Feature Article

Resettled Tamils seek empowerment to confront demographic genocide in Ampaa'rai

[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 April 2015, 23:12 GMT]
Two decades have elapsed since Eezham Tamils resettled in Va'laththaap-piddi GS division of Ampaa'rai district. After the war ended in the East in 2008, Sinhala settlers from the border villages have accelerated the occupation of fertile agricultural lands of Eezham Tamils at Kanangkaa-veddai near Pazha-ve'li village. A recently established camp of the Sri Lankan military is prohibiting the resettling Tamil landowners from accessing their agricultural lands at Kanangkaa-veddai. In the meantime, the Archaeology department of the genocidal Sri Lankan State has put up border stones surrounding the old Sivan temple of Va'laththaap-piddi. Sinhala settlers who have encroached from border villages have taken over the agricultural lands that belong to Veera-munai Hindu temple. Without political and economic empowerment, the Tamils, already marginalised in Ampaa'rai, risk losing their villages.

There are many poverty-stricken Eezham Tamils who are unable to return to their villages without a proper resettlement programme. They are still displaced in Thampiluvil, Kaarai-theevu and Thirukkoavil, says Kaarai-theevu divisional council (PS) member S. Rasiah. The situation is the same for other neighbouring Tamil villages, Malvaththai, Malliakaith-theevu, Ka'napathipuram and Puthu-nakaram, he says.

In the meantime, the Islamic establishment in Ampaa'rai has spent large sums of money in a systematic manner in seizing the lands belonging to Eezham Tamils, civil sources in the division say.

The Tamil villagers, facing demographic genocide by the Sri Lankan State are deprived of political power and monetary strength to protect their interests.

The Sri Lankan State intends to keep these villages without any development or reconstruction in order to drive Tamils away from these villages and facilitate Sinhalicisation of these villages, the TNA politician says.

Except the Netherlands based ZOA, an international NGO, which has helped the resettling villagers to construct shelters, latrines and provided them with cattle to sustain their livelihood with the funding from the European Union, no other help has reached the uprooted people who were chased out from their houses in 1990, according to Mr Pushparajah who has resettled at Pazha-ve'li in 1995. North East Housing Reconstruction Program (NEHRP) has only built 8-10 houses within the last two decades, he says. ZOA's project was funded by the European Union.

Accessing potable water, proper housing, resuming their livelihood by re-gaining their agricultural lands, education for their children, health facilities and accessible roads still remain as dream despite two decades have elapsed since 1995, Pushparaja, who has set up a small shop at his resettled hut, told TamilNet.

Mr Murugaiah, who uses to get potable water from Pushparaja, is struggling to access agricultural lands, potable water and proper education to his children. Pushparajah says that wild elephants are also threatening the resettled Tamil villagers.

The so-called Gal Oya Development Scheme, covering the Moneragala district of Uva Province and Ampaa'rai district of the Eastern Province, was a project with a demographic social engineering agenda targeting to Sinhalicise the Eastern province through Ampaa'rai. The scheme was a brainchild of the first prime minister of Ceylon, D.S. Senanayake (1948 - 1952).

Mr Senanayke was instrumental in the transfer of power to the Sinhalese from the British rulers, who neglected the Tamil demand for ‘50-50’ representation between the Sinhalese and the other communities of the island.

In 1956, the Tamil people were subjected to one of the first State-sponsored pogroms against them through the Sinhala settlers of the Gal Oya scheme.

There have been a number of demographic changes to facilitate Sinhalicisation of the district, where Tamils were in majority in the past.

The Tamil-speaking Muslims settlements began 600 years ago. The Sinhala colonisation began after 1948 transfer of power to the Sinhalese, Mr Rasiah says.

“Politicians belonging to all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, have succumbed to the electoral politics. They have only been interested in votes and spend their time with the people at places where they can count large number of votes,” he adds.

Without political and economic strength capable of addressing the needs of Tamils from their perspective, the Tamils will be losing their remaining villages in the border areas in a matter of few years, he says.

Since the times of Gal Oya scheme, the Tamil villagers were told that they would be re-issued with proper land deeds through Land kachcheari. But, that has not taken place for decades, Mr Rasiah says.

Around 4,700 families are living in 14 Tamil villages in Chammaanthu'rai Division of Ampaa'rai District. Pazha-ve'li is situated 3 km east of Ampaa'rai town and is one of the three villages in Va'laththaap-piddi GS division. The encroachers have seized more than 500 acres of lands in Va’laththaap-piddi GS division.

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