Chapter 5


The Dress Rehearsal in Trincomalee


" is clear that under natural ecological conditions intra-species aggression is seen in defence of territory or as nature's solution to over-population. However, in the animal world, aggression rarely ends in actual death, there being some inborn inhibition to killing. It is pertinent to ask why such inhibitions do not operate in man, virtually the only 'unhinged killer'...there were several incidents during racial riots and the war itself, of direct slaughter of civilians. This kind of 'unhinged killing' appears to take place usually where human warfare occurs as reactive rage."

                                                                        - Daya Somasundaram, from Scarred Minds


5.1 The New Frontiersmen

5.2 The Politics and Economics of Frontierland

5.3 The New Bosses

5.4 Research, Ideology and State Policy in Relation to Trincomalee

5.5 Living at the End of One's Nerves

5.6 June 1983: Anarchy Loosed



5.1 The New Frontiersmen


Elections to the District Development Councils were scheduled for early June 1981. These were being hailed by the Government and its supporters as a means to finding a political solution to the Tamil problem. Despite this, the UNP government of the day chose a strange way to usher in the DDCs. It may be explained, in part, as a perverse reaction to the attack on UNP and non-TULF candidates by Tamil militants, and the TULF's silence on these. These included the killing of Mr. Thiagarajah, former MP for Vaddukoddai, and some policemen.


A train-load of election staff was sent from the South, many of whom did not have a clue to what election duty meant. The train stopped at Kurunegala. Minister. G.M. Premachandra, and Jayewickrema Perera, both top UNPers, addressed the election staff through loud speakers. They told them, "You are our frontier forces, you must come back with victory." This trumpet-call was recounted by a man from Galle, who was then on election duty. He was reminded of this while witnessing the violence at the North-Western Provincial Council elections under the PA government in 1999.


In Jaffna there was a high-powered team including Ministers Gamini Dissanayake, Cyril Mathew & Festus Perera, G.P.V. Samarasinghe, secretary to the cabinet, Chandrananda de Silva, later commissioner of elections and subsequently defence secretary, and Colonel Dharmapala, defence secretary. There were also a large number of policemen brought into Jaffna under DIG Edward Gunawardene. The mindset implicit in this exercise also throws some light on the 1983 violence. Gamini Dissanayake addressed the election staff. He told them, according to the man from Galle above, to close the polling booths at 10.00 AM and cast the remaining votes. Some innocent guy asked him, "For whom should we cast them?" The Minister replied, "Why, to the animal (i.e. elephant) of course!"


The operation was so botched up that the UNP got no benefit out of it. A high point of the exercise was the burning of the Jaffna Public Library by Edward Gunawardene's men. There had of course been militant attacks on policemen. But the considered opinion of some senior police colleagues was that Ponnambalam (Brute) Mahendran, who was DIG, Jaffna, would have handled the situation competently if not for the presence of Gunawardene and his men. The operation did achieve, however, something notable.


Until this time, with all the reservations the Tamils had about the State, there was hope that a political solution would be arrived at through negotiations between the Government and the TULF. The Government's conduct during the elections to the DDCs - the much awaited political solution - greatly tarnished that hope. Two months later there was anti-Tamil violence in the South where the President himself blamed a section of his own party. The outrage among the Tamils occasioned by the burning of the library and the press of the Eelanadu - the only independent provincial daily in this country - was smothered in the Colombo press. What was left of liberal traditions could not be contained by the developing polarisation in the country. To responsible Tamils, both here and abroad, it seemed clear that the Tamils needed English journals of their own to highlight their concerns.  


One group of Tamils in London who were associated with the Standing Committee of Tamils - a charitable group supporting work among Tamil refugees - collected contributions and started the Tamil Times. Despite the misrepresentation in this country, it has been a responsible and moderate monthly, which never supported the separatist cause in its editorial outlook. It is nearing 20 years of publication without missing a month, resisting all attempts by the LTTE to control it. About the same time, another group around the late K. Kanthasamy started the Saturday Review in Jaffna.


We may draw attention here to the political significance of the expression 'frontier forces', its operational significance and the reaction to it among the Tamils. There is also an implied injunction that it is the patriotic duty of the Sinhalese to go to the North-East and to win over the land so that it becomes in every sense part of their undivided Sinhalese nation.


This idea of a frontier thrust had been discernible from the 1950s in closed official circles, but in the early 80s, it became part of the conscious and deliberate overtones of the Accelerated Mahaveli Programme. This was the key project of the Jayewardene Government of 1977, and was placed under Gamini Dissanayake. The mixed and confused objectives of the programme can be discerned from the following quotation from Patrick Peebles (Colonization and Ethnic Conflict in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, Journal of Asian Studies, February 1990): "As late as May 1982 Mahaweli project officials claimed that Dry Zone settlements would defuse ethnic tension by reducing unemployment. They were unduly optimistic. Earlier colonization schemes had divided the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority long before either Mahaveli River development or ethnic violence accelerated... The UNP consciously evoked the image of an idyllic Buddhist past in which the Dry Zone irrigation provided the resources for a prosperous and cultured civilization. Officials of the Accelerated Mahaveli Programme appealed directly to this mythical past, in which Tamil Hindu invaders were hated enemies, to mobilize Buddhist support". What was most contentious was land settlement within the largely Tamil speaking North-East.


