“FOR A SOVEREIGN STATE’
Posted on September 29th, 2018

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Malinga H Gunaratne’s book ‘For a sovereign state’ was first published in October 1988. It went into a 2nd imprint only ten years later in 1998. This shows that the public were initially slow to appreciate the information given in the book. But after 1998 interest in the book has increased and the book went quickly into   several reprints, dated 2000, 2005 and 2009.

The book, written in the first person, in informal style, is about Gunaratne’s own experiences when tangling with Eelam, but the text provides valuable information on several matters relating to Eelam.

The book tells of an  elaborate plan, prepared in the Mahaweli ministry by, T.H.Karunatillake, Director, Planning and B.H.Hemapriya, media consultant, Mahaweli ministry,  with Gunaratne joining in, to  stop the forward march of Eelam. The plan was prepared in the beginning of 1983, a few months before the July riots, in strict secrecy so that the Tamil officers working in the Ministry would not hear of it.

The plan had two stages. The first stage was to establish Sinhala settlements in the river basins of Maduru Oya, Yan Oya and Malwatu Oya, with each settlement extending right to the sea. The Maduru Oya settlement would break the contiguity between Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts.  The Yan Oya settlement would sever the link between Trincomalee and Mullaitivu districts.  The Malwatu Oya settlement would fracture the connection between Mannar and Puttalam districts.

The second phase of the plan was to make use of the demographic change brought about by the Sinhala settlements and redraw the provincial map of Sri Lanka.  The boundaries of four provinces, Northern Province, North Central Province, North Western Province and Eastern Provinces would be redrawn, to create five provinces out of them.  The new province that would be created would be named North Eastern Province.

The planned new provinces and the districts that fall under them were:

  • Northern Province: districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.
  • North Central Province: districts of Vavuniya, Anuradhapura and Weli Oya

Weli Oya would be made a new district thus reducing the area of the Mullaitivu district.

  • North Western Province: districts of Mannar, Puttalam and Kurunegala.
  • North Eastern Province: districts of Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee. (This is the new province).
  • Eastern Province: districts of Batticaloa and Ampara.

This redrawing of districts would leave only the Northern Province as the Tamil majority province.  The rest of the north and east would be converted to Sinhala majority provinces.  The southern point of the Tamil majority Northern Province would be Mankulam, observed T. Sabaratnam.  (www.sangam.org/articles/view2/?uid=626).

When Gunaratne was working in the Mahaweli Ministry, in the 1980s Ven. Kitalagama Sri Seelalankara, chief Incumbent of the Dimbulagala Temple (Dimbulagala Hamuduruvo,”) had come to Gunaratne‘s office in Colombo and said ‘while you people are seated in these big offices, separatist Tamils are mounting massive encroachment on the Mahaweli at the Maduru Oya,  on the right bank, from the Batticaloa area. They are altering district boundaries, giving Tamil names to Sinhala villages and also changing the names of Sinhala people.

Gunaratne paid close attention. He had himself observed how Tamil public servants in the Mahaweli Ministry and elsewhere, were manipulating the Mahaweli scheme to push Tamil separatism forwards. Elephant corridors, forest reserves and national parks were created to make sure that areas of the future Eelam were not inhabited by the Sinhala people, said Gunaratne.  Survey department has a large number of Tamils in it.  Many new towns are given Indian names, observed Gunaratne.

At Yan Oya illegal Tamil settlements had taken place (probably in 1982 or early 1983, date not given).  The waters from Kotmale were getting diverted to Eelam lands. Direct dialing facilities were installed in all Tamil outposts. Sinhala settlements were neglected; Padaviya had no telephone, electricity or commercial activity. They lived below poverty line. They were the first to face the guns of the LTTE, observed Gunaratne.

Mahaweli officials sent to check on settlements on Maduru Oya right bank, said in a report dated 12.10.1983   that a   new village had been created at the Alankulam and Navalangkulam tanks. It was set up by the Ghandian movement with the support of the Ceylon Workers Congress.  The settlers were estate Tamils. While they were there, the investigating team saw about 20-30 new families arrive.

There were 60-80 houses of semi permanent nature. There are a permanent stores building and a small meeting hall with a young Christian priest. The priest had links with both Madhu and Kilinochchi. The settlers are paid a substantial living allowance by an unknown and well organized movement. The settlers were kept under rigid supervision, The  Sinhala settlers in Padaviya  said  that a group of  young Tamils in  the  north regularly come down to this village through Nedunkerni and direct  the  cultivation and the  training of the youth.

The new settlement was in the last piece of chena land available to Padaviya settlers. Land to the west and east of Padaviya were already occupied by Tamil villages and Tamil encroachments.  Clearly, the encroachment would spread to the very boundary of Padaviya. Sinhala setters were living in fear.

