Sinhalisation of East: A reply to Minister Champika Ranawaka

by M. I. M. Mohideen

JHU Party Policy-maker and the Minister in the present UPF coalition government had made a statement in a National News Paper on Thursday December 20, 2007, that the Sinhalisation of the East is a myth scoffing at the allegations regarding the Sinhalisation of the East by some minority politicians. Some facts and figures to prove the fallacy of the statement of the Minister.

The 'nava pancha bala vegaya' has been striving very hard to alter the Eastern demography. It has backing right at the top and involves sections of the Buddhist clergy, security forces, bureaucrats, businessman and politicians.

The objectives of their agenda is to make Sinhala people the single largest ethnic group in the Eastern Province. The master plan envisages demographic changes through state aided settlements, tourism development and a Buddhist revival in Ampara District and agro-business promotion in the Toppigala areas in Batticaloa District.

Facts and figures about population growth will help to illustrate how demography patterns have been unnaturally altered or distorted through state aided colonisation, demarcation of new political and administrative units and accelerated irrigation schemes in the Eastern Province.

The Eastern Province is 3,839 sq. miles in extent. Originally Trincomalee 1,016 sq. miles and Batticaloa 2,823 sq. miles were the districts in this province. According to the 1921 census, the Sinhalese were 3% of the population in the Trincomalee District and 4.5% in the combined Batticaloa and Ampara District. The Sinhalese were less than 4% in the whole Eastern Province.

The Batticaloa District was divided into the present Ampara District 1,775 sq. miles and Batticaloa District 1,048 sq. miles in 1961. Details of the 1981 population in the Eastern Province.

See Table 1

Population Increase between 1949 and 1981

Tamil population increased from 136,059 to 411,451 - 302%, Muslim population increased from 109,024 to 315,201 - 289%, Sinhalese population increased from 27,556 to 243,358 - 883%. The National average increase of Sinhalese during this period is only 238%. The sudden increase of Sinhala population is the result of Government planed Sinhala Colonisation in Gal-oya, Pannal-oya, and Ambalam-oya in Ampara District, and Kanthalai, Allai, Morawewa, Muthalikkulam, Pathaviya (Part), and Mahadiuluwewa schemes in Trincomalee District.

State aided Sinhala Colonizations

The Land Policies pursued hitherto by successive Governments after Independence have had their far reaching adverse effects.

1. The Minorities have been denied their legitimate share of Developed State Land.

2. Deprivation of Land, more particularly developed land, to landless people in the Districts of Land alienation.

3. Substantial alteration in the Ethnic composition of the Districts in which State Land have been alienated.

This has contributed to the growth of tension and hostilities among different communities resulting in ethnic violence. The victims of such violence have always been the Tamils and Muslims.

When the Gal Oya Development Scheme was inaugurated, the late Hon. D. S. Senanayake stated that at least 50% of the new lands that were to become cultivatable under the Gal Oya Development Scheme would be distributed on a 50 - 50 basis between the local citizens of the Batticaloa district and the would be colonists from outside.

The opening of the Gal Oya Scheme was a great boon to the Sinhala people and this has been used as a device to deprive the Muslims to live and own lands under this scheme.

Muslim Lands forcibly colonised with the Sinhalese in Ampara District

The River Valley Development Board the successor to the Gal Oya Board, without any notice or compensation to the Muslim cultivators with LDO Permits, handed over the whole area to the Sugar Corporation. Hundreds of Muslims were thrown out on the road.

The land take over from the Muslims proved a dismal failure for sugar cultivation. Later the Government settled Sinhalese brought from the South instead of giving the land back to the Muslims who had developed these lands on LDO Permits.

The Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation at Inguruana, Tile Factory under the Ministry of Industries at Irrakkamam and the River Valley Development Board - the successor to the Gal Oya Development Board, took over the fertile paddy fields of the Muslims without any regard to the provisions of the law relating to acquisition of land.

