Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Fait Accompli?

by M. Nadarajah, originally posted January 16, 2004

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court, under instructions from Pres. Rajapakse has decided that the merger of the Northeastern Province was flawed , but could be rectified by Parliament, which Rajapakse is not inclined to do. Numerous articles have been written in the Southern press about why there should be a de-merger, notably by H.L. de Silva, a lawyer and member of the government delegation to the Geneva Peace talks. In his article, de Silva is trying to project the Tamil Homelands as a myth, and also talks of the current percentage of Sinhalese in the East , forgetting the fact that this percentage came about purely by planned colonization. In this context, we repost the following article.

The several Governments that have been in power in Ceylon, renamed Sri Lanka, of whichever colour or hue, and whether capitalist-oriented or socialist-oriented, have had one common objective and that has been to make it a Sinhala Buddhist country, irrespective of the fact that nearly 26% of the island is non-Sinhalese and nearly 35% non-Buddhist.

These governments have imposed what has to be called a Sinhalese Constitution with a Sinhalese flag, a Sinhalese national anthem, and with Buddhism given pride of place, ignoring the wishes and feelings of religious, cultural and ethnic minorities. This constitution was coupled with discrimination in every sphere of life. Development, education, and employment opportunities were denied or restricted in minority homelands. This affected Tamils more than the more pliant Muslim minority, which was prepared to accept the crumbs that fell from the master’s table in the form of ministerships, deputy ministerships and official appointments.

In addition, to add “injury to insult,” the Sinhalese committed pogroms against Tamils, most times with the help of the armed forces or police.

Colonization of traditionally Tamil areas in Sri Lanka
Colonization of traditionally Tamil areas in Sri Lanka as of 1983

As one of the ways of pursuing their agenda, every one of the island's governments insidiously and regularly set about changing the demography of parts of the Tamil homeland, most particularly of the erstwhile Eastern province, by state-funded colonization of Tamil areas with Sinhalese, driving Tamils from their lands using the practically 96% Sinhalese armed services and the 90% Sinhalese police. This procedure that started with the gaining of independence continues to this day, despite peace talks and promises given during such talks.

While minorities do live in Sinhalese areas, they buy the property with their hard-earned money and not using taxpayer’s money (including Tamil taxpayers'). Major irrigation schemes have been initiated in these formerly Tamil areas after colonization, and, to strengthen their actions, Sinhalese officials have been appointed as senior administration and land officials, as well as to the police force in those areas.

Every Governor appointed by the President to the Northern and Eastern provinces, and to the current NorthEast province, has been a Sinhalese and, in most cases, an ex-army officer. These officials do not understand the language of the majority of people of those areas and the public is made to feel like second-class citizens.

An area called ‘Manal Aru’ (Sandy River), which lies between the erstwhile Northern, and Eastern provinces, has been settled with Sinhalese to break the contiguity of the areas of traditional Tamil habitation. Manal Aru was re-named ‘Weli Oya’ in Sinhalese, which also means Sandy River. In this case, the Sinhalese version was a translation of the Tamil name, but often new Sinhalese names are given to colonized areas.

In addition, as in most such areas, Buddhist temples have been built and Buddhist priests installed in them to make the takeover complete. The government even got the parliament to approve the Weli Oya settlement. In the Manal Aru region, two large farms owned and occupied by Tamils were taken over and settled with Sinhalese. Later, when the Liberation Tigers attacked those farms, the government in power had the gumption to bitterly complain that the Liberation Tigers had attacked Sinhalese farms!!

The accomplishment of these colonization activities has changed the demography of the region completely and has enabled several Sinhalese parliamentarians to be elected from the combined Northeast province in an area which had a 100% representation by Tamils and Muslims in parliament at independence.

The extent to which the demography has been changed can be seen from the following statistics of the Department of Census and Statistics. In the year 1924 the Sinhalese population in the erstwhile Eastern province was only a little over 4%, yes 4%! Tamils had the highest percentage followed by Muslims. By 1947, a year before independence, with the actions of the minister of agriculture of the then state council, the percentage of Sinhalese had gone up to a little over 9%. Through the policies followed by successive Governments the percentage of the Sinhalese population in the East had grown to over 25% according to the census in the early eighties. There has been no proper census since then, but the Sinhalese now claim to be over 32% of the population. Having accomplished this modern day subterfuge, Sinhalese now claim that they are almost one-third of the population and, with the Muslim population, make up more that 60% of the population. Fait accompli to some!!

Now the Sinhalese are clamoring to permanently de-merge the Northeast province, which was merged following the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, that called the area “the historical habitat of the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka.” Incidentally, the Muslims also speak Tamil.

The Sinhalese want a referendum to be taken in the erstwhile Eastern province to find out if the people want to remain merged with the north or want to de-merge. There is no mention of finding out if the people of the erstwhile Northern province want the merger to continue. The Sinhalese are doing everything possible to get the Muslims to vote with them by engineering conflicts between the Tamils and Muslims. They even start attacks and blame them on the Tamils.

There have been some new settlements of Sinhalese set up even when talks were taking place. Early in 1990 when talks were taking place settlements were being encouraged in Batticaloa, Amparai and Trincomalee. In 1994 when talks were taking place with Chandrika’s Government settlements were taking place in Trincomalee. Chandrika, who projected herself as an angel of peace, named a Sinhalese settlement after her sister Sunetra, calling it ‘Sunetra Wewa.’ It was around that period that settlements took place in Thaniyagama, Sumeethagama, Kalapai Aru, Mutur, Thiriyai, and areas surrounding the Koneswarar temple in Trincomalee. Tamils who ran away out of fear or have been chased away from 1983 onwards have found that their traditional farms and houses have been transformed into Sinhalese areas. Even during the last more than 23 months since the signing of the MoU [now 5 years], instead of rehabilitation and resettlement of Tamils in their areas, several areas have seen new settlements of Sinhalese springing up.

In the North, under the guise of High Security Zones, or that mines have not been fully removed, Tamils have been prevented from resettling in their own homes. However, Sinhalese, who had moved away from border areas in Vavuniya and Mannar, have been encouraged to move back to their homes. In Kokkuveli village near Vavuniya, High Security Zones were shrunk to permit Sinhalese to resettle. In Tamil areas close by, though permission to resettle was given, under the guise of danger from mines, resettlement has been denied. While Tamils have had problems in resettling in their own lands, the government is very keen on settling Sinhalese in their homes.

In the East, particularly in Trincomalee, Sinhalese settlements, which were made to reduce the percentage of Tamils, are being expanded. It is understood that seven major Sinhalese settlement schemes are being planned. These are (1) Thiriyai Settlement (2) Villankulam Buddhist Vihare and Settlement (3) Anandakulam Settlement (4) Kantalai Sugar Corporation Settlement (5) Temple area of Sinnathoduvai (6) Shops and Sheds in coastal areas of Trincomalee town (7) Buddha statue in Palampoddaru near the Pathini Ammal Temple.

These infringements on Tamil property rights were pointed out by the LTTE at the sixth session of talks in Berlin and a request made that they be stopped. The government agreed and the government’s chief negotiator G.L. Peiris gave a written statement.

Yet several of those settlements are still continuing. It was expected that at least this time, since there is international facilitation, the infringement would stop, but that does not seem to be the case.