The atmosphere of that time was full of populist overtones, offering to the Sinhalese poor through land settlement the twin goals of economic prosperity and putting the Tamils in their place. It had something of the idealism and the tragedy of the European crusades of the Middle Ages. To a circle among the Colombo elite within and close to the ruling UNP establishment, generally in their late 30s and 40s, securing strategic land by proxy became a heroic obsession. In particular, after the July 1983 violence, they used their personal influence to divert state resources to this end, giving rise to armed Sinhalese border villages. Violence and massacres by both sides escalated from 1984, and instead of the prosperity promised to them, these Sinhalese villagers became civilian shields and chattels of the armed forces. 


Herman Gunaratne, the author of 'For a Sovereign State' finds authority for this crusading zeal by quoting what D.S. Senanayake is supposed to have told the Dry Zone settlers at Padaviya about 1950: "Today you have been brought here and are given a plot of land. You have been uprooted from your village. You are like a piece of driftwood in the ocean; but remember that one day this whole country will look up to you. The final battle for the Sinhala people will be fought on the plains of Padaviya... Those who are attempting to divide this country will have to reckon with you... the last bastion of the Sinhala." (p. 201)


These are words quoted from the memory of a grandson of D.S.S., Ceylon's first Prime Minister, a member of the author's circle of activists. The words however reflect the concerns of this circle in the 80s rather than anything easily discernible in the early 50s, although Tamil leaders had already voiced their concerns regarding colonization. Padaviya is located in the north-eastern corner of the Anuradhapura District, close to the narrow border strip separating the majority Tamil speaking former Northern and Eastern provinces. It had featured crucially in communal violence in 1958. (See Chapter 14.)


It must be pointed out here that the atmosphere in the early 50s was far different from what one might imagine now. The following is from an obituary written in 1971 (Sun 10.6.71) by Mervyn St. C. Nicholas, a Tamil, who was elected to the governing body of the All-Ceylon, UNP Youth League founded in 1949: "I was yet a student at St.Joseph's College, Trincomalee. Subsequently when I organized and founded the UNP Youth League at Trincomalee, he [George Kotelawela] was a tower of strength. He was then in charge of the Essential Services Labour Corps (ESLC) at Trincomalee and Kantalai... A score of years ago Kantalai was thick virgin forest and malaria was rampant in the area. Added to the bargain was the first years after the holocaust of global war II... His was the 'never say die' attitude. With the 'giant' sons of Aiyampillai - both Kanagasingam and Rajasingam the doughty lieutenants of the then Civil Defence Commissioner - Sir Oliver Goonetileke; our George was able to open new vistas for the present denizens of Kantalai and Trincomalee and its suburbs. His pioneering spirit did not wane and he moved on to Polononnaruwa and other parts of Tamankaduwa to 'conquer'."


In the post war years many saw the Essential Services Labour Corps as an appropriate means of utilising surplus labour in clearing jungles and constructing colonisation schemes. Among the office bearers of the Society were a fair mixture of Tamils and Sinhalese. The president was Captain A.C. Kanagasingam and George Kotelawela was the secretary. The Society absorbed workers being disbanded by the British Navy and from other war-related employment, and the Society was paid by measurement of the work done. Its patron was Sir John Kotelawela, an uncle of George. The society opened up new land for schemes in Kantalai and Tamankaduwa (presently Polonnaruwa District). The same scheme of co-operative self-employment was provided for the Malayan Pioneer Corps formed of persons who had returned from Malaya after the war.


The following extract is from the Daily News report of 2.5.1951. Dudley Senanayake, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, met the Society at a dinner in his honour at the Trincomalee Rest House. He said, "It was my father who first visualised the Eastern and North Central Provinces as the granary of the Island, and several years ago, had put schemes into operation in the midst of scorn and opposition from those who felt that money is being wasted in the jungles."


Captain Kanagasingam welcomed the Minister as one who stood for the 'best policy of the UNP'. "We members of the UNP here", he said, "stand not for political advantage, but to see the betterment of conditions in this country...."


Mr. S. Sivapalan, MP for Trincomalee, speaking after dinner said: "I do not at the moment belong to any party, but I will let the old proverb say for me that wherever "Mary went the lamb was sure to go"."


Mr. A.R.A. Aboobucker, MP for Muttur, declared that "it should not be understood that these areas which are to be developed are for the benefit of the Sinhalese alone but for the benefit of the people of the area".


That was a time when the UNP had a significant following among the Tamils. What members of the Government such as Dudley Senanayake then told the Tamils and the Muslims of the North-East was that these schemes, mainly in the NCP and EP, were aimed towards realising the 'granary of the Island'. There was nothing said then about the 'ancient glory of the Sinhalese', that is so evident in the Mahaveli Programme rhetoric of the early 80s, and its increasingly visible overtones of putting their 'traditional enemies', the Tamils, in their place. If there is substance in the quotation above, from Dudley's father D.S. Senanayake, the 'father of the nation', then the Sinhalese settlers were already being charged with communal rhetoric. D.S. Senanayake had shown his colours by the manipulative manner in which he introduced the Citizenship Act.


