakallu under Nedunkerny divisional secretary in the Vavuniya North Piradesha sabhai. Kokkachchaankulam can be reached via Semamadu, Oothukulam & Ariyakundam. Nedunkerny can be reached from Kokkachchaankulam via Vedivaithakallu. Thamil residents were displaced by war and this agricultural village was described as “abandoned” in Vavuniya district official reports. After a survey undertaken by Mahaweli Authority personnel in March 2010 a “quiet” plan was implemented to reconstruct village and settle Sinhalese. The settlement scheme was brought under the Vavuniya south Sinhala division & temporary land permits were issued to 165 Sinhala families. The 165 families were settled in Kokkachchaankulam with the help of the military & without officially informing Vavuniya district secretary. More than 300 acres of paddy land owned by Thamils was cultivated by residents in Kokkachchaankulam prior to displacement due to war. The Army repaired and reconstructed by December, 2010 the damaged anecut and deepened the tank enabling paddy cultivation to resume in Kokkachchaankulam. Rs 4.5 million was allocated for anecut/tank restoration and settlement of 165 Sinhala families allegedly through “Northern Spring” funds. A further 20 million rupees allocated for construction of a 22 km gravel road from Kokkachchaankulam to Mahakachchankodi in Vavuniya south. Road work was started by a private contractor Bandara in April 2011. 30 ft wide jungle is cleared and a 24ft road with 12 ft gravel is being built. The “Sinhalaised”village of Kokkachchaankulam is to be renamed “Kalabowasewa”. The new rd will be called Mahakachchankodi -Kalabowasewa road. ( http://www.development.lk “Sinhalaisation” of North continues. )
5. New Sinhalese Electorates Carved Out
In Trincomalee out of 11 AGAs divisions the Sinhalese are in the majority in 7 of them i.e. Tampalagamam, Trincomalee Town and its suburbs, Sripura, Gomarankadawela (Gomarankadavai), Morawewa (Muthalikkulam), Kanthalai and Seruwila.
The De-limitation Commission carved out Seruwila as a new electoral division in 1976 and a Sinhalese was duly returned to Parliament in the general elections held in 1977. Seruwila electorate occupies three-fifth of the total land area of Trincomalee District. In Amparai (now shortened to Ampara) District, out of 16 AGAs divisions, the Sinhalese are in a majority in 8 of them viz Amparai Town, Tamana, Namla Oya, Ukana, Dehimathakandiya, Lagugala, Maha Oya and Pathimathalana.
Out of a total area of 4,318 sq. kms; 3,391 sq. kms belonged to Sinhalese AGAs divisions. That is 78% of the land area had become Sinhalese majority areas in the Amparai District. In 1977 two Sinhalese members were returned to Parliament from Digamadulla in the Amparai District and Seruwila in the Trincomalee District respectively.
The number of Sinhalese M.PP from the Eastern province dramatically increased to five in 1989, four from Amparai District and one from Trincomalee District. The same number of Sinhalese M.Ps was returned to Parliament in the 1994 general elections.
6. Weli Oya (Manal Aru) Sinhalese Colonization
The colonisation scheme was extended into the Northern province with the introduction of the Manal Aru (Weli Oya) scheme, which covered the districts of Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Anuradhapura. Sinhalese were settled in traditionally Thamil land, given land, money to build homes and security provided by the Special Task Force. Although the scheme covered four districts, administration was handled from the Sinhalese dominated Anuradhapura district. The scheme aroused much anger amongst the Thamils. This anger boiled over into violence when the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam attacked the Kent and Dollar Farm settlement at Weli Oya, killing 62.
On 16th April, 1988 by an extra ordinary gazette notification Manal Aru area in the Mullaitivu District was re-named Weli Oya ( Proclaimed the 26th District of Sri Lanka) and included in the Rapid Mahaweli Development Scheme.
A total of 13,288 Thamil families living in 42 villages, including Kent and Dollar farms and 12 others each 1000 acres in extent held on 99 years lease by Thamil business concerns., were dispossessed of their lands under the same gazette notification. The Sinhalese army gave 48 hours notice to the Thamil villagers to vacate their homes or face eviction by force. In fact colonization of Manal Aru commenced as early as 1984 and the Sinhalese army’s presence in the area dates back from the same year. The Sinhalese army did use force as promised and scores of Thamil villagers, some of them Hill country Thamil refugees victims of earlier Sinhalese violence in 1983, were murdered and the rest fled in terror.