Gunaratne then turned to a massive encroachment of land that had started on the right bank of the Maduru Oya. Tamil settlements were stealthily encroaching onto the Maduru Oya delta, starting from Batticaloa .When the right bank was complete, there would be no land to settle on,  observed Gunaratne.  Two officers from Mahaweli ministry were sent in August   1983, to find out what was happening. They reported that more and more settlers were flocking in and the Maduru Oya delta was a hive of activity, houses were coming up overnight .Food supplies were coming from an organized body.

The settlement was taking place with the active assistance of the Tamil administration in Batticaloa observed Gunaratne. The Tamil public officers in Batticaloa   out maneuvered and outflanked their complacent Sinhala counterpart said Gunaratne. Tamil separatists carried out their activities carefully, noted Gunaratne. ‘Their machinations were not spontaneous but well calculated, well planned out and executed with clinical precision’.

It was decided to create a Sinhala settlement on Maduru Oya right bank. Gamini Dissanayake, Minster of Mahaweli development gave permission. Nawaloka Mudalali and Dasa Mudalali gave the money. Dissanayake naturally expected it to be done very quietly and efficiently under Ministry supervision. But Gunaratne after mooting the project was not prepared to exert himself to carry it out. He instead handed it over to the over eager Dimbulagala monk. Then at a party at his home, after a few drinks, Gunaratne had announced ‘We are settling Sinhala people in the north and east.’

Ven. Seelalankara did not know how to do things quietly either.   He publicly advertised in the newspaper that land was available in Maduru Oya scheme. There was a good response. He consulted astrologers and obtained an auspicious time, September 1st 1983 for starting the project.   On  31.8. 1983 about 3000 had gathered at Dimbulagala temple. They had brought along food stuffs for three months also cadjans and mammoties.  Women were not present, only men. Ven. Seelalankara was moving about giving advice and encouragement.

Ven. Seelalankara then made a speech.  ‘We are being threatened on all sides by separatists. What the separatists want is land.  A continuous block of land which they propose to call Eelam. You are going to break that. Remember Dutugemunu,’ Ven. Seelalankara concluded.  ‘Sadhu sadhu’ said the future settlers. The monk had mobilized vans, lorries, cars and motorcycles from rich mudalalies in Polonnaruwa.  The convoy left for its destination, using a loudspeaker and flying the Buddhist flag.

The Tamil officials responded immediately.  IGP Rudra Rajasingham reported to Mahaweli Chairman NGP Panditaratne that a massive convoy was moving towards Batticaloa, headed by Dimbulagala monk. K.W. Devanayagam, MP for Batticaloa   also protested. Government agent Batticaloa, M.Anthonimuttu, informed Secretary, Mahaweli, that there is large scale encroachment in System B in Meeradavillu .About 700 persons led by Ven. Seelalankara have come in a large number of vehicles and started clearing the land.  Wadiyas have been put up.

AGA of Koralai pattu complained that a Buddhist monk had led about 15 lorry loads and 10 tractor loads of people into Meerandavillu from Polonnaruwa distinct, with the intention of settling them on state land there. They were mostly from Aralaganwila, Hindurakgoda, Jayathnipura and adjoining areas. These new settlers had threatened the earlier settlers with bodily harm and chased them away.  These had been long standing settlers.     Pillaiyar temple was damaged.

When the AGA went there, the monk was holding a meeting of a society he had formed. The monk and the settlers flatly refused to leave. If necessary they were going to occupy the land by force and will not withdraw under any circumstances. They were very emphatic about it and their utterances were marked by loud cries of ‘sadhu, sadhu’ reported the AGA. Ven. Seelalankara had flatly refused to leave. In 1972 when he had come with settlers he had been chased away by the MP, the GA and others. This time he was staying.

The Tamil lobby protested. Gamini Dissanayake phoned Gunaratne and asked, ‘what is happening at Maduru Oya. I told you settle on the land not to make a song and dance of it’. Gamini Dissanayake backed out. That is not  surprising. It was first  suggested to Leave about 500 behind and transfer the rest elsewhere in the north east.  However, President Jayewardene wanted the    Maduru settlement completely  dismantled.  Government   wanted a mass scale evacuation, said Gunaratne.

President Jayewardene sent Paul Perera, a Catholic,   to attend to the matter. The loquacious Gunaratne, whose book is full of irrelevant observations, went silent at this point, saying he did not like to besmirch his narrative with the way they did it. But he does say atrocities were committed. The evicted settlers however, confirmed that their houses at Maduru Oya had been burnt.

This aborted Sinhala settlement at Maduru Oya is a superb example of how and why Sinhala maneuvers fail. As usual it was conveniently handed over to an outside agency,   to Dimbulagala who was the last person to handle the matter.  He had failed once before. Instead of quietly installing about 500 families at Maduru Oya right bank, as he was told,  he made the whole show public and it collapsed.

this project caused much distress to the Sinhala  would-be settlers who had been encouraged to come. They got into  great difficulty. Some were sent to Kent and Dollar farms. They  wrote to Ven. Seelalankara in 1984, saying  they were now scared. ‘We are shivering in fear. Please try to get us some land in Polonnaruwa or Badulla.’ .  I do not know whether they got the land, but Tamil settlements in  Koralai pattu continue to be strengthened. Recently, In September 2018 Yahapalana  opened a new village named ‘Suwami Vipulananda kottam’  in Muravodai thamil koralai pattu.  Dimbulagala monk was assassinated by the LTTE on May 26, 1995.