As for the two Tamils quoted above, Kanagasingam was the defeated candidate; Sivapalan, the successful independent candidate was evidently fishing for terms to join the ruling UNP. They had no problems about the colonisation schemes. The Muslim MP for Muttur evinced awareness of reservations about these schemes but did not apparently himself share them.


George Kotelawala went on to earn the historic distinction of becoming MP in the Parliament of 1965-70 through the Supreme Court disqualifying the candidate who got the largest number of votes at a bye-election. Following his death in 1971, Dr. N.M. Perera against whom he had stood for election several times paid tribute to him in parliament as 'a man who had no enemies'. Thus several persons from all communities who worked on these colonisation schemes in the early days harboured no agenda and genuinely believed that they were for the country's good. 


However five years after that convivial meeting in Trincomalee, Gal Oya colony erupted in communal violence, within a short time of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's 'Sinhala Only' government being voted into power. In this scheme in the interior of the Eastern Province, Sinhalese elements largely drawn from the workforce attacked the Tamils who were there in significant numbers as settlers, professionals, government servants and traders. Tarzie Vittachi wrote: "Until Deputy Inspector-General of Police Sydney de Zoysa went there and threatened to arrest even Cabinet Ministers if they incited the mob to violence, the politicians made inflammatory speeches against police action."


Mr. A.B.S.N. Pullenayagam, who was then GA Batticaloa, which also covered the present Amparai District, on hearing about the violence in Gal Oya asked for an army contingent from Colombo. The contingent came promptly, but, owing to a misunderstanding, turned up in Batticaloa. Mr. Pullenayagam quickly redirected them. Upon reaching Amparai, they found the Tamils in the circuit bungalow protected by a police party under ASP Merry, a Burgher. A crowd of Sinhalese had surrounded the bungalow and between them lay the corpse of an attacker killed by the Police. The Army dispersed the crowd. Then the Tamils started leaving Gal Oya. Mr. Kanagasundaram, a Tamil, who was the chairman of the Gal Oya Development Board, also left for Colombo. Next day, the Sinhalese took shelter in the circuit bungalow fearing that the Tamils in turn would attack them. The violence was thus not spontaneous Sinhalese action, but resulted rather from passions being stirred by political agents.


The Sinhalese populace was shamelessly charged with communal passions from 1956 by both the SLFP and the UNP. Dudley Senanayake took an openly communal line against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact signed in July 1957. With the signing of the Pact, Chelvanayakam called off a satyagraha (a non-violent) campaign he was threatening to wage - the Federal Party then had a mass base. In response to this intended non-violent campaign, government politicians had called upon the settlers in Padaviya to prepare for a Tamil invasion from Trincomalee - in other words to form a strike force. But after the signing of the Pact things calmed down, and the Minister of Lands (C.P. de Silva) ordered 400 downstream allotments in the Trincomalee District to be given to Tamil families who were losing their jobs at the Trincomalee Dockyard owing to the pullout of the British Navy. However, the vigilance committees of these already emotionally charged Padaviya settlers forcibly occupied these allotments. During the 1958 violence, these vigilance committees led by ex-servicemen attempted to attack Tamil refugees in Anuradhapura. They were thwarted by firm Police and Army action in which 11 of them were killed. (See Vittachi.)


The violence in Gal Oya during 1956 claimed the lives of more than 150 Tamils (Vittachi) - a number comparable with the all-island casualties in the 1958 violence and the official casualties in Colombo during the 1983 violence. Its publicity impact was subdued by the isolation of the area. Kantalai erupted during the 1977 violence claiming the lives of 30 Tamils. What was once advanced as the Island's granary was yielding a bitter harvest of blood and bitterness. It had reduced the Tamils to living under an ever-present threat of violence and in total distrust of the State - even when they sometimes found it useful to vote UNP or SLFP for reasons of survival amidst uncertainty. These perceptions were to some extent shared by the Muslims of the Eastern Province.


From about this time there has been an unwritten state-agenda shared by all governments - to subdue the assertion of a Tamil identity with a regional character by advancing Sinhalese settlement in the North-East. Over the years, it has become part of the instinctive working of the state machinery, from which the Tamils have been progressively excluded from any real influence. One manifestation of the agenda is that in both the Amparai and Trincomalee Districts where the majority of the population have been Tamil speaking (i.e. Tamils or Muslims), the Government Agents have all been Sinhalese from the mid-60s.


To the Tamils, and the Muslims to a significant extent, the idea of home, homeland and borders came to be intertwined with security, identity and antipathy towards the State. These factors contributed towards the rise of the militant movement in which the Muslims of the East too played a significant role. It is one of the greatest and tragic failures of Tamil nationalism that the alienation of Muslims was part of the logical extension of its internal violence and intolerance.



