The pitiful plight of the Kandyan Peasants
Posted on September 13th, 2016

Sudath Gunaekara

13.9.2016

Writing his forward to the booklet on the Proposals under the first 6 year Plan 1954/55-1959/60, this is how Mr A. Ratnayaka then Minister of Home Affairs scribed his great expectations on the outcome of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission Report of 1951.

At last justice is being meted out to two Provinces of Ceylon-Central and Uva which enshrine some of the most glorious chapters of our Island history. In the fight for liberation from British these two Provinces were in the vanguard, and inevitably they paid the toll of the two rebellions of 1818 and 1848. It was a happy augury that the dawn of Independence in 1948 saw in motion persistent efforts by Kandyan Members of Parliament in particular for adequate redress after decades of neglect.

It fell to my happy lot both as a Member of Parliament in a Kandyan area and as Minister of Home Affairs to spearhead the agitation.

May the coming years bring up to view a grand vista in these two Provinces redolent of the glories of the pristine past!”

As I turned over the pages of this slim document few days ago, which was given to me in 1966 by my friend Ekanayaka the Head Clerk of the Coordinators Office of the Kandyan Peasasntry Rehabilitation as it was called then, (I was a cadet attached to Kandy Kachcheri at that time), I find that not even 5 % of its recommendations in that report are completed up to date. For example the Mahaoya and Heenganga schemes in my own Village, Meemure, that were expected to be completed by end of 1958 are still uncompleted up to date. If you go through the other works the situation want be better.

What happened to the spirit of the persistent efforts by those great Kandyan  Members of Parliament. They would definitely turn in their graves If they could come to know this pathetic situation and the  inexcusable  betrayal and neglect by the these post- independent politicians and their failure to redress  their own people on whose shoulders they have gone to Parliament,  even after  68 years of Independence, I have no doubts they will rise from their graves.  These sons of the soil who had been subjected to one and half centuries of subjugation, destruction, vandalism and exploitation by the British colonial mongers are left high and dry by their own politicians. What the hell the present day spineless and ungrateful politicians are doing when their own people and a great nation is being buried alive or left fall a prey to vultures of Indian expansionism? Do these idiotic politicians realize that they will not get a single vote from these estate Tamils in future. Do they know that they will also have to get passports and visa to enter this region already called MALAYAHA by the Wijenayaka committee under the Yahapalanaya government.

What happened to the proposal made by the patriotic members of that 1951 Commission ‘to set up a Development Board nominated by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister to prepare a plan and programme for the development of these areas. This Development Board was to have its own Secretariat, funds and staff. The finances were to be provided by Government contributions and Development Tax on plantations, firma or persons carrying on business within specified areas. This was never set up as the then Cabinet was against regional development and regional Taxation. Wasn’t it a tragedy that even at that time there wasn’t a single Kandyan Mp  who had the guts to stand up against the non –Kandyan politicians lead by MDH Jayawardhana the then Minister of finance.

Years after, in 1958 an Administrative Officer designated as the Coordinating Officer for Kandyan peasantry rehabilitation was set up under the Home Ministry sans wings or teeth. In the year 1964, this officer was re-designated as the Commissioner of Kandyan Peasantry Rehabilitation, and a separate c” Grade Department was established on 01.04.1968 to implement the development projects of the Upcountry Peasantry Rehabilitation: it was upgraded to class B” in 1990, and subsequently to class A” in 1994. A similar powerless Ministry of Upcountry Development (rather feeling shy or afraid to use the word Kandyan) was created without a Minister and after years of shifting from one to another finally it was brought under M/Economic development and Basil Rajapaksa who put the last nail to the coffin of the subject of Kandyan Peasants on Jan 2014abolishing it.

This is how all post- Independent Governments have treated the Kandyan peasants who fought against the invaders and died to protect their country for posterity for the past 68 years.

