Fundamental Rights of Sri Lankan Citizens
Posted on February 23rd, 2020

Mahinda Gunasekera Agincourt, Ontario   Canada  M1W 3L9

February 23, 2020

His Excellency, Gotabhaya Rajapakse
President of Sri Lanka
Copy to:  Hon. Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapakse

Your Excellency,

Fundamental Rights of Sri Lankan Citizens

I am in receipt of the video sent herewith wherein an unnamed person is discussing the lack of rights for Sinhala people in areas predominantly resided by members of the Tamil and Muslim communities.  According to the attached video, the minority Tamils and Muslims living in the north and east tend to assume that they are in control of fully autonomous regions having exclusive powers, and are in a position to deprive the Sinhala Buddhist people who are the vast majority and founding people of the country  the basic fundamental rights due to each and every person of every community throughout the length and breadth of the island. They are of the view that they could arbitrarily prevent the settlement of even the Sinhalese and Muslims who were evicted from the region during the time of the ethnic tensions in the 1980s and 1990s, and also stop the restoration of ancient Buddhist archaeological sites or construct any religious monument at such locations.  The authorities must ensure that the law is firmly upheld in every part of the country.  They are even manufacturing false histories of their claims to Buddhist archaeological sites as Kuragala, and even display name boards giving falsified information on billboards on roads leading to Sri Pada, which could  result in further unrest and conflict in the country.

Also, the setting up of an illegal housing development within the Wilpattu National Park after clearing  vast tracts in excess of 2,500 hectares to settle Muslims said to have been evicted from the north with funds obtained from rich donors of the Middle East (Qatar), unilaterally named the SHEIKH JASIM CITY, is a matter of serious concern, as the illegal scheme went into operation from around 2011/2012 as a result of political meddling involving senior ministers of the then government and former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen to win votes of the Muslim community at the next election.  The illegal clearing was undertaken in violation of the Forest Conservation Ordinance and the National Environment Act overlooking statutory procedures to win the political favours of this community which continued into the term of the next administration which took office in 2015. President Maithripala Sirisena on being notified of the illegal settlement project publicly stated that he would order the illegal forest devastation to be stopped, but turned out to be empty words and no action was forthcoming from the President’s office.  The harm caused by this intrusion into these protected areas which forms a contiguous flourishing ecosystem that sustains high levels of biodiversity including species such as leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and other varieties is immense. The clearing of the forest, constructing access roads, infrastructure development including electrical transmission lines causes immense damage to the ecological value of the Wilpattu Forest complex, which is a vital part of Sri Lanka’s natural heritage. Such actions can drastically affect the weather patterns, tending to convert this semi-wet zone into a dry zone as found in the NCP before long.  If we are to right this wrong, action must be taken to determine the status of those settlers to verify if they had been previously evicted from the north or elsewhere, and arrange to resettle them in their former places of residence or alternate site in that locality, and allow the forest to regenerate to offset the declining forest cover as a result of such illegal encroachment into our green areas.

One of the reasons for the minorities to feel that they have exclusive rights in their main areas of residence is probably due to the fact that the different governments that have ruled Sri Lanka during and after the conflict to defeat the forces of Tamil Tiger terrorism neglected their duty to uphold the right of return of non-Tamils who had been ethnically cleansed by the terror forces to their former places of residence in the north and east.  No doubt, priority had to be given to the resettlement of internally displaced Tamils following their being herded by the retreating LTTE forces to be exploited for their labour, conscripted to replace fallen cadre and serve as a human shield at the conclusion of hostilities. However, the authorities failed to uphold rights of the evicted Sinhalese and Muslim people, allowing the Provincial Councils and local councils in the north and east to adopt policies of shutting out the evicted from resettlement within their administrative regions, and also act in a hostile manner especially against the Sinhalese who were a minority in their midst.

This mindset of the Tamil and Muslim majorities of the north and east should be changed without delay by upholding the fundamental rights of minorities within their midst, just as much as Muslims and Tamils in the rest of the country are recognized as fellow citizens with equal rights by the majority Sinhalese people in those regions. The fundamental right of Freedom of Movement guaranteed to every citizen by the National Constitution must be made a living truth so that people may settle where ever they wish and engage in lawful livelihood activities.

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera

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