ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 18B
Posted on December 9th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

After Eelam war IV ended, Tamil Separatist Movement returned to the topic of the Sinhalisation of North and East. They were concerned about three matters, Sinhala settlements, Buddhist temples and archaeological sites.

Sinhala colonies, Buddhist temples, and Buddha statues were being aggressively constructed with military sponsorship, said Tamil Separatist Movement. The purpose was to bifurcate Tamil speaking areas, alter the demography of the north and east, and to encourage ‘Sinhala Buddhisation’ of the Tamil homeland.

Settlements

There were many allegations of state- and army-assisted Sinhala occupation of agricultural and private land.  In 2014, Tamil Separatist Movement feared that    vesting   state land in National Housing Development Authority, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Department of Archaeology and the Mahaweli Authority will lead to Sinhalese settling on the land.

In 2016 Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC) said that the government had deliberately settled more than 10,000 Sinhalese families in Navatkuli, Murunkan, Mullaitivu, and Vavuniya where previously there were no Sinhalese. The Eluga Tamil rally of September2016 in Jaffna demanded an immediate halt to this.

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The media reported that In Navatkuli, 10 kilometers from Jaffna, a Sinhala village had been started in 2010. 57 families had received around 20 perches each. We came here in 2010. We gathered all Sinhalese who once lived in Jaffna and those who wanted to live here once again by placing a newspaper advertisement. In the early 1980s, we had received state-owned land in Jaffna. That area is now occupied by Tamils.

 For three months we stayed at the Jaffna railway station. We then occupied this land. There were a hundred people with me. I lived in a hut for almost a year. Thereafter we received a donation from a Sinhala philanthropist. Later, with the support of the Buddhist priest, who also took up residence here, we started to construct our houses, said the spokesperson.

In August 2016, Galagodaathe Gnanasara, head of Bodu Bala Sena, said that the Sinhalese in Kokeliya, the only Sinhala village in Vavuniya were being chased away. There were about          2500 families initially but they were moved away to other villages during the war.  About 170 came back but now there are only 35 families there. They do not receive even the basic needs provided to the Tamils. They do not step out of house during nights.

Mannar United Fishermen’s Association protested in November 2016, against a plan to settle 180 Sinhala fishermen and create a Sinhala fishing village in Musali, Mannar. Officials arriving to survey the land were sent away.

In 2018 there arose an issue over Sinhala settlements in Mullaitivu district. The Accelerated Mahaweli scheme had created System L which included the districts of Mullaitivu, Anuradhapura, and Vavuniya. The divisional secretariats were at Welioya, Padawiya and Vavuniya South.

Tamil Separatist Movement complained that System L. was activated even before any water had come there. A new system was created under the Mahaweli Development Program designated system “L” under which system though no water had been diverted under Mahaweli to the North, land was alienated to persons from the majority community in an area called “Manal Aru” or “Welioya”. There were protests   and System L programme was suspended. But during the UPFA government (2005-2015) there was some settlement of Sinhalese   in System L.

In September 2018 TNA complained that settlement had again started in System L. There is a proposal to settle persons from outside of Mullaitivu in the Mahaweli System L lands. TNA told the North-East Development Committee of the Yahapalana government, that Yahapalana government was going ahead with this project in System L while denying that new settlements were being created.

This should not be allowed, said TNA. If water was brought to Mullaitivu from outside, the lands in Mullaitivu without irrigation facilities should receive it first, and the people who own and cultivate the lands should be the beneficiaries. Landless people in Mullaitivu must be also made beneficiaries under such a program.

In October 2018, TNA complained to President Sirisena that 700 acres in System L. had been allocated for the Sinhalese. Although, the President said that this was not so, the project was underway, TNA said. These new Sinhala settlements posed a major threat to Tamil fishing community and also deprived the Tamils of their land.

Television news on 30.8.18 showed a demonstration to stop the settlement of Sinhalese at Mahaweli System L. Government said that all the settlers were Tamil.  If Tamils can buy land in Wellawatte why can’t Sinhalese go to Mahaweli, asked a journalist.

Northern Provincial Council decided in 2018 to appoint an expert committee to conduct an investigation as regards the alleged settlement of Sinhalese in four administrative districts, including Mullaitivu. The proposed committee would inquire into all Sinhala settlements established over the years.

In 2019, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament that Sinhalese were not resettled in Vavuniya after renovating the Kachchalsamalakkulama tank on land which belonged to the Forest Conservation Department. No steps have been taken to change the demography in the districts he said.

Land settlement became an issue in the Eastern province as well. In the east, land was brought under Tamil control by using cattle. Land was converted to grazing lands for cattle owned by Tamils. This trick was used   in Eelam War IV to gain access to Trincomalee harbor to bomb it. 

In Veheragodayaya, Polonnaruwa ,  land  had been taken over for such  cattle grazing despite opposition. Derana news of 6.12.20  showed bhikkhus going to the site and removing the cattle sheds after a confrontation with the police.  ‘We removed these cattle sheds  last week, they have  constructed them again,’ the monks exclaimed and removed them all over again, assisted by the laity.