Furthermore,

  1. Not an inch of over 600, 000 acres of their land robbed by the marauding British has been returned to them up to date.
  1. No Ministry, no Minister or a programme of development or even a C grade Department for 6 million Kandyan Peasants living in 16 Districts.
  1. Kandyan areas Development Authority proposed in 1951 to rehabilitate the natives who lost their ancestral land and all what they had, was never established up to date.
  1. The toothless Kandyan Peasantry Commissioner’s Department that had been crawling on its fours for 40 years without any notable rehabilitation or development of these areas was also finally closed down on Jan 1, 2015.
  1. All those Sinhala people donated their ancestral lands for the Kotmale and Victoria Projects, numbering thousands, were chased out to the downstream area like system C and not a single family was given an inch of land from the hill country tea lands, while all those Tamil labourers who were victims of Koslanda landslide and Upper Kotmale project etc were given lands on the nearby tea estates which were lands denied for the sons of the soil to lay their feet.
  1. Almost all natives who lost their land during the colonial times to the invaders, and who are still living in secluded valley bottoms in abject poverty without roads, drinking water, water for their paddy fields, schools, health facilities, employment and minimum facilities to sell their paltry produce are completely forgotten.
  1. Why is that not a single Sinhala politician, supposed to represent them either in Parliament, Provincial Councils or Pradesiya Sabhas, highlights the plight of these hapless human beings?
  1. Is there any other single country in the whole world where politicians betray their own country, their own people and their own heritage in this manner?
  1. Do these politicians know that their names will go down in history as shameless traitors who betrayed their own people and their motherland for personal gain?

I sent a letter under registered cover to the President on 20th of Dec 2015, requesting an appointment from him to discuss this all important national issue. I note with much concern and sadness to say that I haven’t got even an acknowledgement up to date.

This also clearly shows the duplicity of this Yahapalanaya Government and the open discrimination it displays against the Kandyan peasants.

On the other hand to collect the Estate Tamil Vote Bank

A separate Ministry for Hill Country Village and Infrastructure Development has been set up with a ten-year special development Project with UNDP funds obtained as loans to develop the Tamil settlements on the hills

This government has already started a programme of giving 10 perches per Tamil family in 2015 and collected the entire hill country vote bank at the last election. It is this factor that enabled Minister Kiriella to increase his votes to 1,99.603 in August 2015 from 53,3o6 he got at the 2010 election.

In addition hree separate Ministries have set up for estate sector Tamils. Besides, there will be a “Hill Country New Villages Development Authority, with “strong institutional mechanism” to carry out the functions of planning and coordination. A few days ago, the Cabinet gave its nod for a Bill in this regards. This Programme is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

This is the tragic way how our politicians have treated the Kandyan Peasants and continued to be  treated with impunity.

Where are those great Kandyan Members of Parliament of the pre-Independence who fought for their people. What are the nearly 80 odd so-call d representatives who have robbed the votes of these poor and enjoying the luxuries of office, the Nilames and Buddhist monks who subsist on these peasants are doing

Instead of taking corrective measure to restore this national damage  the present government has now created  an all powerful ministry called the Upcountry (Malayaha) Estate Tamil Development and Infrastructure Development) as Wijenayaka Report on Constitutional reforms has named it

Under these circumstances what is the future of the Sinhala pe0ple, the sons of the soil called the Kandyan Peasants?

Who will liberate this great nation and when? is my million dollar question I pose to you my dear Sinhala brothers and sisters.

The most fundamental problem as I see it is we don’t have a leader or leaders to liberate our people from this Augean mess. Tamils and Muslims have them in dozens. But we don’t have a single. Even the Me harakas (water buffaloes) have leaders. But alas! We have none.

7 Responses to “The pitiful plight of the Kandyan Peasants”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    SUDATH !! I feel very sad when I read your Posting, and I can see your frustration. Please take my word, Our Sinhalese **ARZ OLE** Uneducated Politicians does not understand what you are talking about. So they do nothing, EATING from the Tax payers money and lining their pockets. Writing Registered letters is an utter waste of time. No one will ever take notice of the woes of the Sinhala Buddhist People. Equally true, The tamil leaders are forging ahead because they are Educated. They will work for their people, while Sinhalese politicians will EAT FREE from the Parliamentary Canteen, till their necks get so fat, that we will not see them at all. They are Neckless Politicians. Their Heads get so BIG, literally, and metaphorically, and the brain gets washed down their anus. Wimal and Udaya have also gone silent, due to frustration.

