"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

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:

"... Tamil spokesmen complained that the momentum of colonisation was greater than ever. They referred in particular to the Mahaveli Diversion project, supported by the World Bank, in the Eastern Province, under which Sinhalese families were being brought in from the South. They pointed out that the Maduruoya Scheme in the Eastern Province, backed by Canadian assistance, was having the same effect."

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:

"All wars are fought for land...The plan for settlement of people in Yan Oya and Malwathu Oya basins was worked out before the communal riots of 1983. Indeed the keenest minds in the Mahaveli, some of whom are holding top international positions were the architects of this plan. My role was that of an executor... We conceived and implemented a plan which we thought would secure the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka for a long time.

We moved a large group of 45,000 land hungry (Sinhala) peasants into the Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa districts of Maduru Oya delta. The second step was to make a similar human settlement in the Yan Oya basin. The third step was going to be a settlement of a number of people, opposed to Eelam, on the banks of the Malwathu Oya. By settling the (Sinhala) people in the Maduru Oya we were seeking to have in the Batticaloa zone a mass of persons opposed to a separate state...Yan Oya if settled by non separatists (Sinhala people) would have increased the population by about another 50,000. It would completely secure Trincomalee from the rebels..."

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:

"...Tamils have objected to State colonisation schemes which import large numbers of Sinhalese into traditional Tamil areas. The Tamil concern about colonisation is related to insecurity about their physical safety and to fears that Tamils will become a minority in their traditional homelands.

The government maintains that since Sri Lanka is a single country citizens may freely move into any part of the country and that it is necessary to transplant some populations to more productive areas. The Tamils answer that they are not opposed to individual migration but only to large scale government colonisation schemes which change the ethnic composition of an area..."

Professor Virginia Leary recommended:

"The government should give renewed attention to Tamil concern over government sponsored colonisation schemes which bring large numbers of Sinhalese into Tamil areas and thus change the ethnic composition in such areas. This is particularly important in view of the insecurity of Tamils due to communal violence against them in areas where they live as a minority..."

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:

"Witnesses also confirmed allegations made to us that whole villages (in the Eastern Province) have been emptied and neighbourhoods have been driven by the army from their homes and occupations and turned into refugees dependent on the government for dry rations... The human rights transgressed in such a course of action do not need to be detailed here...

More important is that rightly or wrongly it tends to lend credibility to the view so frequently put to us that it is the Government's objective either to drive the Tamils out of the north and east in sufficient numbers so as to reduce their majority in the north and in the east, a process that would be aided by the Government's announced policy of settling armed Sinhalese people in former Tamil areas...or to drive the Tamils out altogether.

We cannot make a judgement on this issue. We can say, without doubt, that the Government is driving Tamils from their homes and does intend to settle Sinhalese people in these areas. This, at least, lends support to the more extreme version believed by most Tamils."

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.

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