Muslim lands forcibly colonised with the Sinhalese in Trincomalee District

Before the introduction of the Kantalai and Allai Colonisation Schemes, Kantalai was predominantly Muslim. Muslims cultivated about 4,000 acres of paddy land at a place called Pottanai in Thampalakamam Pattu. When the Kantalai Colonisation Scheme began in 1952, the promise and the policy of the Government was 50% for the locals and 50% for others. Quite contrary to this, the Muslim cultivators who had been in the land for more than 30 years were chased away without any compensation. These lands were given to the Sinhalese in 1954.

The Battukachchi area which is presently called Akbarpura was the pasture land of the people of the area. Here also they chased the Muslims and colonised with Sinhalese. Even now there is a Mosque and a Muslim school, When the Kantalai Sugar Corporation was established in 1958, more Sinhalese came in and occupied the land along Alakantalai Road, depriving the lands of the Muslims. Kantalai, Pottanaikadu, Peraru are few of the purana villages of the Muslims and Tamils which are now being occupied by the Sinhalese.

Kinniya which is the largest Muslim Village in Trincomalee has a population of 40,000. The poor landless farmers who lost their purana lands to the Sinhalese under Kantalai Colonisaton Scheme, started clearing their immediate neighbouring jungle at a place called Vanaru. About 10,000 acres of land had been occupied by more than 3,000 Muslim farmers from the villages in the area - Vanaru, Sundiaru, Maniarasankulam, Savaru, Kalaruppu, Valamadu, Vannathipalam, Katukuli, Naduluthu etc. In 1967, the Government introduced a scheme called Kusumangada Vanala Scheme and started chasing the Muslims who were in occupation of the land at Vanaru. It was during this time that a Police Station was opened at the heart of the jungle called Van-Ela Police Station to chase away the Muslims and help the Sinhalese to take possession of the lands developed by the Muslims.

The land available between Kinniya-Thampalakamam Road and Alaikanthalai Road was originally reserved for the village expansion of Kinniya, Kurunjankerney Alankerney and Thampalakamarn. When the Tobacco Corporation came in at a place called Chondankadu area, closer to Mudalaimadu, the employees of the Corporation started encroaching these areas.

In the Padavia Colonisation Scheme of the land that falls within the Trincomalee District in the Eastern Province, the entirety of the land was alienated to the Sinhalese. Needless to say that the entirety of the land under the Padavia Scheme that fell within the North-Central Province was also given to the Sinhalese. Today, the Tamil Speaking people, Tamils and Muslims who held land on State Permits within the Trincomalee District very much before the implementation of Padavia, Allai and Kantalai colonisation schemes, on the boundary of such schemes are being compelled to vacate such lands.

Muslim lands forcibly taken over in the name of Buddhist religion and culture

Actions continue to deprive the Muslims owning even the 14% of the land in Ampara District in the name of religion and culture. The Commissioner of Archaeology has identified 43 places of Buddhist Archaeological Interest in the predominantly Muslim areas of Ampara District. It was around 1940 that a Buddhist priest came to reside at the site of the Deegawapi Chaitlya. There were no Buddhist to give Dana. The Muslims in this area helped the priest. The land around the Chaitiya was planted with coconut with the help of the Muslims of the area for the priest. Suddenly in 1960 some Buddhist wanted all the land around the Chaitiya to be taken over by the government for Buddhist purpose.

In 1968 the government appointed a committee headed by Mr. Ratnethunge, the former Surveyor General, to investigate and submit a report. A number of Buddhist organisations made representations and finally the Committee recommended the take over of 500 acres around the Chaitiya. It was agreed that no more land would be taken. Quite contrary to this promise by the Sinhala Buddhists, there was a sudden move to acquire another 1,000 acres of paddy land belonging to the Muslims. The Government, without any regard for Law and Order sent in bulldozers destroying the paddy cultivation in the Periyavisaraikandam owned by the Muslims on Crown Grant Title Deeds.


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