5.2 The Politics and Economics of Frontierland


By the 1970s, and certainly more so by the 80s, serious doubts had begun to be expressed the world over about the viability of agricultural schemes involving the transplantation of huge populations under centralised direction, giant reservoirs, deforestation and the accompanying unplanned migration. Their political and social consequences, whether planned or unplanned, deliberate or accidental, have tended towards causing conflict. The late Mahee Wickremaratne was a civil servant who worked on the Gal Oya scheme and later, on the Mahaveli scheme. In a private conversation, he commented on the fate of some of the Tamil and Muslim villages that were already there in the area of the Gal Oya scheme - called earlier the Pattipalai Aru scheme. He observed that in order to attract settlers, the villages constructed under the scheme were recipients of modern infrastructure and other facilities, while the older villages (including Sinhalese ones) already there were neglected. It is known that they suffered also in terms of representation and the language in which they were served changed from Tamil to Sinhalese.


Further, there were unforeseen environmental changes resulting from drastic topographical transformation. Padaviya reservoir often runs short of water due to adverse changes in rainfall. The Muslim and Tamil farmers in the Kantalai-Thampalakamam area were getting their water from the Kantalai reservoir long before the scheme was implemented in the 1950s. They are now mainly at the lower end of the scheme. They complain of not being given enough water when there is a lack of rain, and being flooded out by water released from the reservoir when there is an excess of rain.


What was perhaps most defective about these schemes was that they came from the vision of an authoritarian ruling class trying to recreate their idea of a feudal past. Instinctively, it led to distorting their own historical antecedents and adapting to an era of universal franchise a power structure in which they saw themselves as aristocratic benefactors. The legitimisation of this scheme of things was based on the historical reading of Sri Lanka in ancient times as a prosperous unitary state, ruled centrally by benevolent kings who built and maintained reservoirs and fostered Buddhism.


As a corollary, the ruling class developed an uneasiness and even antipathy, towards those who would not, or could not, fit into this scheme of things - particularly the Tamils. The very diverse and involved reasons why the ancient hydraulic system broke down are hardly understood. Yet, ruling class ideology as reflected in school history books provided a simple answer - Tamil invaders from India in the Middle Ages.


Although Sri Lanka at the time of independence had acquired considerable modernity - particularly in health and education - its political vision and direction was feudal. Its massive investment in colonisation schemes was made possible by the labour of Plantation Tamils who then brought in more than 70% of this country's foreign earnings. Their reward was to be disenfranchised and virtually made serfs.


Even as value for money, these colonisation schemes were dubious. They were carried out at the expense of building infrastructure for a modern nation and, for example, of furthering science education in the Sinhalese South. For the colonists themselves things soured after one generation when with an expanded family, the land had to be split up into smaller plots. In the mid-1990s market conditions did not favour profitability and a number of suicides by farmers were reported in the Polonnaruwa area.


Under Sri Lanka's centralised administrative system, colonisation activity conferred on a single minister enormous powers over resources and land alienation without local and long-term interests being taken into account. To suppose that the country's prosperity hinged on building huge reservoirs wherever possible and transplanting populations, simply because there were ruins of large reservoirs, which were in use between 300 AD and 1200 AD and abandoned thereafter, is to say the least, a dubious proposition.


The ambitious Mahaveli River Diversion Scheme which was originally to be of 30 years duration, provided opportunity to correct defects as they became apparent. This was compressed by Jayewardene's government of 1977 into 5 years at a cost of about USD 2 billion, and Gamini Dissanayake was placed in charge. Now it is done. A recent study by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment and the Mahaveli Development Authority found Victoria, Kotmale, Rantambe, Randenigala and Polgolla reservoirs choking with silt. Rantambe is the worst affected, having silted by 56% in 9 years, followed by Polgolla (47%). The rest, taken together lost more than 2 million cubic metres (1500-acre feet) of capacity. The main cause is said to be an unforeseen level of deforestation in the upper catchment areas. In consequence the hydro-power anticipated is reduced and maintenance (because of silt) becomes costly (Shanika Sriyananda in the Sunday Observer 5.12.1999). Managing the system now requires huge unplanned costs. It is a story resembling the recent political history of Sri Lanka.


Ariya Abeysinghe in his book The Accelerated Mahaveli Programme (Quest 105, Centre for Society & Religion, Colombo, 1990) deals with economic phenomena in colonised areas. A significant feature mentioned is that of hidden tenancy. This results when a farmer is unable to make ends meet or repay his loans and his land is in effect given on rent or ceded unofficially to a provider of capital. The owner thus often becomes a paid labourer in his own land. This was found to be by 1990, 30 to 40% in Mahaveli lands settled in the 70s, and 5 to 10% in recent settlements. The trend is clear.


This trend of a new entrepreneurial class emerging from the peasantry by accumulating land from their pauperised counterparts and consolidating larger holdings, is described by Abeysinghe as 'Intensification of land use and higher output'. From a point of view that lays emphasis almost wholly on the productivity of land, it is a favourable development. But on the other hand, as a means to social upliftment, it seems almost cynical to give someone land in the knowledge that in a few years he would likely be a pauper, having no control over the land that is nominally his.


The parents may accept pauperisation, but what of sons and daughters who experience only hopelessness and alienation? The colonies thus became principal recruiting grounds for the armed forces and also, for the JVP anti-state rebels. The JVP rebels targetted the local political establishment of the new elite and the land owning classes, who in turn provided the security forces with lists of suspected rebels and other political opponents. The swelling of the security forces with recruits from impoverished youth of the colonies, resulted from the need to fight a Tamil insurgency tied up very much with the violence and fears engendered by these very same colonisation schemes.


