Feature Article

New SL ministry schemes Sinhalicisation through ‘cultural diplomacy’

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 16 June 2015, 23:16 GMT]
Earlier, the occupying Colombo under Mahinda Rajapaksa, declared 11,000 acres of lands in Vangkaalai, situated in the Mannaar mainland as Vankaalai Sanctuary, coming under the control of the SL ministries and departments in Colombo in 2008. The new regime, which came to power in January 2015, is now hurriedly engaged in claiming the remaining lands, where people have resettled with housing provided through the Indian Housing Scheme. The occupation of lands go beyond Vangkaalai in Naanaaddaan into Mannaar DS division intending to chase away the entire village of Chi'runaavatku'lam, located along the Mannaar - Mathavaachchi Road, some parts of Pa'l'li-munai and a residential area near the Thirukkeatheesvaram temple, activists in Mannaar told TamilNet on Tuesday. Colombo's ministry of ‘Tourism and Sports’ is deploying ‘cultural diplomacy’ as smokescreen to advance the occupation.

Vangkaalai Sanctuary
A board recently put up by SL Department of Wildlife Conservation at Vangkaalai
4838.95 hectares of area, which includes the residential and agricultural lands of largely Tamil Catholics in Vangkaalai, was declared as Bird Sanctuary in 2008 by Sinhala Buddhist extremist ‘Patali’ Champika Ranawaka, who was the SL Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. The lands come under the control of the SL Wildlife Conservation Department (WCD), which is a non-ministerial department.

WCD has placed new boards at several locations within the last 10 days.

ABM Najeeb, a Muslim owner of lands in Chi'runaavat-ku'lam, in a recent letter sent to WCD states that 9 families in Paalaavik-karai in Thirukkeatheesvaram and 78 families in Chi'runaavat-ku'lam were provided residential and agricultural lands in 1965 and in 1974. Later, in 1990, the people were uprooted from the area due to the war. The families were dependent on high crop cultivation till they were uprooted. Some of these uprooted families have managed to resettle in their lands after 2009 and were also provided houses through the Indian Housing Scheme.

As the WCD was making claim for the lands, the people complained to the authorities and they were given promises by the previous regime that alternative lands would be granted. But, so far they have not received alternative lands. In the meantime, the WCD has been putting up new noticeboards making claim to the lands.

“This is a step-by-step occupation,” a Tamil land owner at Thirukkeatheesvaram told TamilNet.

The Vangkaalai area, consisting of several integrated ecosystems, combining shallow wetland and terrestrial coastal habitats, is frequented by thousands of long-distance migrant water birds every year. The Ceylon Bird Club (CBC) was campaigning for declaring the area as Bird Sanctuary. The Rajapaksa government used the opportunity to seize a large area of land with the motive of Sinhalicisation, activists in Mannaar said adding that Colombo was acting against the people living in the area, who possess an environment-friendly culture. The Tamil people have been protecting the sanctuary for centuries.

Following the interference by Colombo's ministries run by biased Sinhala extremist ministers, Tamil and Muslim environmental activists in Mannaar are now demanding the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) to step in to protect the environment as well as the interests of the people of the area.

Colombo is scheming the next level of a sophisticated Sinhalicisation project, say Tamil and Muslim activists in Mannaar.

Under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Chapter 469), the SL Minister tasked with the protection of the fauna and flora of the island, can declare any public and private land within ‘Sri Lanka’ as a sanctuary without the consent of the Provincial Council or any other mechanism.

Vangkaalai Sanctuary
A section of land belonging to Mannaar Urban Council within the Mannaar DS division also comes under the lands seized by Colombo
The SL Ministry of Tourism and Sports, has been assigned with the responsibility of declaring sanctuaries in the island after the regime-change in January 2015.

The minister in charge of the affairs is a Sinhala hardliner, Navin Dissanayake, who represents the United National Party (UNP).

Mr Navin is the son of late Gamini Dissanayake, who was one of the notorious SL ministers blamed for the burning of Jaffna Library in 1981, which has been described as a deliberate act of cultural genocide in which 97,000 books, considered as the best collection of Tamil literature in Asia, were completely destroyed. Many irreplaceable manuscripts were also lost in the attack carried out by the Sinhala policemen. A Tamil woman, believed to be a Black Tiger, assassinated Mr Gamini Dissanayake during an election campaign in the South in 1994.

Actively engaged in Sinhala politics, his son, Navin Dissanayake became a minister (Public Management Reforms) in Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime till he tendered his resignation in November 2014. Following the regime change in January 2015, he became the SL Minister of Tourism and Sports representing the UNP.

Mr Navin Dissanayake, seen as a Sinhala hardliner, has virtually taken over the role played earlier by the Buddhist Extremist JHU minister ‘Patali’ Champika Ranawake, Tamil activists in Mannaar said.

Champika Ranawake and Navin Dissanayke
SL Minister of Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawake [left] was the former Minister of Environment & Natural Resources, who schemed the occupation of Tamil lands through his ministry and departments and SL Minister of Tourism and Sports Navin Dissanayke [right] who has taken over the role of declaring Sanctuaries. Both of them have been ministers under the regimes of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithiripala Sirisena.


The UNP minister is advancing the Sinhala Buddhist agenda through what he claims as ‘cultural diplomacy’ integrating Buddhism, environment, tourism and sports, the activists said.

Foreign funds are being deployed to alienate the people of the region from their environment.

Corporate and imperial interests are put at the top in supporting the genocidal route of the State and regime in the island by the various international ‘development’ sponsors, who never care to explore achieving their ambitions through parity of nations in the island, the activists further said.

Vangkaalai Sanctuary
The signboard displaying flags of various countries and emblems of ‘development’ agencies show the foreign assistance deployed for the Sinhalicisation project. Mr Navin Dissanayake is scheduled to declare identified new access routes, revise the borders of the sanctuaries, to prepare to sign an agreement with the Russian Republic and to empower the provisions relating to the agreement, according to a cabinet decision taken in April 2015.
Vangkaalai Sanctuary
A recently placed board at the bird sanctuary along the bridge connecting the mainland with Mannaar island


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