In one night alone 29 Thamil villagers were murdered at Othiyamalai, a hamlet furthermost from the Weli Oya colony. The master-minds and the driving force behind the Weli Oya Sinhalese colonization were Messrs. Gamini Dissanayake, Minister for Mahaweli Development, Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of National Defence, Cyril Mathew, Minister of Industries and Scientific Affairs and N.G.P. Panditaratne, Chairman Mahaweli Development Board. These ‘gang of four’ openly advocated the colonization of the North and East in general and Weli Oya in particular by Sinhalese after driving the Thamils out using military force. From there on Sinhala colonization was put on a war-footing and between 1988-89, 3 364 families, most of them ex-convicts brought straight from prisons, were settled in Weli Oya. A further 35,000 persons comprising 5, 925 families were also settled under the same scheme. It is in recognition of the ‘yeoman services’ rendered by the top elite of the Sinhala army, especially that of Major General Janaka Perera, the Thamil village of Thannimurippu was re-named Janakapura.
Right now the Sri Lankan government has deployed around 100,000 Sinhalese soldiers in the North to maintain military administration. The Civil administration has become dysfunctional and virtually ceased to exist. Top administrators have been ordered to take orders from the Army Commander and Governor of the Northern Provincial Council.
The Weli Oya colonization scheme has driven a wedge between the Northern and Eastern provinces. According to Brigadier Hiran Halangoda “Weli Oya is very important militarily. The Sinhalese presence will not allow the North-East merger. (Sunday Observer – 22 February, 1998).
Writing in the Sunday Times (26th August, 1990) Mahaweli Development Ministry Official, Herman Gunaratne literally let the cat out of the bag when he confessed, inter-alia, thus- “All wars are fought for land…The plan for settlement of people in Yan Oya and Malwathu Oya basins were worked out before the communal riots of 1983. Indeed the keenest minds in the Mahaweli, some of whom are holding top international positions were the architects of this plan. My role was that of an executor… We conceived and implemented a plan which we thought would secure the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka for a long time. We moved a large group of 45,000 land hungry (Sinhala) peasants into the Batticaloa and Polonaruwa Districts of Maduru Oya delta. The second step was to make a similar human settlement in the Yan Oya basin. The third step was going to be a settlement of a number of people, opposed to Eelam, on the banks of the Malwathu Oya. By settling the (Sinhala) people in the Maduru Oya we were seeking to have in the Batticaloa zone a mass of persons opposed to a separate state…Yan Oya if settled by non-separatists (Sinhala people) would have increased the population by about another 50,000. It would completely secure Trincomalee from the ……”
As rightly pointed out by the writer civil war was indeed a battle for the land. That is precisely the reason why Yaalpanam was re-named Yapapatuna and the Lion flag was ceremoniously hoisted when the army captured Jaffna in 1995. Similarly Poovarasankulam on the Vavuniya –Mannar road was re-named Sapumalpura and the Lion flag hoisted when the army captured it following operation Edibala in February 1997. The Lion flag was again hoisted at Mankulam in the same year when the ghost town was occupied by the army to buttress Sinhalese hegemonic rule over the Thamils and their territory. In a statement from London, where she was on a private visit, President Chandrika Kumaratunga congratulating the ‘valiant soldiers’ who captured Mankulam.
The statement said: “I was very happy to learn that our valiant soldiers have captured Mankulam, the last stronghold of the LTTE terrorists. I wish to share the joy of this historic victory with the fellow countrymen and brave soldiers who are now jubilant over the achievement.” (Reuters – Colombo October 4, 1997) Not to be left out the then Deputy Minister of Defence Anurudda Ratwatte crowed “Your motherland salutes you. You have not sacrificed your lives in vain.”
Now, after the war ended in May 2009, the quest to “completely secure Trincomalee from the rebels” proceeds unabated. Reports from Trincomalee confirm the fact that Sinhalese continue to settle illegally on private lands owned by the Thamils as well as on lands belonging to several Hindu temples. In all these cases the armed forces aid and abet in favour of the Sinhalese. Even the Thamil groups in Colombo which are running with the hare (the Thamils) and hunting with the dogs (the Sinhalese government) referring to the settlement of Sinhalese in the eastern part of Trincomalee described it as an “attempt to artificially change the demographic composition of the District.” According to the Secretary General of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), Mr. Suresh Premachandran, the decision was taken by representatives of the Thamil United Liberation Front (TULF), the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), the People’s Liberation Organisation of Thamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Thamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), at a meeting here on Sunday. In a statement, Mr. Premachandran said the parties were of the opinion that “instead of resettling displaced Thamils”, numbering thousands, from the Trincomalee District due to the civil war, “the Government is engaged in massive State-aided colonisation of these areas by Sinhala settlers.” Condemning what they termed “blatant attempts to artificially change the demographic composition of the District,” the parties demanded that the Government “immediately dismantle all the illegal Sinhala colonies in and around Linga Nagar and Trincomalee District.”