5.3 The New Bosses


Transplanted from settings where they had the help of family and friends, and thrown into a new environment as 'driftwood', the experience of the colonists was increasingly one of disillusionment and pauperisation. This made them more dependent on state patronage, and on politicians who held out to them the prospect of it. Their use as shock troops by politicians in the late 50s to break up meetings of the rival party and to harass delegates travelling to the Federal Party convention from the East have been mentioned by Vittachi.


To cabinet ministers dealing with land and resettlement, or with some other subject placing large resources at their command, furthering the party's reach through settling more Sinhalese in areas having a Tamil association became a means of enhancing their prestige and influence. The prestige came from being seen as the torch-bearers of the Sinhalese cause into hostile territory. Settlement meant in time new electorates and their proteges becoming new MPs, strengthening in turn their position in competition for power within the party.


This gives us an idea of the role Gamini Dissanayake was playing as a minister in the government of 1977 with the huge resources at his command. Trincomalee District, where the Tamil population had declined from 76.5% in 1824 to 60% in 1901 to 37% in 1981, became a target of concerted attempts to tilt the ethnic (i.e. electoral) balance in favour of the Sinhalese. The proportion of the latter had increased from about 5% in 1901 to 33% in 1981. Sinhalisation lay at the root of the administrative policy of appointing Sinhalese GAs for Trincomalee, which has been followed by all governments.


At local level, the thrust of demographic transformation was led by administrators, security officials and persons who had entered politics as proteges of powerful ministers and had established themselves in the area or in the neighbourhood.


Abeysinghe (see above) describes a particular class of persons who acquire political influence (p 108), having come to the schemes as landless casual workhands, often with small time contractors: "These elements slowly get established through accumulative capital. They get hold of the alienated land from the weaker, lazy and unsuccessful farmers/settlers who come within their orbit for funds or help... He accumulates capital, finances production, lends money for settler needs... provides tractors/bullocks on hire, purchases the produce in bulk and becomes a 'godfather' to the settlers. He then extends his purview into local politics... links himself to an established family...through marriage. He then commands political power through economic power and becomes a benevolent leader".


This is a class of persons to whom extending Sinhalese settlements into neighbouring Tamil speaking areas made, in theory at least, good economic sense, and also by this means extended their political influence. H.G.P.Nelson is a politician in this class described by Abeysinghe: "Nelson in Polonnaruwa came from Tangalle as a labourer... He first worked as a labourer, and later as a tea maker in his uncle's shop. He encroached a canal reservation and gradually made his way up. He entered local politics and ended up an MP".


He was appointed District Minister for Trincomalee in 1981. He narrowly escaped a JVP attempt on his life in October 1987 during the Southern insurgency of 1987-90. Later the Disappearance Commission for his region named him along with several leading politicians as being implicated in disappearances by witnesses who testified. As district minister of Trincomalee, the local Tamils did not regard Mr. Nelson as personally harmful. But he was symbolic of the power interests behind him. 

5.4 Research, Ideology and State Policy in Relation to Trincomalee


When a State intends accomplishing something highly questionable among minorities devoid of effective power, it has many options, and can for the most part make its means appear normal administrative decisions intended to serve a higher purpose. In Trincomalee, a majority Tamil speaking district, as pointed out, all the government agents (GAs) since the mid-60s have been Sinhalese.


To be fair, the work of many of the Sinhalese GAs was appreciated. One or two of them were ideologically motivated crusaders, but most were gentlemen. The GA is the linchpin for the implementation of government policy. Most often the difference between having a Sinhalese and a Tamil GA in Trincomalee is a subtle one, and applies largely on account of the ethnic polarisation that prevails in the country at large. A Sinhalese officer when posted to Trincomalee as GA, knows that he is part of an agenda and the Government can influence the conduct of an administrator through a range of rewards and punishments. A Tamil officer marked for a certain zeal in ensuring that his Tamil clients get the best possible deal, may find himself refused the routine extension of service upon reaching the age of 55. (See our Special Report No.8.) In carrying out the kind of agenda the State has in Trincomalee, there is a need for secrecy and to have a fait accompli on the ground before any meaningful protest can be mounted.


In late 1968, a new rationale was created for the Sinhalisation of Trincomalee. That year the Federal Party (the main party of the Tamils) which was in the coalition government of Dudley Senanayake, wanted the Koneswaram Temple precincts lying in the colonial Fort Frederick at Trincomalee, to be declared a sacred area.


Dr. C.E. Godakumbura, a retired archaeological commissioner, was fairly typical of retired public men turning crusader. He argued in articles in the Sun (17th Sept. & 9th Dec. 1968) that such a move would allow 'quislings' and 'fifth columnists' to entertain foreign agents in the temple precincts and facilitate an invasion of this country by India. True to the wisdom of his class, he pointed out that 'when Visakapatanam is developed as a naval base, Trincomalee will be easily accessible from there'. He saw agents of the invader coming in advance to the 'sacred city' as tourists and pilgrims to be entertained by 'collaborationists' etc. After some dithering, Prime Minister Senanayake stated that the Federal Party's request could not be granted for reasons of 'national security'.


