Colombo Telegraph

Protest March Against Mahaweli Colonization

The Anti-Mahaweli Tamils’ Heritage Forum yesterday organized a massive protest march against Mahawelli colonization, and handed in a petition to Mrs. Ketheeswaran, GA Mullaitivu for delivery to President Maithripala Sirisena.

The protest march

It would appear that the GA knows little and is told little about the GS Division almost exclusively of Sinhalese where the family units to which state aid is given far exceed in number the family units there.

Colombo Telegraph very recently highlighted the problem of militarization and land settlement. The President has since then promised to release all occupied schools and release more lands soon, asking for an account from his officials of lands demarcated for animals, agriculture etc. and settled by the military to project the image of no military occupation.

An observer at the relevant ministry said the President seems suddenly aware that what his officials have told him so far may not be quite true.

We publish below the petition in full:

His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena, 

Presidential Secretariat,

Galle Face, 

Colombo,

Your Excellency,

Upset over the happenings in the Mullaitivu district due to the Mahaweli Authority’s interventions

1. We Anti Mahaweli Tamils’ Heritage Forum, on behalf of the civil society organizations and community-based organizations of Mullaitivu District, are compelled to write this letter; being very much worried and upset over the happenings in the district due to the Mahaweli Authority’s interventions. We will be failing in our duty if we do not at this juncture bring to your notice these matters.

2. It has been reported that the Welioya centred Mahaweli L Zone surrounded by North Central, Northern and Eastern Provinces is under a massive infrastructural development at present. It is learnt that after the ending of the war in 2009, the expansion of the Mahaweli project in L Zone, has commenced with 6000 Sinhala families colonizing the Welioya area. Over 2000 acres of livelihood lands belongs to the Tamil community displaced in 1984 have been redistributed to the colonizing Sinhala families. The Mahaweli Development Authority has spent over Rs.3000 million for providing drinking water, electricity, transport, health care, self-employment opportunities and for school development work in the Welioya area. There is no single Tamil family benefited through the Mahaweli programme in the region. 

3. We feel that the Welioya division in the Mullaitivu district of the Northern Province, created for the exclusive purpose of Sinhala colonization  is of a strategic piece of merging Land of North and East Provinces in order to wedge the North from the East. Land has been carved out by joining territories of the Mullaitivu district as well as territories of the Vavuniya district to seek to permanently break the demographic contiguity of the northern and eastern provinces.

4. In Mullaitivu District, in the past the Mahaweli Authority limits its operations to the Welioya division. Even though most of the GN divisions of the Maritimepattu DS Division are coming under Mahaweli L zone, it is not operationalized. However, by issuing the Mahaweli land permits to some illegal (convicted by the Courts) fishermen in Karunaddukerny, Kokkuthoduvai and Kokkulai GN divisions of Maritimepattu DS division, the Mahaweli Authority is intervening in the land administration of the Divisional Secretariat. 

5. We suspect that the Mahaweli L and the proposed K and J zones are systematically planned to change the demographic pattern and contiguity of Tamil lands and accelerate Sinhala colonization  in the North.

6. Further, it has been reported the archaeological department is trying to manipulate the history and declare some ancient Tamils’ cultural and religious locations as Buddhist temples. The recent examples are the Nayaru Hindu temple Versus  Buddhist  temples issue and Vedukkunari Hindu temple issue in Nedunkerney.

7. Thousands of fishing families of Mullaitivu District are depending on the Nanthikkadal and Nayaru lagoons for their livelihood. However, recently both lagoons have been declared as  nature reserves by the government. This will badly affect the income generation and livelihood of the poor fishing families.

8. Your Excellency, the constraints our people have in restoring their lives back to its past glory in Mullaitivu district is very complicated. The people of Mullaitivu are undergoing untold hardships due to the unacceptable regulations.

9. We sincerely hope, as the Citizen of this country we may breath freely talk and act freely under your great leadership.

Our Demands 

1. Considering the benefits, disbenefits, challenges and the complication of the Mahaweli project in the North, we are compelled to request you to immediately stop the Mahaweli project in Mullaitivu district and proposed plans in Northern Province.

2. The recently issued land permits by the Mahaweli Authority to the illegal Sinhala fishermen in the Maritimepattu DS division (Karunaddukerney, Kokkuthoduvai and Kokkulai GN divisions ) must be withdrawn with immediate effect.

3. Over 2000 acres of livelihood lands belonging to the Tamil community displaced in 1984 and distributed to the settled Sinhala families in Welioya, must be recovered and handed back to the original owners.

4. Without consulting the local communities and district government officials, the Archeological department is claiming the locations in order to manipulate the history and violate Tamils’ cultural heritage. We urge you to instruct the relevant authorities not to do so.

5. Sinhala colonization of a strategic piece of merging Land of North and East Provinces must be stopped with immediate effect, failing which will affect the ethnic harmony in the region. 

6. The Declared Nanthikkadal and Nayaru lagoons Nature Reserves must be withdrawn considering the livelihood of poor fishing families with immediate effect.

Your Excellency, in conclusion we plead with you to consider our appeal to sustain the peace and reconciliation process in the country. 

Thank you.

Yours faithfully                            

Rev. Father Leo Amstrong                V. Navaneethan                                 Dr. K Sutharshan

Co-Chairman                           Co-Chairman                                      Co-Chairman  

(Story filed by Vishaakha Navaratnam)

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