The pitiful plight of the Kandyan Peasants
Posted on April 29th, 2017

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, in1958 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.
  2. No Ministry, no Minister or a programme of development or even a C grade Department for 6 million Kandyan Peasants living in 16 Districts.
  3. 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.
  4. The toothless Kandyan Peasantry Commissioner’s Department, created instead, 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.
  5. 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 step in and to lay their feet.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. Do these politicians , starting from President downward to Pradeshiya Sabha Memer, 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 regret to say that I haven’t got even an acknowledgement up to date from him.

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 under Minister Palani Dgambaran

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 53,306 he got at the 2010 election.

In addition three 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.

Only yetsterday President declared open  the first 75 housing Project at Bogawantalava where even ChandrikaKumaratunga took part ,the first exclusive Tamil Village of the future Malayanadu, the Sri Lankan parallel of Tamilnadu in India.

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 people, 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 after all  (water buffaloes) have leaders. But alas! We have none.

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

  1. Nimal Says:

    Best thing that ever happened to us is the fail attempts in 1818 and 1848.Since then we had 100 years of prosperity under the colonials.

  2. Cerberus Says:

    Thank you, Dr. Gunasekera, for drawing attention to the plight of the Kandyan peasants.

    As always we Sinhalese are the downtrodden in our own country. All the illegal immigrants are looked after well and given citizenship and land by our corrupt politicians since these illegal migrants have leadership from the foreign Tamil diaspora who have a lot of money to grease the palms of all the corrupt politicians. Also, illegal migrants from Tamil Nadu have support from Tamil Nadu leaders, local Tamil leaders, and even some Indian leaders.

    The British who dispossessed the Kandyan Peasants may now about to take over the land once again using the Puppets they have put in place. Our army is advised by a British advisor and our soldiers are trained by the west, so their loyalty is divided. Most of our Colombians have their children in U.K. and so their loyalties are divided. In addition, most of our qualified people go to Britain for their Ph.Ds. Britain gets them to solve British problems by getting them to work on issues relevant to them for the thesis they are handed out. Even our traitor PM Ranil was given a Degree by a University in Australia which is “valid only in the room” it was given. This was a backhanded doubtful Honour.

    Such duplicity goes on but must be halted.

    Here are a few solutions:

    (1) Expose to the public in figures the number of illegal migrants in the Upcountry area.
    (2) Expose to the public the numbers given citizenship, land, etc.
    (3) Form a separate party to protect the rights of the Kandyan peasants and the Sinhalese in general. Both major parties are more interested in protecting the rights of minorities who also have their own parties along ethnic lines. There is no one to protect the Sinhala Buddhists.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    The beauty of DEMO-CRAZY – all politicians go after ESTATE TAMIL vote.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    Cerberus,

    The problem with WIKUNANASINGHE is that though highly deserving he has NOT been given the third degree!

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dear Sudath,

    You highlighted an important issue. I have several questions related to how a solution can be crafted.

    1. Can the descendents of the Kandyan peasantry who were dispossed by the British still be identified as a unique group and how?

    2. I expect that thd 600,000 acres stolen by British and given to British planters exist today as large government or privately owned tea estates. If so, they constitute a productive national asset. Are you proposing that they be acquired, formed into a large government overseen venture, and eithe thd annual income or the shares be distributed to the descendents of the Kandyan peasantry referred to above in my first question.

    These two questions relate to who should be compensated and with what they should be compensated.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Nimal,

    “Best thing that ever happened to us is the fail attempts in 1818 and 1848.Since then we had 100 years of prosperity under the colonials.”

    What have you been smoking?

    FAIL attempts of 1818 and 1848 are the WORST THINGS that ever happened to MANKIND.

    What prosperity are you talking about? Prosperity of KALLATHONIS???

    SL needs a BOSTON TEA PARTY to UPROOT tea bushes and replace them with PADDY.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    MOST Endian Tamils have become SL Tamils. NO ONE can tell you what your ethnicity SHOULD BE. You choose your ethnicity.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    Good suggestions by both Cerberus & Ananda. Thank you both !

  9. Nimal Says:

    Ananda
    600.000 acres of grass land turn into tea, rubber and coconut plantations are good for the country and no other invader has done so much as the British.

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