The East in retrospect
By Nikhil Mustaffa - Daily Mirror
Much has been said for and against developments in the east. This column mulled over it and thought it appropriate to publish extracts from a speech by Sambanthan a very senior MP from Trincomalee, when it was debated recently on the Adjournment Debate in Parliament on 5th September 2007, on the Current situation in the North and East.
The emotions expressed are very powerful and his address quoted many passages from writers featured in the Daily Mirror lately. For purposes of public debate it is useful to reflect on his words, given verbatim texts of parliamentary submissions are not always available.
I refer to Special Report No. 26(UTHR) released on the 3rd of August 2007 under the heading, "Can the East be won through Human Culling in page 3 of their Report they have said, I quote:
"Once more security is being equated with capturing areas and bringing them under Sinhalese hegemonic dominion. Against such delusions, the Government's much vaunted winning of the East is going to be temporary, the Tamils and Muslims are going to feel further insecure and in turn Sinhalese living in the East would further be turned into unwilling pawns in a devastating ideological game."
Another very interesting, very revealing, part is on page 17 of their Report. It states, I quote: “The GA Trincomalee has ordered all Muslims displaced around Kinniya and Mutur since 1990 to be resettled in their villages. 200 Muslim families displaced from Arafanagar, which lies in the new HSZ between Kattaiparichchan and Sampoor are being resettled.” Meanwhile Tamils are not being resettled. It further states, I quote:
If Tamils can be driven out of their ancestral homes in this way because they are Tamils and because they are perceived as being a threat to the Sri Lankan State, what alternative arrangement is there for Tamils?
‘This, Sir, is the position of these people and these people want to be resettled in their own land. I might mention to you, Sir, that one of these people who went to the Supreme Court, in his Fundamental Rights Application, filed his deeds in regard to his property.
His deeds went back to a Crown grant, which is more than hundred years old, from his family. This is their ancestral property; this is not something the State gave them. Maybe, there are some lands which the State gave them. But, large extents of lands in this area are private properties owned by these people for generations and centuries. They had built houses on those lands. They were living there peacefully, carrying on their occupations: farming and fishing.
They had livestock; they had their plantations, coconut trees, palmyra trees and fruit trees. They carried on their life without living on Government dole. They have lost everything today and they are in a state of utter penury, not being looked after by the Government.
‘But what is happening today, Sir, in the Eastern Province, particularly in Trincomalee? In Kappalthurai, along the Trincomalee-Kandy road, adjoining the Kappalthurai junction, on the left hand side, on a land earmarked for an economic zone, land has been taken and 300 houses are to be constructed for ex-servicemen or servicemen - along the Trincomalee-Kandy road, on the main road in Kappalthurai, hardly six miles from Trincomalee town. In a place called Rottawewa that is an ancient Muslim village to which village I have been as a little child.
I remember there used to be an old man called Abu Sally because he was not only my client but I had known him very well. I used to go to that village with my relations who were Government officials at that time. ‘Their land has been taken, 600 or 800 acres, I am not very sure, the land is being cleared - on the Trincomalee-Anuradhapura Road - and action is being taken I am told - to construct 5000 houses for ex-servicemen or servicemen.
What is happening? You are going back to all the old practices what you did and stopped some years ago. You are trying to redo and where will you end up? Where will you go? Five thousand houses for servicemen or ex servicemen in Rottawewa - a Muslim village adjoining an ancient Tamil village called Panankaddimurippu - are being constructed and the land is presently being cleared. In Kinniya where the Muslims are 99 per cent in an area called Sundankadu coming within the AGA's Division of Kinniya, Sinhalese families from Sooriyapura, Jayanthipura, Pansalgoda and Wan Ela are sought to be settled in this land. The biggest problem that the Muslim people have is that they have no land. But you are trying to take their land and settle Sinhalese families. Are you doing the right thing?
‘Then, Sir, you are taking away land from the Tamil people. You are giving land to army personnel. You are trying to give land to the Sinhalese people. What is happening to the Tamil people? There was a land in a place called Linganagar.
The EPDP Member, my good Friend, Hon. Douglas Devananda, had settled some people sometime ago at Linganagar and then those people were to be evicted. I interviewed President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and then she instructed General Daluwatta who was then the Army Commander to meet with me and I inspected the area with some army officials and we decided that a major part of the land would be left because the Army was concerned about security.
I appreciated their concerns and about 15 acres of land was to be given to Tamil people and 103 people who have lived there were chosen, and it was approved and the Army agreed. The cases filed against these people in Court were withdrawn. Permits were written out for 53 of these 106 people and permits were to be handed over.
Then suddenly a military gentleman became the new Government Agent in Trincomalee. He has stopped the issue of the permits. People have constructed houses there. They have dug wells there. They have lived there for fourteen to fifteen years. This matter was gone into by Government and the matter was resolved. A decision was taken to identify 15 acres and to be given to these people. Hundred and three people were identified, land was surveyed, cases filed against them in court were withdrawn, 53 permits have been written out and after that the Government Agent in Trincomalee in his wisdom goes and stops the project and the whole thing is stopped. I would say this type of thing cannot go on.
‘The other thing is, Sir, which I am very concerned about is that there is a proposal, I am told, to create a new District between Trincomalee and Mullaitivu.
I want to place on record, Sir, for the information of the House and for the Members, a plan of this area of the Trincomalee District also showing part of the Mullaitivu District. The villages in Trincomalee - by the name of Pulmoddai, a predominantly Muslim village - a village called Thennaimarawadi from where the people were driven away in December 1984, and where the people very much want to resettle there, part or the whole of the village called Thiriyai, the villages of Kokkilai and Kokkuthoduvai in Mullaitivu District, Padavi Sripura in the Trincomalee District and Manal Aru or Welioya , to which District it belongs to, I do not know, all these territories are to be brought together and a new district created between Trincomalee District and the Mullaitivu District.
This is diabolical. This is a crime you are committing not against merely the Tamil and the Muslim people, it is a crime you are committing against all the people who live in this country.
‘The Land Commissioner in the Eastern Province was Mrs. Muralitharan. She was doing an excellent piece of work. She was told to hand over some land in Mutur East high security zone to the BOI. She said, "People have deeds.
Crown grants. The Crown has given them some land. We must be cautious. We must not move in a hurry." Go home, she was told. She was removed. And a Sinhalese has been appointed the Land Commissioner. Land has been the most contentious issue as far as the Tamil people are concerned and Mrs. Muralitharan because she said, "Let us wait for a while and let us not rush" she was asked to go home.’
This column has on numerous occasions championed a post conflict SL. Wars of today are not and will not be our future. The future is peace which fosters dignity of all its citizens through development. It is unmistakable as one civil society activist propounds fiercely that a post conflict State, a post conflict North and East and if they were to stay relevant, a post Conflict LTTE is the only way forward for this island to prosper.
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Saturday, September 15, 2007
The East in retrospect