29 September, 2020

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Survival Calls On UN To Stand Up For Wanniyala-Aetto

On March 15, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) will discuss the human rights record of Sri Lanka, during which the country is likely to come under severe criticism for serious human rights violations, and be called to account by the United States. However, amidst the international criticisms of Sri Lanka, one community remains largely forgotten –the indigenous Wanniyala-Aetto.

Many Wanniyala-Aetto have been fined for hunting in their forest. Some have even been shot dead.

The Wanniyala-Aetto, commonly known to outsiders as Veddah, are struggling to survive on what remains of their land. In the 1950s their territory was opened up for Sinhalese settlers, and the tribe’s forests and hunting grounds were bulldozed and flooded. In 1983 their last remaining forest refuge was turned into the Maduru Oya National Park. The Wanniyala-Aetto were moved to government villages and banned from entering the park without permits. They were also forbidden to hunt in the park. They are still losing their land to outsiders who continue to be resettled in the area.

The loss of their forests and the creation of the National Park has robbed the Wanniyala-Aetto of their means of subsistence, and of much that gave their lives meaning. Alcoholism and mental illness are now rife. Many face harassment from park guards and discrimination from the settlers who surround them. Many Wanniyala-Aetto have been killed, beaten or arrested for hunting on their ancestral land – despite a promise by the country’s President that they were entitled to hunt for their own subsistence.

In the latest fatal incident in March last year, a 26 year old Wanniyala–Aetto man, Tale Warige Sunila, was shot dead by a forest guard for ‘poaching’ on his ancestral land in the Park. He had a permit that allowed him to be in the park, but not to hunt. In recent years, three other Wanniyala-Aetto, all with permits, have been killed for hunting in their traditional forests.

Survival International has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to call on the country’s government ‘to recognize the right of the Wanniyala-Aetto to live, hunt for their own consumption, and gather forest produce in their ancestral land in the Park and to enable those who wish to return to do so’. In the written submission, Survival further asked the HRCto ‘call on the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that those responsible for killing and harassing the Wanniyala-Aetto for entering their traditional land are brought to justice’.

Read the submission here

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Finally we have a real Vedda for a change on the pages of CT. What a relief!

    • 0
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      Ajay

      “What a relief!”

      Don’t you think it is too soon to let your guard down?

      On behalf of my people Survival International has already written to UN Human Rights Council.

      The battle cry of freedom starts here and now.

      I suggest you apply for Indian duel citizenship in case you may have to return to your homeland, North or South India.

      • 0
        0

        When I was at school, I read a native Australian’s aborigines short-story “The Girl Who Shot at Kookaboora”.
        After 1980s they have gained more concessions and royalties from the Government of Australia.

        Dr R L Spittle has written many stories about sri lankan indigenous people.

        but at present, only vote seekers who wants to cheat them are beg behind, but not to give any help for survival of theese people.

        • 0
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          JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA

          Thanks for your concern.

    • 0
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      YES, DEFOREST & ENCROACH
      THEN IMAGINE RICE-MUD IS SUPERIOR & INNOCENT TO BRICK-MUD & POT-MUD
      6 INCHES OF GOYAM AND METHANE BOGS THE IDEAL INNOCENCE
      CUT DOWN A MILLION TREES & WATER THE BODHI TREE
      DESTROY GENERATIONS OF WILD LIFE, HABITAT & PLANET !!

  • 0
    0

    The tragedy sounds like a repeat of the aborigines of Australia and the Red Indians of North and South America – now generally referred to as the First Nation there. Time for our good friend Native Veddah – now gathering honey in the meadows of Ole Blighty – to tighten his amude, sharpen his old axe and make his own claim for a Separate State.
    The Rajapakses may say while two is company three is a crowd.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    This is a tragedy facing our Wanniyala Aetto.They must be given freedom to live as they wish.They are people with no voice.A real pathetic situation.No government did anything for their welfare.

    • 0
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      Dubdoc

      Thanks for you concern about my people.

      The problem with Tamil/Sinhala stupidity is that both think that they have a divine exclusive right to own my ancestral island on which they fought many wars between them and among themselves.

      Until this conditioned mindset is changed the plight of Veddah will not improve.

      We need your support.

  • 0
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    Senguttuvan

    “The tragedy sounds like a repeat of the aborigines of Australia and the Red Indians of North and South America – now generally referred to as the First Nation there.”