  2. aloy Says:

    Kandyan peasants were in this predicament as they were helpless during the British rule. However after gaining independence our leaders could have easily reversed this by giving at least some of the tea estates back to the descendants of those people. Instead they gave citizenship to those Indians and now they claim the area to be their Malayanadu. The Indian government have more control in this area than GOSL.
    From what we can gather from ETCA issue is that Indians have more power in SL than the Sinhalas over our affiars. They have bought over practically all the prominent politicians and nobody is there to talk about what is going to happen to the entire country through ETCA.
    Unless the Sinhalas take action immediately what happened to Kandyan peasants will happen to the entire country. To my mind the solution to this problem is not by bringing back MR or JO in the present form to power. In fact it is MR who put us in this situation. The Mahanayakas should promote a Buddhist monks party like JHU. Let one of them take the lead and come to power and change the system. If not Sinhalas are doomed.

  3. Christie Says:

    Thanks Sudath:

    “on the outcome of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission Report of 1951.”

    Indian Empire and Indian colonial parasites recruited SWRD and laid the foundation for SLFP and in 1951.

  4. aloy Says:

    Siting in Kandy, Mahanaykas also make foolish statements. When RW and them are trying their best to down grade the place for Buddhism by changing the constitution, he seems to be supportive of their effort. In the first place, people did not give power to UNP to change constitution; they do not even have a simple majority in the parliament. People elected the president with the majority vote and he got the constitution amended with 99.9% support of parliamentarians and that is enough. UNP is going to hand over the country to wolves just like what Don Juan Dharmapala did with the Portuguese.

  5. Dilrook Says:

    Recently Wimal Weerawansa met a Mahanayaka where he explained about the attempted war crimes hybrid tribunal and constitutional changes anathema to the nation. Mahanayaka discounted the risks saying he has received an assurance from both President and Prime Minister that none of these will be done.

    Wimal requested him to have an open mind on these things clearly indicating the Mahanyaka doesn’t have an open mind on this. It is a fact, unfortunately.

    Not just the UNP but also the SLFP is ruining the nation.

    Kandyan peasants are in a pitiful condition as well as Sinhalese in Colombo City.

    All this is part and parcel of the tea industry. It was the tea industry that deprived Kandyan Sinhalese their rightful land ownership in hill country. Today tea industry is a loss making industry despite $1.3 billion forex earnings. Government direct subsidies are ridiculously high. Subsidy for cultivated area is 350,000 rupees per hectare and Rs. 250,000 per re-cultivated hectare. Fertilizer subsidy is 25 rupees per tea plant! Fertilizer is given at less than half price. This is outrageous and masks the real losses of the industry. Especially, large plantations must fail and close down as they are white elephants. Labourers are paid far too much compared to other countries. In turn, their political parties hold the country to ransom.

    The collapse of most tea plantations will save Sri Lanka and release labourers for other industries. No need to import labour from India.

  6. Nimal Says:

    My Sinhalese who read this wants Sudath to present the above facts to the people in Kandy and seek to be a MP in this area.Perhaps he may win or lose depending if the people accept Sudath’s claim or facts and his solution.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    I agree with Dilrook.

    It is the TEA Industry that gave prominance to the nearly one Million Tamil workers in that industry in the Upcountry area.

    Most tea growing countries are now using machines to pluck tea. One machine can replace 4 workers.

    Lanka has to stop allowing Tamil illegal migrants into the country.

    The Sirima/Shasthri Pact was never honored by INDIA. Only a few thouand Indian Tamils from the Upcountry area went back to INDIA.

    Sri Lanka is small country of 25,000 sq miles. Lanka cannot afford illegal migrants in.

    Justice MUST HAPPEN for the Upcountry Sinhala Peasants.

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