Ironically, in April 1971, the danger to security arose not from India, but from within, from the JVP insurgency in the Sinhalese South, and at the invitation of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike's government, Indian troops came not to invade, but to guard key installations until the Government regained control. Politicians thus took the extremists seriously only when it suited them.


The Hindu sacred area episode above, brought to the Koneswaram Temple precincts in Fort Frederick, a brand new Buddhist temple, purported to be the replanting of the ancient Gokanna Vihare that had disappeared without a trace. It was the first time that a lost shrine was located with so much certainty without a trace of archaeological evidence to support it. The story is instructive because it marked a precedent for discovering ancient Buddhist sites in the Trincomalee District and planting Sinhalese colonies. This was one of the hobbies of ministers notably in the Jayewardene government.


The Koneswaram Temple of antiquity was destroyed by the Portugese during the 17th century, but the tradition of worship at the location continued (e.g. Emerson Tennant's Ceylon compiled in the 1840s). In 1955, Archaeological Commissioner Prof. S. Paranavitana published in Epigraphica Zeylanica V his reading of a donative inscription in Sanskrit from a fragment discovered in the temple precincts. Dating from about the end of the 12th century AD, the inscription recorded a visit by a Prince Codaganga Deva to Gokarna.


Observing that Gokanna is the Pali equivalent of the Sanskrit Gokarna, Paravitana was quick to identify Trincomalee on the north-eastern sea-coast, with Gokanna, a place referred to by the Pali chronicle Mahavamsa (37: 41). The text related to the building of a Buddhist Temple by King Mahasena in the 3rd Century AD. Mahasena, who had earlier converted to Hinduism, is said to have recanted his apostasy and built three Buddhist temples after destroying the Hindu temples at those locations. Two of these places have been identified in ancient Rohana, the present Hambantota District in the south-east of the island (see Wilhelm Geiger's Mahavamsa). The third, Gokanna, described as lying on the eastern sea-coast, is also consistent with Rohana.


After placing the lost Gokanna Vihara in Trincomalee, Paranavitana made other deductions. Pointing out that the etymological equivalent of Gokanna is 'Gona' (Bull) in Sinhalese, he deduced that 'Ko' (King, and the Bull as the vehicle of Siva) in the Tamil name Thirukonamalai (Trincomalee) is a transliteration of Gona in Sinhalese. Paranavitana suggested that the Buddhist shrine faded away even as the Hindu shrine [of Koneswaram] flourished after its supposed destruction in the 3rd century AD. Writing 13 years later in 1968 (Sun 9.12.1968), Godakumbura, Paranavitana's successor as archaeological commissioner, who was then retired, would not even allow that the Hindu shrine existed in antiquity. Indeed, however, the name Gokanna itself is indicative of a place-name deriving from a shrine of Siva. It was by then well known that remains of the shrine, apart from archaeological artefacts, had been discovered in the sea and identified (see M.D. Raghavan's Tamil Culture in Ceylon and Arthur C. Clarke's The Reefs of Taprobane).


From then onwards, any suggestion of a Tamil connection with Trincomalee dating back to antiquity, was greeted with intolerance by an articulate section of the Sinhalese academic establishment  (see K.N.O. Dharmadasa's Place-Names and Ethnic Interests in the Sri Lanka Journal of Humanities, December 1976, in response to a paper in the same journal by S. Gunasingam on an 11th century AD Tamil inscription from Nilaveli). All these strong conclusions about Trincomalee were based on highly tricky etymological arguments. Their authors would not allow Ko in Tamil a life independent of Gona in Sinhalese, even though Ko occurs widely in Tamil devotional literature (e.g. Gnanasambandar's hymns of the 7th century AD). Trincomalee was thus first Sinhalised by the academic establishment in Sri Lanka.


The inconclusive nature of etymological arguments is illustrated by another possible source of the Tamil name Thirukonamalai given by Hugh Nevill in the Taprobanian (p.176 in Vol II of 1887):  Thiru Kona Nathan of the Inky Throat - or The Lord of the Chief Angle (of the Three) - is another name for Lord Siva.


We may note here that the identification of the remains of the destroyed temple on the sea-bed as Pallava in architecture, matches well with other information we have. Gnanasambandar in a 7th century hymn to Siva speaks of Konamalai (Hill of Siva) by the roaring ocean. Mahayana Buddhist inscriptions a few miles north of Trincomalee in Kuchchaveli (Epigraphica Zeylanica III) and Thiriyai (EZ IV) date back to the same period. Both are in Sanskrit (as distinct from Pali, the sacred language of the Theravada sect). These inscriptions are in the Grantha script, and are of South Indian inspiration. The one in Thiriyai, written in the Pallava Grantha script, speaks of sea-faring merchants and of the shrine's foundation by guilds of merchants. This was also the period when the rival faiths of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism were vying with each other in the South-Indian region. We thus learn a good deal about the contemporary fame of all these shrines and of how Gnanasambandar came to know so much about Koneswaram. These shrines were closely connected with maritime trade.