    Here is a song about my cousins in Australia:

    From ‘We Have Survived’ (BART WILLOUGHBY/NO FIXED ADDRESS)

    You can’t change the rhythm of my soul,
    You can’t tell me what to do
    You can’t break my bones by putting me down,
    Or by taking the things that belong to me… Cos why?
    We have survived the white man’s way,
    And the horror and the torment of it all
    We have survived the white man’s way
    And you know, you can’t change that.

    I hope you enjoyed the song.

    You say:

    “The Rajapakses may say while two is company three is a crowd.”

    We say the two must leave my ancestral island as soon as possible.

    Isn’t it a fair deal?

    Thanks for your support.

  • 0
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    NV,

    This is a valuable opportunity and time for crusaders like you who are fighting for the rights of or rather against the denial of rights of Vedda community by the so called civilized people to intensify your activities.

    • 0
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      Silva

      Thanks a lot for your moral support.

      We need lot more people to recognise existence of my people and our right to our ancestral land.

      I would be grateful if you could let your friends and relatives know about our plight and rights or lack of it.

  • 0
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    A reply to Native Veddah’s query on this subject in another thread:

    The Veddahs are indeed a people to be pitied. I have not seen any Veddah living the life of their forefathers. The ones I have seen are play acting. Many of them are not real Veddahs by origin. There are no R.L.Spittels to espouse their cause, any more. The Veddahs are on show now and perform for a fee. The Veddahs will be lost to Sri Lanka and the world soon and will be absorbed into the Sinhala or Tamil communities near whom they live. Their disappearance will severe a vital link to our past and that of modern man.

    They should be encouraged to remain Veddahs retaining their culture and language, while being also encouraged to enter mainstream life. They should be declared a national treasure and salvaged from the fate that is already overtaking them. They represent a gene pool that connects modern man to the first primate that stood up in Africa to become the fore father/ mother of all us. Unfortunately, this country-government and people- is absolutely incapable of such an enlightened approach.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      Dr RN: If our ‘native Vedda’ – Aetto have made his way for a better life somewhere in the developed world and stay put there why not other Aettos are allowed at least to have a better life here. Surly, no Aetto want to live the tough life of their ancestors. Its obvious from what they do, they too want access to better housing, better food, better medicine and etc. In short, they too desire a cushy life like everyone else. To keep them as what they were by artificial means is not fair. That’s taking away their rights. A dirty NGO must be behind this. ‘Native Vedda’ is a hypocrite. He doesn’t like his buddies reaching where he is.

  • 0
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    So how come noone has questioned this to be linked to the diaspora or some other unrelated thing yet?
    How narrow minded our people are that blind themselves to the outrageous atrocities around us, right until the noose is pulled around their own necks.
    It is despicable that human beings are being treated like vermin & real vermin rule the country.

  • 0
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    Thank you survival international for raising attention about such a neglected people

  • 0
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    Veddahs, over the centuries, merged into both the Tamil and Sinhala communities – depending with whom they interacted more. Only a very small number of them remained in the jungles but continued to benefit from modern medicine, housing, food and clothing habits etc. While Spittel and Brohiers helped them earlier to maintain their identity, the late showman Manik Sandrasegera and broadcaster Christ Greet took interest in their welfare in the more recent decades.
    Veddahs, like their cousins in North and South America, Australia now voluntarily join mainstream societies while zealously holding on to many of their ancient cultural traditions, songs and so on. Recently,
    Adam Giles secured a significant political position in Australia – coming from an aborigine background.

    Veddahs are our historical reminder both Sinhalese and Tamils are of South Indian stock as proved by respected and international recognised
    Anthropologists such as Prof. Gananath Obeysekera who has done laborious studies on their folk songs, language and idioms to establish their thesis. If one wishes to step far further, they remind us of the stark truth our forefathers came from the Dark Continent Africa. A German Anthropologist once remarked “all mankind came from Africa. We are going about wearing masks now”

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
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      Senguttuvan

      When Sinhalese and Tamils are guarding zealously/jealously their people why should not we protect our own in similar way to the rest of the people of this island?

      Do we have to have the numerical strength to retain our culture, way of life and livelihood while the state, its people and the rulers continue to plunder our land and livelihood?

  • 0
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    Vanni belongs to Wanniyala-Aetto (meaning owners of Vanni). May be it is time government devolve power separately to Wanniyala-Aetto in Vanni. That is the only way they can be amassed together and protected.

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