Submission to the LLRC by Dr Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. former Government Agent, Matara District, International Consultant-The Homeland and the Inland Traps
Posted on January 12th, 2011

Garvin Karunaratne, SLAS, Ph.D. former Government Agent, Matara District International Consultant

The Homeland Theory, is based on the idea that the Northern and Eastern Provinces entirely belong to the Tamil people who do now happen to be the vast majority in those Districts. While the population of the Northern Province is mainly Tamil, it is found that the population of the Eastern Province is roughly one third Sinhala, a third Tamil and a third Muslim.

 Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith in his statement to the LLRC states that the Wanni areas- the Northern and Eastern Provinces were the homelands of the Tamils and that peasant settlement done by the Government was the cause of ethnic strife. A case has been fabricated as if these two provinces are not a part of a united Sri Lanka.

 As a member of the Administrative Service for around five years I had to inspect cooperatives and paddy collection island-wide and have had to travel in the Northern and Eastern Provinces very often. All over the coastal areas there were small Sinhala fisherfolk villages. They were not mere fishing settlements but had the infrastructure of small Sinhala traders and bakeries.

 These provinces were sparsely populated and the entire land in the Wanni areas were full of tanks built by the Sinhala kings of ancient times that had fallen into disrepair. When I was in charge of minor irrigation work in the Anuradhapura District in 1963 and 1964, I had the occasion to rebuild many of the tanks that had fallen into disrepair. On my visits very often I came across Brahmi inscriptions. Then, in nostalgia, I crept back a decade to my studies in paleography and made copies of the inscriptions. I could identify the script to relate to the few centuries before Christ, which meant that all these areas were then populated by Sinhala Buddhists- people who practiced agriculture for their livelihood.

 It is of interest to note that Norway made a sinister move to settle Tamil youths from the hill country into the Wanni under the RedBaana Programme without the knowledge of the Government during the reign of President Jayawardena. This was stopped when it was brought to the notice of the Government but the fact remains that it was Norway, a country that had the nerve to do this clandestine “development”, without the knowledge of the host sovereign country, under the pretext of “development”. Norway did pave the path for ethnic strife in order to destabilize Sri Lanka and help the insurgent Prabhakaran. It was found at the last stages of the War, in May 2009, that some of the RedBana settlers were found among the Tamils taken by the LTTE as its human shield. It needs to be stated that Norway is now making a march back to our shores to investigate-to facilitate peace! They will bring a Trojan horse to the Wanni without the knowledge of anyone. Like in the case of the RedBaana Project, by the time the Government wakes up, the Trojan horse will succeed in enabling the diaspora to resettle and make a case for a separate state.

 In my opinion the exodus of Tamils into the Wanni commenced with the foray of Anuruddha Ratwatta to Jaffna in the times of President Kumaranatunge. The conquest of Jaffna was so important that forces were withdrawn from the mainland and the defeated Prabhakaran stole into the mainland taking with him a Tamil populace from the Jaffna peninsula.

 Is there an Ethnic Problem?

 The peasant settlements began in about the Thirties and there was no ethnic problem whatsoever. As an administrator I have traveled all alone on desolate mud tracks in the Wanni for inspections and have visited many a settlement all alone. I have covered Trincomalee District from Anuradhapura and also worked for a short spell in Jaffna and Batticaloa. The Tamil people faced no language problem because in every Department there were officers who knew Tamil and English and letters that came in Tamil were answered in Tamil. The Sinhala Only Act was not the cause of any discrimination because provision was made to have Tamil speaking officers in all departments. Even the rules for admissions to the University was for the entire island where urban and developed areas were penalized.

 In the Marketing Department my office for the Southern Province was at Ambalantota and my Chief Clerk was A.C.Rajasingham, a Tamil, one of the best chief clerks I ever had. The entire population was Sinhala and Rajasingham was a lone Tamil, highly respected for his integrity.

 There was total amity among the Tamils and the Sinhala and other communities like Muslims and Burghers that lived in Colombo. In the late Forties living in Bambalapitiya, I was given free private tution in Latin by a Tamil gentleman who, lived closeby. At St. Peter’s College my masters were Mr. Ratnasabhapathy for History and Mr Gnanaprakasam for Mathematics. Both masters were very popular and totally accepted by all students. In the Department of Agrarian Services, the Deputy Commissioner was Mr K, Sittampalam high respected by everyone. In short the people lived in amity. Even during the insurrection by Prabhakaran from 1980 to 2009, as much as 55% of the Tamil population lived amongst the Sinhala people without any special measure of police protection.

 The 1983 riots where many Tamils were killed in Colombo is quoted as an instance of ethnic strife. This was entirely a creation of President Jayawardena. There was an intial incident which could have been nipped in the bud by the Police, but I have been told by a number of high ranking police officers that the Police were instructed by President Jayawardena not to stop the mayhem. In fact many Tamils were saved by Sinhala families. This was not ethnic strife, but a situation that was allowed to get out of hand, entirely due to the machinations of the President.