There was an even trickier point in the arguments of Paranavitana and the others mentioned. Names are subject to replication and Gokarna is a generic name denoting 'Shrine of Siva', that has in several instances come to denote the place names of such shrines (see Nando Lal Dey's The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India, 1927). It is not unlikely that there were several of these Gokarnas in Sri Lanka.


Quite independently, Henry Parker in the 19th century, in his Ancient Ceylon (p235 ff), using local tradition and information available from the Pali Chronicles, had located the Gokanna referred to in them, in Magama (in ancient Rohana) in the Hambantota District. His arguments had completely been ignored. From an event in Gokanna described in Culavamsa 57: 5, where Muruga (Kumara) is featured, Paravitana deduced that Trincomalee (or Gokanna according to him) was a centre of the cult of Skanda-Muruga. There is no such tradition in Trincomalee. But, if one were looking for a Gokanna near a renowned cult centre of Skanda-Muruga (i.e. Kataragama), one would have immediately hit upon Magama. Culavamsa 45: 58-59, a passage not referred to by the writers named above, places the villages of Gonnagama and Gonnavitti in the vicinity of Magama.


All these references in the Pali Chronicles pertain to the period 3rd to 8th century AD. Subsequently, Rohana went into decline. The next reference to Gokanna by the Culavamsa in the 12th century AD refers no doubt to Trincomalee, but has nothing to say about a Buddhist temple.


The new re-discovered Gokanna Vihare, a model of the State's piety and munificence, faces prominently the sea-front in Trincomalee town. Guarded by the Sri Lankan Army, the Vihare is a paradigm of how academic scholarship, ideology and state policy combine to the detriment of the country's unity.


The momentum had thus been set in Trincomalee and during 1975, the Army moved to acquire Plantain Point in addition to its base at Fort Frederick. A land officer named Jayasuriya who was in the Volunteer Force of the Army, went into Plantain Point and unceremoniously evicted the Tamil squatters. The Government Agent Tissa Devendra, who was reportedly unhappy with the move, is said to have left the station in order to dissociate himself from it, as well as to avoid confronting the Army. (Our Special Report No.8.)



In the latter 1970s and early 80s the new government of J.R. Jayewardene embarked on massive development programmes in Trincomalee hardly any of which was meant to benefit the local Tamils and Muslims, many of whom by 1983 had lost both their property and security. Several ministries and ministers were involved, and they launched on a spree of land acquisition. 5000 acres along a long stretch of the Colombo Road leading from town were brought under the Ports Authority of which not even 100 acres have been used. Land totalling several thousands of acres, was acquired by the Tourist Board, Petroleum Corporation and several other state bodies. The linchpin of these efforts was Government Agent Jayatissa Bandaragoda. Two examples would suffice to show how these moves were meant to bring about a planned influx of Sinhalese


When applicants were called for employment at the Singapore owned and newly installed Prima Flour Mills, it was stipulated that they should be cleared for security by the GA even though Tamil militants were then (about 1980) not active in Trincomalee. It was thus ensured that 80% of those selected were Sinhalese. Of the 5000 acres taken over by the Ports Authority, 700 were ceded by President Premadasa in 1993 to government abetted encroachment by Sinhalese. (See our Report No.11 of 1993.) Whatever the Government's pretensions to be working towards a higher national purpose, they were by this time looking extremely dubious. (A defensive, but frank statement of the Colombo establishment's intentions is given in pp. 307-308 of Sinha Ratnatunga's book.)


5.5 Living at the End of One's Nerves


To the local Tamils and Muslims everything was stacked against them, with a number of ministries and state agencies working towards their discomfiture. Out of several moves, by the State they may protest and stop some of them. But the ones that succeed would have done a lot of damage. To those trying to protect the interests of the local community or seeing the long-term prospects, it was to live at the end of one's nerves.


The colonisation scheme for Sinhalese at Periyavilankulam - renamed by its Sinhalese translation Mahadivulwewa - was started with European Community funds in the early 80s. Mr. R. Sampanthan, MP for Trincomalee, immediately took alarm and went up to Minister Gamini Dissanayake, whom he had known as a junior lawyer, and complained about it. With characteristic courtesy, in the presence of Sampanthan the Minister made out a written order cancelling the settlement. Bandaragoda was then GA Trinco. It was soon learnt that Nanda Abeyawickreme, Secretary Lands, had sent phone messages to the Trincomalee Kacheri, asking for the settlement to be speeded up. This was done so that the formal order to stop would be anticipated by a fait accompli. There was little the Tamils could do about a government that functioned in this manner. It again illustrates the role of the GA in Trincomalee.


There were a number of government figures scouting around Trincomalee for places to plant Sinhalese colonies. Among them, was Cyril Mathew, Minister for Industries and Scientific Affairs. There are ancient Buddhist ruins in the district of very disparate origins, representing the country's variegated past. The ruins of Vilgam Temple had a number of Tamil inscriptions, and those at Kuchchaveli and Thiriyai were of Mahayana origin. The ideological position articulated by the State was that these ruins were proof of the region's Theravada-Sinhalese Buddhist past, so putting forward a justification for Sinhalese colonisation. It was based allegedly on Buddhist piety - the renovation of temples.


