HOW SUCCESSFUL IS THE RESETTLEMENT IN THE NOTHERN PROVINCE?
Posted on November 8th, 2009

by Lt Col (Retd) Anil Amarasekera

Being a retired Army Officer I must confess at the inception that I have little or no information regarding the strategy of the present government in its implementation of the Uturu Vasanthaya. However the accelerated pace at which the two hundred and eighty thousand internally displaced Tamil people are being resettled though commendable leaves many questions unanswered.

When I visited the Manik Farm on two occasions I was very surprised to meet several people of Indian Tamil origin from the older generation who spoke good Sinhalese. When questioned with regard to their ability to converse so fluently in Sinhalese, they informed me that they were estate Tamils who had lived at one point of time in the hill country among the Sinhalese. Many of them may be those that were identified to be repatriated to India under the Sirima Shastri agreement. They were subsequently resettled in the Mullaittivu and Kilinotchchi districts after communal riots by International Non Governmental Organizations such as the Redd Barna in an effort to link the Northern Province to the Eastern Province to create a land mass exclusively inhabited by Tamils. This was a surreptitious effort to establish a Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern Provinces better known as Eelam and thereby to divide and destabilize our country.

Before LTTE took control of the Northern Province, illicit immigration from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka was prevented by the Army through a Task Force for Illicit Immigrants. For thirty years after the government lost control of the Northern Province the said task force did not function and the possibility of many illicit immigrants migrating from Tamil Nadu to the Northern Province during this period cannot be over ruled. How then is the government going to establish who is a citizen and who is not when resettling internally displaced people in the Northern Province? I am made to understand that the accepted procedure for those who have lost their National Identity Cards is to obtain an affidavit from the Grama Niladari confirming residency in his division. On the strength of such an affidavit a new identity card is issued. This may be the only country in the world where citizenship can be thus established on an affidavit from a single government servant.

For over thirty years the LTTE controlled most of the Northern Province and accordingly it was the LTTE that alienated land to the people and not the government of Sri Lanka. Most of these lands were alienated by the LTTE to Maha Weera families. Therefore if resettlement is to be implemented with people moving back to lands alienated by the LTTE, the government would only be implementing LTTE strategy of establishing a Tamil Eelam that the Security Forces fought so hard to destroy with so much blood, sweat, tears and toil and sometimes by sacrificing even their life and limb.

The Tamil people who lived in the Northern Province be they citizen or not did suffer untold misery during the last thirty years under the Jackboot of the LTTE. Tamil people living in Jaffna district were first driven down to the Kilinotchchi district like a herd of cattle when the Security Forces took control of the Jaffna district. When the Security Forces commenced operations in the Mannar district the Tamil people living in that district too were driven like a herd of cattle to the Kilinochchi district. When the Security Forces advanced into the Kilinochchi district the Tamil people that were driven from Jaffna and Mannar districts to Kilinochchi district were next herded like cattle to the Mullaittivu district by the LTTE.

The so called humanitarian organizations, the International Non Governmental Organization and the western nations that now express much concern with regard to the conditions in the government run welfare centers for the internally displaced Tamils were totally silent when the LTTE was driving these innocent Tamil people from one district to another like cattle to use them as a human shield. These Tamil people be they citizen or not finally broke away from the LTTE cordon and moved into government controlled areas seeking protection from the government, risking their very life and limb.

It was the LTTE and not the Security Forces that established mine fields round the areas where these innocent Tamil People were forced to live to prevent them escaping into government controlled areas. Clearing such mine fields around villages in the Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts has become a daunting task for the Army, though they have succeeded in doing so in double quick time, to make these villages available for human habitation once more. However since the Tamil people left the areas under LTTE control and arrived in government controlled areas voluntarily, the government was granted a golden opportunity to resettle these people in villages with proper infrastructure facilities where electricity, water and communication etc could have been provided. Has the government squandered away this opportunity due to pressure from some western countries? If people are resettled in small pockets where they were originally settled by the LTTE, it may become a nightmare for the Security Forces to provide security to such resettled areas in the future. It is important to understand clearly that there can be no development through the Uturu Vasanthaya sans proper security.

Screening of 280000 internally displaced people to identify LTTE carders also has to be implemented very carefully to prevent them from being released to live in resettled villages. If they are not identified and rehabilitated they will regroup once released and commence sporadic guerilla attacks on resettled villages. No amount of pressure from western countries can be a good enough reason for speeding up resettlement compromising on proper screening. Is it prudent to release a dog that bites from a kennel in your house when friends are around just because the next door neighbor who is a diplomat from a western country and a dog lover exerts pressure?

It must also be remembered that the 280000 internally displaced Tamils are those who moved into government controlled areas during the final stages of the war against LTTE terrorists. There was an exodus of many more internally displaced people from the Northern Province to the South, perhaps approximately 300000 during the thirty year period that the LTTE destabilized the country. While most of these people were Muslims there were also some Sinhalese who were displaced from the Northern Province. These people have suffered as internally displaced people for much longer with little or no help from humanitarian organizations than the recently internally displaced Tamils in the welfare centers. It is the duty of the government to resettle these people in their original habitats with the necessary infrastructure, if the government is to give serious consideration to national integration as opposed to segregation.

I am placing these thoughts on record for those who are formulating policy to act upon without further delay. If the concerns expressed in this article are not addressed by those who are now formulating policy, it would not be long before we revert back to square one and then all the effort of the Security Forces in defeating the LTTE to protect and preserve the unity and territorial integrity of our nation for posterity would have been of little use.

One Response to “HOW SUCCESSFUL IS THE RESETTLEMENT IN THE NOTHERN PROVINCE?”

  1. Kit Athul Says:

    Excellent article. This resettlement must be carried out in a post may 18th thought process and NOT pre May 18th throught process. The evolution that took place from 1815 was a painstakingly slow process. Since HE MR took office this change, we are witnessing today, happend at the speed of light and no one could envisaged how the resettlement process could be managed in a post May 18th environment. Remenber in a democracy there are no Tamil only or Muslim only areas. Good example of this is: Ananda Sangaraya lives in pre May 18th era, so he wants Karunanidhi to monitor resettlement and make sure Sinhala are not settled in Tamil villages. Your last paragraph is the best. Please do not use dirty word Sinhalese, use SINHALA instead. This is because like me you were brought up in a British Colonian sphere. Please send me your e-mail address via lankaweb, so that I can explain to you how this Sinhalese originated.
    Kithsiri, Florida, USA

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