Ironically, thamil families from Valigamam North are still forbidden by the authorities to return and resettle in their homes for “security reasons.” The upshot of the proposed land grab involves the take over two historical Temples sacred to Hindu Thamils. The temples are Maviddapuram Kanthaswamy Kovil and Keerimalai Nakuleswaram temple; the latter was in existence even before the arrival of the legendary Vijaya and his men in BC 543. While Buddhist places of worship in Thamil areas involving several hundred acres are declared as Sacred Cities (Example Thiriyai in Trincomalee District) by the Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lankan government, the same government converts hallowed Hindu Temples of antiquity into military camps. Thirukketheesvaram in Mannar District and Koneswaram in Trincomalee District – both these temples immortalized by Saint Gnanasampanthar and Saint Thirunavukkarasar (7th century AD) in their sacred hymns remain occupied by the Sinhalese armed forces.
Even after the war ended , the army continue to maintained an extensive buffer zone between the base and civilian settlements. No civilians are allowed into the two-kilometre zone without strict security checks. The whole base is regarded as a high security zone due to the airfield. Only a token number of houses that are located inside the buffer zone have been allowed to be reclaimed by their owners and no civilians are allowed to settle in the zone.
While Buddhist places of worship in Thamil areas involving several hundred acres are declared as Sacred Cities (Example Thiriyai in Trincomalee District) by the Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lankan government, the same government converts Hindu Temples of antiquity into military camps with impunity. Thirukketheeswaram Temple in Mannar District and Koneswaram Temple in Trincomalee District, both these Holy Isvarams immortalized by Saint Gnanasampanthar and Saint Thirunavukkarasar (7th century AD) in their sacred hymns, remain occupied by the Sinhala armed forces since 1990.
In close proximity to Thirukketheeswaram temple, the holiest Temple of Thamils, a large Buddhist Vihara has been built by the Sri Lankan army. On April 05, 2012 a giant Buddha Statue weighing 1,500 kilo was installed in front of the sacred Palavi Tank in Thiruketheeswaram by the same occupying Sinhala army. The Eelam Thamils fear another Kathirkamam in the making.
Kathirkamam, the holiest shrine of Sri Lankan Hindus was forcefully overtaken by the Sinhalese. They got rid of all Thamil character in the Temple ad removed the `Ohm` sign in Thamil above the entrance of Kathirkamam Murugan Temple. Now the Thamil god Murukan is not allowed to see Thamil words. Those interested in projecting Kataragama as a Buddhist centre have capitalised on the colorful festival procession by introducing BUDDHIST FEATURE into it. On the day before the water-cutting ceremony, Lord Murugan goes to Kiri Vihare to the Buddhists. Now, a `relic` is taken ceremoniously from the Buddhist temple (formerly Perumal Hindu Temple), to the Murugan Temple, and then placed on a caparisoned elephant and made to lead the procession.
Until last week the Sinhala occupation army had a small Buddha statue in a private land confiscated from Thamils as security zone. The sudden appearance of a Buddhist temple overnight near the Hindu temple of Thiruketheeswarm has created panic and fear among the Thamils in the region. They know what will happen after a band of Sinhala Skinheads will land in Thiruketheeswarm along with the Sinhala settlers to terrorize the Thamils in their own homeland. (http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2012/4/75782_space.html)
The above is only a snapshot of a long history of settling Sinhalese from the south that has resulted in altering the demographic composition of once Thamil dominated Northeast provinces. The systematic colonization of the Northeast with Sinhalese settlers has reduced the Thamils a minority in the two provinces where they have lived for centuries. This tantamount to ethnic cleansing an offence under international law. It also amounts to cultural genocide. Genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group.” The Thamil people fits well under this definition that they do face cultural genocide.
The way out is to restore the status quo ante as at the time of independence, that is on February 04, 1948. We are living in the 21st century and Thamils should not be allowed to face slow extinction under a majoritarian Sinhala – Buddhist government which wants to impose hegemony over them. Rule of law and Media Freedom have been undermied. The North is reeling under the jack boot of an alien army. Every aspect of civilian life is closely monitored by the army and police.
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