Gunaratne got into hot water over this settlement project. He was openly resentful about this. when armed terrorists slay and slaughter innocent civilians on Dollar and Kent farm they are called freedom fighters and liberators. when a priest leads a weaponless people he is called a rabble rouser said Gunaratne indignantly.

When Amirthalingam and Sampanthan claimed to have illegally settled 90,000 Tamils north of Vavuniya they were given police escort and protection, they stayed as honored guests in Colombo,  complained Gunaratne. In 1971 KW Devanayagam brought Indian Tamils to Kalkudah and settled them in the area. Then they started to encroach into Polonnaruwa  area. Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted them removed. Instead the estate Tamils hid  in the forest and later assisted by  Sarvodaya,  World Food Programme, and Gandhian Movement got land in Vadumunai area.

When the story of the Eelam war is written by our military historians, said Gunaratne, the world will know how bravely the war was fought in the initial stage with very poor weapons and little training. What the Sri Lanka did not have in firepower and training, he compensated for with raw courage and loyalty t his country.  He was speaking of a battle at Kokilai.

The army had in 1985 established a small outpost at Kokilai inside an abandoned school, with a young second lieutenant, Sarath Wijesinha officer commanding two platoons of solders. It was complete cut off from the base camp.  Wijesinghe, cut  trenches around the school, and placed his best snipers as sentries at strategic points outside the camp. At about 2 am,  on 15 February 1985, around 120 LTTE attacked with rocked propelled grenades. They  shot down the search lights first. The army held its fire and thinking all were dead the LTTE came in. The army  then fired, killing 25 LTTE and the LTTE leader ordered a retreat. Army had lost just  two men. (p 275)

Ravi Jayewardene, Malinga Gunaratne, and others had visited Kokilai after it has been attacked by LTTE They were shown the arms recovered from the LTTE. there were three rocket propelled guns.  the rocket launcher had been taken away by the retreating LTTE.  LTTE came with the very best assault rifles including the German Heckler and Koch gun. The   dead LTTE soldiers were all in battle fatigues (combat uniforms). even the underwear was of camouflage material. They each had night vision glasses, AK 47 and M16 assault rifles, food, flask of water and a cyanide capsule, they carried their own stock of medicine which included expensive Dextrose pep pill use mainly  by long distance runners.

Elsewhere in the book, Gunaratne observed that the LTTE were broadcasting regularly to listeners in Sri Lanka, in English, Sinhala and Tamil. They also had a pirate TV station which beamed to Jaffna,.  These powerful transmitting stations could not have been set up without a large amount of money said Gunaratne. Where did the money come from? Was a powerful foreign force manipulating the Sri Lanka terrorists? What is the game of this outside agency? asked Gunaratne.

This book carries an eye witness account of the massacre at Dollar farm. D.H.Somapala 28 yrs is one of the survivors of the attack on Dollar farm. He said ‘ at about 5.30 am on the morning off 30 November 1984 about 100 terrorists, some dressed in army uniforms circled out entire farm form  various sides and began firing at us and throwing bombs at some of the huts in which   they  were living. A few of us were able to escape by running into the jungle and it w as one of those who survived, when inside the jungle I hid and tired to see what was happening.”

Within a few minutes the terrorists rounded up all the civilians who were unable to escape and herded them into one circle. They wielded their sub machine guns and order them all to lie down.  While some of the terrorists held guns at the heads of the civilians and ordered them to lie down. others quickly began to tie their hands and legs of the civilians. Then they started jumping on the bodies and kicking them. Some even urinated on these live bodies. They were thereafter turned face down, and placed next to each other. At a given signal they kept guns at the head of each and shot them through their heads and necks. When I saw them commence firing I fled. (p 212- 213.)   later some other survivors told the Gunaratne group ‘, the terrorist urinated on the dead bodies’  The hatred the  LTTE hardboard against the Sinhalese could not have been more apparent, commented Gunaratne.

After the attack on Dollar farm, continued Gunaratne, a group residing in Colombo, including S.L.Gunasekera   decided to go to see the refugees.  They asked for donations. cloths food stuff, drugs, mats and pillow started arriving at his house in Colombo Expatriates had sent sophisticated ladies wear, expensive shoes.

‘When Tamils were attacked and in refugee compass we all went to their aid,’ observed S.L.Gunasekera. ‘It is sad to see that not a single Tamil was making any move to help the Sinhala refugees.’ This was true, added Gunaratne.” I spoke to a number of Tamil friends but they did not react either.  Gunaratne ended his book saying ‘the cry for a separate state will not end as long as there remains a homogenous continuous land mass inhabited by an exclusive ethnic group.’

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