Illegal occupation of pasturelands continues unabated in Ampaa’rai

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 07:55 GMT]
4,000 acres of lands, officially declared as pastureland in 1974, have been illegally seized by farmers having Colombo connections through their parliamentarians. The land situated between Rufus-ku’lam and Vammiyadik-ku’lam in Thirukkoayil division where Tamils constitute the majority of the residents, is known as Vadda-madu area and is situated 15 km southwest of Thirukkoayil. Tamil cattle farmers from Akkaraippattu complain that they are being deprived of sustaining their livelihood after the end of war.

Colombo’s Forest Department, having a different plan for occupying the already-declared pasturelands was working with SL Archaeology Department and brought the lands under its direct supervision in 2010.

The lands were allocated for grazing purpose in 1976 after a 2-year-long process by the SL Government Agents of the district D.Wjesinghe and P. Abeysinghe.

The illegal encroachment was also taking place at that time, but was later contained due to the war.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were almost controlling the jungle area near the location and the notorious Special Task Force (STF) were engaged in a violent campaign, which also targeted civilians.

Immediately after the end of war, Muslim farmers engaged in agriculture started to clear the lands for permanent agriculture despite protests coming from resettling Tamils, who were using the area as grazeland for their cattle. Muslim cattle farmers from Chammaan-thu’rai were also using the land for the intended purpose. However, as influential persons with Colombo connections were behind the occupation, they remained silent, the Tamil farmers say.

The SL Forest Department, which now comes under Maithiripala Sirisena's 'Mahawel Development & Ministry of Environment' has failed to respond to repeated requests from the representatives of Eezham Tamil cattle farmers in the area.

At the same time, the Tamil representatives in the area are under increased pressure from Colombo’s ruling party to join the SLFP and work with the Sinhalese if they wanted to resolve their problems in Ampaa’rai.

Colombo is attempting to set one community against the other to sustain its control through the Forest Department to proceed with the project of structural genocide in the district, Tamil political activists in Thirukkoayil said.

Vaddamadu pastureland
The Gazette notification of pastureland on 06 September 1976
Vaddamadu pastureland
Tamil copy of GA's instruction regarding pastureland issued in 1974
Vaddamadu pastureland
GA's letter restricting the lands for pasture in 1974
Vaddamadu pastureland
Akkaraippattu Divisional Secretary instructing DRO not to allow illegal occupation of pasture lands in 1974
Vaddamadu pastureland
The map from 1976 specifying the declared pastureland

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