Feature Article

Maithiripala’s structural genocide targets Tamil cattle farmers in Batticaloa

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 03 May 2016, 23:21 GMT]
Colombo’s Forest Department, which comes under SL President Maithiripala Sirisena’s Ministry of Mahaweli ‘Development’ and Environment, has been blocking Tamil farmers from taking their cattle to graze in the northern and eastern parts of Thivulaanaik-ku’lam, which is situated across the border of Batticaloa and Ampaa’rai districts in the East. Wealthy Sinhalese businessmen from Kurunegala and Gampaha districts have seized thousands of acres of public and forest lands to grow cowpea crop in large scale in the area, says T. Sivapatham, the president of Poaratheevup-pattu Cattle Farmers Association. Meanwhile, the SL Government Agent in Batticaloa is prioritizing the interests of Colombo’s business elite and the projects by foreign NGOs involving the employees in the public sector. Tamil farmers are being completely ignored in Batticaloa district, according to divisional civil sources.

Southern part of Thivulaanaik-ku’lam comes under the Ampaa’rai district while the northern and eastern parts come under the bordering Paddippazhai division of Batticaloa district. Tamil dairy farmers, especially those from the nearby Poaratheevup-pattu division, have been using the area as pasture lands for their cattle for almost 40 years.

The businessmen from South and the SL Forest Department have been aggressively blocking the Tamil farmers from bringing their cattle for grazing, Mr Sivapatham said.

The occupying Sinhalese businessmen have hired Sinhalese workers from Ampaa’rai and armed them with rifles.

After repeated complaints, the SL Government Agent of Batticaloa district arranged a meeting at the Divisional Secretariat of Poaratheevup-pattu on 23 April.

However, the GA and other government officials were reluctant to point out the problems caused by the external Sinhala businessmen to the forest department officials who were present at the meeting as that department comes under the direct supervision of SL President Maithiripala Sirisena, civil sources in Vellaa-ve’li told TamilNet.

Large plains of lands, which were officially gazetted as grazing lands three decades ago in Paduvaan-karai region of Batticaloa district have been seized by the Sinhala colonizers, especially after the end of genocidal onslaught in Vanni in 2009.

The SL military has been actively backing the colonisation and the Eezham Tamil farmers are unable to sustain their animal husbandry in Mayilaththa-madu, Pullu-malai and Kudumpi-malai areas of Paduvaan-karai as documented in a number of news reports earlier.

While the already gazetted grazing lands were being lost, there were also fresh efforts in 2010-2011 from the grassroots level to declare additional 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) that have deployed as grazing lands for several years constituting lands from Magncha'l-aa'ru (Sinhalicised into Mangalagama) in Ea'raavoor-pattu (Chengkaladi) divisioni, Veddip-poadda-cheana in Vavu'na-theevu divisioni, Kuthampai, Ma’nal-eattam to Ka’lik-ku’lam in Vavu’naatheevu division and to Kevu’liyaa-madu in Paddippazhai divisions.

But, the Colombo Establishment has been refusing, demanding reasons and ‘re-assessing’ the need to gazette more grazing lands, Tamil civil officials from Poara-theevup-pattu and Paddip-pazhai divisions told TamilNet.

The DS officials had completed the data collection and forwarded the details of surveyed lands to the Eastern Provincial Land Commissioner through the previous Government Agent of Batticaloa district.

In turn, the office of the Eastern Provincial Land Commissioner forwarded the plan to the Land Commission in Colombo with the request to declare the 15,000 hectares of lands through a Gazette notification.

However, Colombo’s Land Commissioner, after raising certain questions, involved the so-called Land Use Committee, which is also based in Colombo. The Committee was again asking for further explanations. It dispatched a delegation from Colombo to Batticaloa to inspect the claims.

The Land Use Committee wanted the allocation for grazing lands reduced to the half of the initial request and the Divisional Secretaries were forced to reduce the area.

Later, Colombo’s committee also wanted a cabinet approval from the regime of the unitary State. The SL cabinet turned down the request and demanded a Colombo-centric assessment to be carried out. The collaborating ministers in the SL cabinet, Mr Douglas Devananda and Mr Arumugam Thondaman, did nothing to safeguard the cattle farming industry of Eezham Tamils in Batticaloa. Thondaman was the minister for Livestock and Rural Community Development in Rajapaksa's cabinet.

The TNA politicians, now extending cooperation to the Colombo regime from the Opposition have also failed to raise their voice against the injustices, the civil officials complained.

The current GA is completely ignorant in taking steps towards legalizing the grazing lands.

The civil officials at divisional level also complain that the GA is only prioritizing foreign funded NGO projects and the interests of big businessmen coming through Colombo. The divisional secretaries are requested to attend four to five times a month for meetings and all the meetings are about foreign NGOs running “projects” in the district. None of the projects benefit the deprived sections of the people or the Tamil farmers, the officials who attend these meetings said.

The Tamil politicians should at least secure these additional areas as grazing lands if they are serious about securing the livelihood of Tamil farmers. If they were really interested in upholding the demographics of Batticaloa as a district of Eezham Tamils, they should act without ignoring the matter anymore, the civil officials said stating they have done everything within their domain so far. Colombo’s politics should be dealt on political front by the elected representatives of Tamils, the civil official said.

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