 In fact the opposite also happened in 1958, when Derryk Aluvihare, the Government Agent at Anuradhapura is alleged to have ordered the Police to shoot some workers from Padaviya who had gone to Medawachchiya to help the Sinhala traders that had faced problems from Tamil traders. In this incident some seventeen unarmed Sinhala people were shot dead and the mayhem did not stop there because the Government Agent had ordered the bodies to be paraded in Anuradhapura. The people in Anuradhapura were about to revolt and kill the Government Agent and every Tamil they could find, but the other staff officers and the Police took control, dispatched the Government Agent in mufti in a van out of the District and restored order. This was a situation which would have had serious consequences if not nipped in the bud. Under the Emergency Regulations the Government Agents held wide powers and no inquiry could be held. Among many communities there are minor differences like the caste differences in Jaffna and some other areas. These differences when they erupt have to be handled and settled with patience and care, like the incident at Anuradhapura.

 Many are the excesses that happen when persons in power act in an irresponsible manner. This does happen in every country- in the USA, a noted instance is the assault on Rodney King by members of the US Police, which did end in riots leaving many dead. In Sri Lanka in 1971 the innocent Manamperi girl, suspected of being a JVP activist was, unduly manhandled and finally shot dead by the commandant of the Army at Kataragama. Though coming under Emergency Regulations the Hambantota Government Agent the late Sonny Gunawardena held an inquiry. The Army found two officers responsible and they were severely dealt with.

 What has happened in Sri Lanka is that when such an excess happens if it happens between the Sinhala and the Tamils it is dubbed as ethnic strife- an ethnic problem. If there is an ethnic problem 55% of the Tamil population could not be living alongside the Sinhalese.

 The ethnic problem as such, was created by Prabakaran and his militants who wanted to wrest a portion of Sri Lanka as their Tamil State. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India invited Prabakran to India, trained them, provided them with sophisticated weaponry and sent them back to destabilize Sri Lanka, because President Jayawardena became a stooge of the Western forces and at that time the West was anti-India politically. This was India’s method of controlling Sri Lanka through Prabhakaran! The Indian Peace Keeping Force was sent to Sri Lanka when Prabhakaran reneged and had to be brought under control. Many think that the IPKF was defeated. Instead the IPKF played a dual role. Their task was to keep the LTTE at bay and in the meantime establish a pro Indian Tamil Force, which made President Premadasa decide that the IPKF should leave Sri Lanka.

Thus the Northern and Eastern Provinces are not the homelands of any group of people. There is no ethnic problem. As Minister Rambukwella states it is the land of all Sri Lankans.

 The Inland Trap, is totally different from the Homeland Trap;. This is a process that was commenced by the LTTE in a totally clandestine manner very early unknown and unsuspected by anyone.

 The first part of this was active in the Mahaweli Project. No one realized that the manner in which the Mahaweli Project was planned meant that the Kotmale Area will be totally ethnically cleansed of its Sinhala population. The Kotmale area is very well known to me as I once worked in the Nuwara Eliya District. The area is hilly with estates in all the hills and paddy land in the low lying valley. The Sinhala people had their habitats in the land just above the paddy fields that belonged to them. The manner in which the Mahaweli Project was designed inundated the entire paddy land and the area where the people lived was also taken over for the project. There was the Hedunuweva Madhya Maha Vidyalaya where the children were educated. The entire population to a man were Sinhala. There was a Divisional Revenue Officer at Hedunuweva and the position was once held by no other than the celebrated Sinhala poet Wimalaratne Kumaragama..

The entire population of Sinhala people including traders, school teachers etc. were Sinhala and they were offered land in other districts. Thus a bold peasantry of Sinhala people was totally sacrificed for the Mahaweli Project. In the hilly areas there are a number of tea estates, with a Tamil population and they happen to be the residents of Kotmale today.

 Kotmale is the place where folk- lore states that King Dutugemunu stayed when he disagreed with his father.

 It would be a reasonable demand for the people who were ousted from Kotmale to be offered land in the higher reaches of Kotmale.. That was their hearth and home from which they were inadvertently moved out.

 It is a sad episode of ethnic cleansing, unsung and unknown, perhaps done before Prabhakaran even raised his sword.

 The other Inland Trap lies in the massive influx of Tamils to areas mainly occupied by Sinhala people. The ability given to every Sri Lankan to own property anywhere in the Island is the priviledge of every citizen. . Beginning in the early Eighties funds were liberally available for the Tamils to purchase land in Colombo. The prices of land shot up and land could not be purchased at any reasonable price.

