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Colonisation of the East
15 October 1990
The situation that exists in the Eastern Province of the island of Sri Lanka today, is much worse and far more grave than that which may appear from reports in the news media. The conclusion appears irresistible that steps have been initiated at the highest levels of the Government of Sri Lanka to eradicate the entire Tamil population from large areas of the Eastern Province - either by killing them or by forcing them to flee from their homes.
The present genocidal campaign is no fortuitous happening. It represents the culmination of the efforts of successive Sinhala governments, over a time span of more than forty years, to change the demography of the area and to populate the traditional Tamil homeland in the Eastern Province with Sinhala settlors.
As long ago as 1979, Walter Schwarz pointed out:
That these efforts at Sinhala colonisation were the outcome of a strategy carefully planned by the Sinhala government, has now been established beyond doubt by the frank statements of the Sinhala Mahaveli Ministry Official, Herman Gunaratne in August 1990:
The attempts of the Sri Lankan government to colonise the Eastern Province had also attracted the attention of Professor Virginia Leary, who was on an ICJ mission to Sri Lanka in 1981:
Professor Virginia Leary recommended:
However, the recommendations of the ICJ were not acted upon. On the contrary, that which did happen was that state aided colonisation gave way to state aided physical attacks on Tamils in the Eastern Province leading to the forced evacuation of Tamils from their traditional homelands. It was a natural progression for Sinhala chauvinism.
In 1985, Robert Kilroy-Silk, M.P. and Roger Sims, M.P, who visited Sri Lanka as members of a United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group, reported:
Today, in October 1990, from Pottuvil in the Amparai District to Thenmaravadi in the Trincomalee District, the Government has succeeded in driving Tamils from their homes and settling Sinhala people in these areas. In these areas there are no settlements of Tamil people.
The number of Tamils who remain in Batticaloa town and in Trincomalee town, are very few. The remainder have all left because they are afraid to remain in their homes. In the main streets, it is the army that moves about. The belongings in Tamil homes have all been looted by the army and by the so called Muslim 'Home Guards'.
Only about 10% of those who have left their homes have gone to refugee camps. They have not gone to the refugee camps because they are afraid of what will happen to them there. The remainder are trying to survive in the jungles, on land bordering the jungle, by the river side, and under trees.
They have no shelter from sun or rain and are leading a precarious existence, day by day. Thousands of Tamils in the Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai Districts are living today on tubers and roots dug from jungle land. They face death by starvation.
Almost the entirety of the Tamils in the Trincomalee District in the Eastern Province, have been compelled to leave their homes. Those from the Amparai District have not only fled from their homes but they have gone to the Batticaloa District because they cannot live safely even in the jungles in Amparai.
The Tamils in these Districts in the Eastern Province have been unable to go to their farms, they have been unable to go to their work places, and they have been unable to go out to fish. The boats and nets of Tamil fishermen have been burnt. The land which belonged to the Tamil people is now being farmed by Sri Lankan army personnel, and by criminal elements and thugs amongst the Muslim people aided by so called armed Muslim 'Home Guards'.
There are several reports of large scale killings of Tamils. But because Tamils are fleeing from their homes, and because in many villages the entirety of the Tamil population have been killed without anyone remaining, it has not always been possible to obtain details of the killings.
In Kalmunai, Sathurukondan, and Pillyaradi in the Batticaloa District, and in Veeramunai, and Thurainilamunai in the Amparai District, Tamils have been killed without leaving a single survivor. Tamil women from the villages have been abducted and raped. Many of those who were abducted did not return alive.
The so called Muslim Home Guards have helped in this genocidal attack on the Tamil population. The army appears to have chosen the refugee camp as the appropriate symbol of the future that awaits the Tamils after the army action is over.
Many Tamils, including young women have been abducted from refugee camps by the Army and by the so called 'Home Guards'. Government officials as well as Red Cross officials at such camps have been unable to prevent these abductions.
Upto date more than 400 Tamils have been abducted from the refugee camp at the Batticaloa University campus and killed. Such abductions and killings have also taken place in the refugee camps in the Amparai and Trincomalee Districts as well. On the 13th of September 1990, the refugees in the Iruthayapuram, Pachai Nool Refugee Camp were compelled to walk over a land mine 'for testing purposes' and in consequence one girl lost her eyes and another lost her legs when the land mine exploded.
There is insufficient food for those in the refugee camps. The food is not sufficient to keep them alive and well. There are no medical supplies. In the Batticaloa University refugee camp, 19 persons have died of disease without treatment. There is no milk powder for infants. The numbers who have died of disease continues to rise day by day.
Those who have left the refugee camps to escape the attacks of the army and the so called Muslim Home Guards, and who live in the jungles and along the river banks, have no assistance what ever. Because the Red Cross officials say that they can help only those in the refugee camps, the plight of those outside is pathetic.
This is the situation in the Batticaloa district in Vakarai, Kathirvel, Verukal and in the Trincomalee District in Kattaiparaichan, and Pannikudiyiruppu. Red Cross officials as well as Tamils who are in the service of the Government have failed to do all that they can to help - it appears that the reason is that they are afraid for their own lives.
It is in this situation, that the Tamils in the refugee camps in the Trincomalee District have now been told to go to their own homes. But they are afraid to do so. When they asked about those who had already been taken into custody and who have 'disappeared', the army authorities replied that no questions should be asked about those who had already been taken.
The Parliamentary Delegation which visited the refugee camps appeared to be more concerned with finding out the number in the refugee camps than with safe guarding their lives. On the 23rd of September when those in the refugee camp asked Mr.Mavai Senathirajah M.P. about their safety in the camp, he replied that even his life was not safe.
It will soon be the rainy season in the Eastern Province. Those in the jungles and on the river sides will have to look forward to an even greater hardships when the rains come. During the rainy season, diseases such as cholera and malaria will spread easily. Even now many have been afflicted. In the towns, to some small extent, medical supplies and items of food are available but in the village areas because people have to look to the army and because there are no transport facilities, the people are helpless.
The attack on the Tamils in the Eastern Province is genocidal in intent. In July/August 1983 the Sinhala government sought to wipe out the Tamil professional and entrepreneur classes in the South and earned the condemnation of several non governmental human rights organisations. Today, the Sinhala government is engaged in the task of depopulating the Eastern Province of Tamil people.
There is an urgent need for non governmental agencies with a commitment to human rights, to intervene in the situation that has developed in the Eastern Province, help to alleviate the suffering of thousands upon thousands of Tamils who have been driven out of their homes, and help to put a stop to the genocidal actions of the Sri Lankan government.