 In October 2020,Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath  gave lands in Mailetthamadu in Divulapathana to  Sinhala farmers for cultivation. Divulapathana  is on the border of  Batticaloa and Ampara Districts. The TNA MPs  promptly objected saying these were traditional grasslands. These lands  had been grasslands for the cattle of the Tamils for centuries.

They wanted the order revoked. Yahampath had dismissed the request. Agriculture must be encouraged first.  TNA threats would not prevent her from promoting agriculture in the area at a time when the country needed food.

Governor Yahampath then visited dairy farmers in Divulapathana-Ayilaththamadu area, and   found a few hundred cattle without water or food. She asked  South Eastern University to do a survey on cattle farming and grasslands in Batticaloa.

Governor Yahampath,  told TNA Parliamentarians that it was neither her policy, nor the policy of the Government to demarcate or even separate lands based on ethnicity. Lands have never been demarcated based on ethnicity such as Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

At  the  Batticaloa District Coordinating Committee meeting,  in November 2020, Governor Yahampath had a heated exchange of words, with  TNA MPs over Divulapathana. She had reprimanded the TNA MPs. This is an official meeting and I expect  MPs to behave responsibly and decently. I am one of the co-chairpersons of this meeting. Your behavior not only disrespects me, but also this Chair. You should be ashamed of yourselves, she said. It appears that , unlike in the old days, Sinhalese are now not afraid to stand up to Tamil Separatism. They are getting  fed up with Tamil Separatism as well.

Temples

People in the north  were worried and suspicious that Sinhalese from outside would invade their  villages because Buddhist temples were being constructed in places where no Buddhist reside,  said Tamil Separatist Movement .   

Buddha Viharas are sprouting like mushrooms in areas where there are no Buddhists. Buddha statues have come up in front of the 2500 year old Thirukoneswara Hindu temple in Trincomalee and the Thiruketheeswaram temple in North West Sri Lanka. A Buddha Vihara has come up in front of the hot water springs in Kinniya    which is sacred to Saivite Hindus. A Buddha statue has come up in Sambaltheevu with police protection.

In Kokkilai in Mullaitivu district, a Buddha Vihara is coming up with army support despite a claim to the land by a local Tamil. In all, there are nine Buddha Viharas being built in Mullaitivu district alone.

Other places in the Northern Province where Buddha Viharas are coming up are Omanthai, Semmadu, Kanakarayankulam, Kilinochchi, Mankulam ,Paranthan and Pooneryn. A 67 foot Buddha statue is coming up in front of the Nainai Nagabhooshani Amman Hindu temple,   TNA concluded.

Northern Province Governor Reginold Cooray  said in 2016  that there are only 13 Buddhist temples in the entire Northern Province and that there is nothing wrong in constructing Buddhist temples there. Many big Hindu temples are being built there and many Christian sects have put up structures.

There was a clash over a  Buddhist temple at Navatkuliya. Ven. Sooriyawewa Sumedha, Convener, National Intellectual Sangha Council, said there are over 57 Buddhist families living in the Navatkuliya village and a temple, Navatkuliya Sri Samiddhi Sumana Viharaya,  had been built as a place of worship for the residents. There was a request from the residents for the construction of a  chaitya and the construction work started.

Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha refused to give permission and instead filed the case against the construction of the Chaitya.  In July 2017,  Chavakachcheri Magistrate S. Chandrasekeran ordered the Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha to permit the construction of the temple’s stupa without any hindrance. The Magistrate  said that she respects Buddhism even though she is a Hindu devotee.

Ven. Kotapola Amarakiththi Founder of the Shanthi Foundation,  applauded the verdict. Even though, she is not a Buddhist, the way she respected Buddhism is a great example to everyone. These exemplary acts should be followed by many extremist politicians, he said.

In July  2019 a Hindu-Buddhist conflict developed in Trincomalee over a mound found near the Kinniya hot wells. Archaeological Department had gone there to do some routine conservation work. In the process some bricks had got dug up. Buddhist and the Hindus both claimed these bricks.

Bhikkhus such as Ven. Ampitiye Seelavansa of Velgam vihara    said they belonged to an Anuradhapura era stupa which has been leveled and a Hindu temple built on top. Hindus said this was the ruins of a Pillaiyar kovil.

The locals were extremely aggressive towards the conservation work, said the Archaeological Department. A crowd of Tamils had gathered.  Tamil politicians had also come.  Television news showed the  two groups fighting. Police, riot squad and Special Task Force were called in. Police came with a magistrate order, to stop the protest, that it would cause communal tensions.

Thereafter, Kokila Ramani, a resident of Trincomalee, petitioned the Provincial High Court,  saying the land where the Kinniya  hot springs are located belonged to her and the Archaeology Department is trying to construct a Buddhist structure there without her permission. The Department plans to construct a temple on the site of a Hindu kovil and Hindu devotees are being obstructed from entering the site by the Department, she said.

TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran appeared for her.  Provincial High Court Judge M. Illanchiyan issued an interim injunction suspending the conservation of the Kinniya hot springs which will remove the alleged ruins of a Hindu kovil.

In August 2019,both Hindus and Buddhists held religious activities at Kinniya. Hindu devotees performed the traditional Amavasa Pooja to worship the dead near remnants of a Hindu kovil at the premises, while Buddhist devotees led by Buddhist monks performed an Adhishtana Pooja near an ancient Dagoba at the premises.

Both the groups performed religious activities peacefully and the security in the area was tightened for the event. Special Police teams had been deployed and anti-riot squad teams were placed in the vicinity ready to be deployed if needed.

In November 2020   the Tamil politicians of Mullaitivu District and the TNA  protested  against the construction of a Buddhist temple at Bogaswewa near the Sapumalgaskada archaeological site. The chief incumbent of the temple had secured the help of the security forces to make bricks using clay from the shrub jungle area and trees were being felled in nearby jungle to fire the bricks.

 The protestors claim that the area traditionally belongs to the Tamil people and it was known as Kachchcalsamalankulam. Tamil people have been given paddy fields and they are cultivating them with water from the Kachchalsamalankulam tank. It is wrong for Buddhist monks to come and construct a temple in an area which is predominantly Tamil.

A spokesman for the temple said that Sapumalgaskada area had been identified as a site of archaeological importance and there were ruins of Buddhist shrines, which were some thousands of years old and it was wrong to claim it was not a Buddhist site. The bhikkhus had only revived a temple close to the archaeological site.

There have been open conflicts over these issues observed analysts. There was one conflict in Mullaitivu, between Hindus and Buddhists, over the rights to land and to build temples. There was another conflict in Trincomalee over the building of a temple in the vicinity of the Kinniya hot wells, which according to legend was used by King Ravana. Both of these conflicts have led to the local mobilization of hundreds of people to protest, said analysts  

Tamil Peoples’ Council  led by C.V.Wigneswaran, had   invited people to  join a mass protest in Jaffna on September 24, 2016 ( Eluga Tamil)  to demand a stop to the construction of Buddha statues and Buddhist temples in areas in the Northern Province where there are no Buddhists, and the systematic settlement of Sinhalese in Tamil areas.

It is not only Hindus and Buddhists who are in conflict in the North. In the Mannar district the conflict is between Hindus and Christians over the construction of big arches in front of each other’s places of worship that would signify the dominance of one over the other, observed Jehan Perera.

Archaeological  sites.

 TNA said that the establishment of a Presidential Task Force for Archeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province as  published in Gazette Extraordinary Number 2178/17 of June 02 2020 is bad for ethnic harmony. The Task Force is Pan Sinhala and is clearly meant to serve the interests of one community, the Sinhalese, and one religion, Buddhism ,admittedly, the majority religion. 

No one objects to the protection, preservation and promotion of Buddhism. If anyone is acting in violation of the Law, relating to any Buddhist site the severest action should be taken. Existing Law enforcement institutions should perform this task, said TNA.

 Buddhist temples and monuments exist on lands adequate for that purpose. They have so existed for centuries. No additional land is required to fulfill that purpose.  Additional land is required only  to convert new  areas into Sinhala Buddhist areas, populated by Sinhala Buddhist Citizens, violating the occupational and residential needs of Tamil and Tamil speaking people , charged TNA.

What is attempted through this task force is to settle Sinhalese in new sites, under the guise of protecting, preserving and promoting Buddhism, and thereby convert the Eastern Province and as much as possible of the Northern Province into majority Sinhalese Areas. This will also sever the Tamil  linguistic contiguity between the Northern and Eastern Provinces, continued TNA.

The Tamil Hindu people have lived  in the north and east from time immemorial, long before the advent of Vijaya.  The Isvarams of Lord Siva at Tirukketiswaram, at Mantota,Tirukkoneswaram at Trincomalee , and Nakuleswaram near Kankesanturai” existed before Vijaya. Thirukoneshwaram is referred to as Dakshana Kailas in the Puranas, said TNA.

The Eastern Province  is a multi ethnic province,  but majority has always been predominantly Tamil speaking. Since Independence in 1947 there had been strenuous efforts to convert Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Amparai and the Eastern Province into majority Sinhala speaking areas. The Sinhala population in the Trincomalee District and in the Amparai District  greatly increased between 1947 and 1981. This was entirely caused by colonization, settling of Sinhalese from outside the North East on land in the Eastern province.

The Northern and Eastern Provinces adjoining each other are majority Tamil speaking and have Tamil Linguistic contiguity. The breaking up of the Tamil linguistic continuity between the Eastern and Northern provinces has been an objective of majoritarian political leadership for a long time declared  the TNA.  ( Continued)

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