The result is clear. The Tamil population in Colombo grew at an alarming rate. In the Forties I roamed the Bambalapitiya area very often as I attended St Peter’s College. I lived in Bambalapitiya for a while and later in Mount Lavinia and Dehiwela In the Forties the area from Kollupitiya to Dehiwala was entirely populated by Sinhala people. In Wellawatta I am certain that the Tamil people were less than 5%. But today it so happens that Wellawatta is 80% or more populated by Tamils. In the Forties and Fifties even in Dehiwela the people were over 95% Sinhala. In this area today over 50% happens to be Tamil. This is true of Mutuwal too. Then it was totally Sinhala. Further in Colombo there are a large number of condominiums built by Tamils In Nugegoda my home in the Fifties there was not a single trader who was a Tamil. Today there are many Tamil shops. This was true of other areas too. In Matara, Galle and other towns too Tamils bought land and settled down.

 All this is based on the principle that any citizen in SriLanka can purchase any land anywhere in the island. However there is a hue and a cry when even the Sinhala people who were living in Jaffna go back. I have a relative who worked in a bakery owned by a Sinhala person in Jaffna. He was in Jaffna till the LTTE chased him away.

 The entirety of Sri Lanka has to be taken as a whole and the areas where there is a low population like Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Mannar and Kilinochichi should bed earmarked for movement of people from other districts to alleviate urban concentrations.

 A Political Solution

There is a hue and a cry from the LTTE Diaspora and the TNA Members of Parliament for a Political Solutions. Sri Lanka is a democracy, and further one of the few democracies where there are local government institutions at village and town level. These councils attend to village and town management.

There is agitation for land powers and policing powers to be given to Provincial Councils that were established under the 13 th Amendment to the Constitution.

 To start with the demand for Provincial Councils did not emerge in Sri Lanka. It was India that decided that our country should have Provincial Councils and actually India used force to frighten President Jayawardena to submission. It is said that Indian fighter planes were sent over Colombo to frighten President Jayawardena. The President at that times held undated letters of resignation from the Members of Parliament and more, he incarcerated them in a Four Star Hotel in Colombo and would march them to Parliament to vote as he wished, of course under duress. This was how the 13 th Amendment was passed! The 13 th Amendment actually should be repealed, because it was foisted on Sri Lanka by India holding a gun at President Jayawardena..

 The Provincial; Councils with Ministries having decentralized powers is suitable for a large country like India and in a small country it has proved to be a hindrance. The Provincial Councils have even found it a difficult task to administer a local hospital.

 To illustrate how Provincial Councils have hindered the administration-when I was in the Department of Agrarian Services if a circular was issued to District

Assistant Commissioners it had to be compiled with in the entirety of the island In 1962, the Department provided agricultural loans to all the cooperative societies in the country. After the Provincial Councils were established any circular will have to go to the Minister for Agriculture in the province and he will have to order the officers in the Province to comply. Thus the Provincial Councils is a total hindrance on the administration.

 The question of police and land powers came with the 13 th Amendment and these need not be devolved to the Provincial level, because the land -the territory is a part of total Sri Lanka, and does not belong to any part of the country. It was the need of India to get these powers devolved and not the need of anyone in Sri Lanka, thus the question of devolving these powers does not arise. I am certain that India was planning to have a separate state out of Sri Lanka, a state that will be Tamil and will ultimately belong to India.

If land powers are devolved there will be many problems among the Provincial Councils. There will be wars waged on account of the distribution of the water of the

Mahaweli River as it flows through the Central, North Central and the Eastern Provinces., and the use of water in the North Central and Eastern Provinces will not be in the interests of the Central Province. Already the diversion of water at Polgolla to the North has meant less water to the Minipe Area.

Devolution of land and Police powers will have detrimental consequences.

I shall be most thankful if these facts are kindly considered.

 January 8, 2011

2 Responses to “Submission to the LLRC by Dr Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. former Government Agent, Matara District, International Consultant-The Homeland and the Inland Traps”

  1. Raj Says:

    Thank you Garvin for educating the people who did not these facts. As you said Sri Lanka is a democracy and it does not need separate police powers in ceratin districts in this small country. We are all sri lankans, and are equal. No need of a 13th amendment.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thanks to Mr Karunaratne for another first hand account of how matters were between the Sinhala & Tamil communities all over Lanka.

    It is quite obvious that the Tamil population is expanding into traditional Sinhala areas, and vice-vera, somewhat.

    Since land is a limited resource in relatively small Lanka, perhaps we should build high rise buildings (not higher than, say, 5-8 stories), flats, condominiums, offices, for use by ordinary citizens of every ethnicity, freely mixed in. This should be done all over Lanka, in suburbs of large and small cities, to ease the tension over land ownership and displacement of people over various issues. High rise buildings may spoil the ambiance of lovely places, but it could be done in such a way as to minimize spoiling of view – our architects are up to the task. This type of development should be well planned for the country as a whole. Unplanned development creates an ugly environment which attracts poverty & lack of cleanliness and ill health.

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