Thiriyai was a village north of Trincomalee with a long history, and was peopled by Tamils. Neelapanikkan Kulam, a tank near the village, was renovated about the 1940s, and the villagers had since been cultivating the fields nearby. There is an old Buddhist shrine close to Thiriyai and another nearby in Mylaweva on the Thiriyai-Gomarankadawela Road, which has Tamil inscriptions. But the cultivation of the fields referred to, had not been regularised by the issue of permits. This was really default on the part of administration, which was deliberate. The farmers were themselves quite ignorant of such matters.


The Government's moles in the Trinco Kacheri discovered this and sought to deprive the farmers of the land. About 1980 when the MP, Mr. Sampanthan, was at a TULF party conference in Vavuniya, a man from Thiriyai came there with some alarming news. In official secrecy unknown to the villagers or their representatives, 2000 acres of land in Thiriyai had been earmarked for the Cadju Corporation. And one day out of the blue, Corporation officials with tractors, labourers and cashew plants descended on the villagers to convert their rice fields into a cashew plantation. In the normal pattern of things, this was to prelude Sinhalese settlement.


Sampanthan rushed to Colombo, and went with the TULF President, Mr. M. Sivasithamparam, to meet Mr. M.D.H. Jayewardene, Minister for Plantation Industries. They pointed out to him that apart from the injustice involved, it would be the height of absurdity to use irrigated paddy land for cashew. Cashew is normally planted on dry and poorer soil closer to the sea. The Minister was taken aback. They asked him who was responsible? The Minister answered that the order had come from the very top and that he was helpless in the matter. However the Minister suggested that he would ask Mr. Ekanayake, the Chairman of the Corporation, to go on a visit to Trincomalee. Then Sampanthan could go with him to Thiriyai and take it up from there.


On the day in question Sampanthan was to meet Ekanayake at 9.00 AM, in the office of Bandaragoda, GA Trincomalee. He had asked the farmers, to be in their fields. As Sampanthan walked into the GA's office, he heard the tail end of Bandaragoda's conversation. He was advising Ekanayake to consider, if needed, possibilities other than cashew such as paper grass. He was evidently very averse to letting go his discovery of land without permits serving Tamils.


Upon the two going to the Thiriyai fields, they found a section of the land planted with cashew. Sampanthan in a fit of anger plunged into the fields, pulled out about four cashew plants and threw them away. He then shouted to Ekanayake, 'Are you mad?' The bunds and channels made it clear that this had been a rice growing area for some time. Sampanthan then went to Colombo and told President Jayewardene, "Quite apart from the question of Tamils and Sinhalese, would you like to go down in history as the first head of state who planted cashew in paddy land irrigated by a large village tank?" Jayewardene agreed to cancel the cashew project. But this was just one attempt stalled.


Minister Cyril Mathew, for one, had a secretary for Trincomalee named Piyasena Jayeweera, roaming around Trinco in a Ministry for Scientific Affairs vehicle, figuring out ancient Buddhist sites and places to plant Sinhalese. Jayaweera was the man who owned up to assaulting Professor Saratchandra on 22nd July 1982 when he was about to deliver a lecture on the 'Decline of Sri Lankan Culture' in the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress auditorium. The thugs had assaulted several people on the rostrum including Buddhist monks. The 'Aththa', the following day, published details of government vehicles used by the thugs. Jayaweera claimed that he did this to stop Professor Saratchandra attacking the 'government's policy'. Saratchandra was emeritus professor of Sinhalese and former ambassador to France. 


Functioning in this framework, the State became extremely paranoid over Gandhiyam's relatively small-scale attempts at settling Tamil victims of the 1977 violence from the South, mainly on land abandoned by better-off Tamils owing to insecurity. One such place was Pankulam on the Vavuniya Road. The fact that these Tamils were victims of communal violence evoked no sympathy. Bandaragoda could not evidently contain himself. He once remarked to a senior Tamil citizen, "When I go to Pankulam, I SEE ALL THOSE PEOPLE". The senior citizen responded, "What people? Aren't they human beings?" The State's attitude was that any Sinhalese was welcome to settle anywhere in Trincomalee and have the encroachment regularised, but these Tamil victims had no right to be there at all.


On 28th November 1982, President Jayewardene visited Trincomalee for the opening of the Mitsui cement plant. Apparently timed for his visit were articles in the Weekend and the Sunday Island, dealing with the activities of the Gandhiyam. Finding a sinister drift in the articles, Sampanthan telephoned Navy House and went to see Jayewardene. He explained to Jayewardene the plight of those being supported by the Gandhiyam, and invited him to go with him and see for himself the laudable achievements of Gandhiyam in giving these poverty stricken, emaciated people a new self-respect. Jayewardene replied that if Sampanthan said so it was acceptable to him and there was no need for him to see for himself. (See Sect. 8.2 for the substance of these reports.) 


On 14th March 1983 came the first signs that the State was getting ready to use force on those receiving Gandhiyam help, when some government officials claiming to act on orders from the AGA, went into Pankulam and set fire to 16 huts occupied by former refugees. Thereafter the Tamils of this area lived in constant terror until they were forced to flee willy nilly as refugees in 1985. The same happened to Sinhalese in the area too, as both sides increasingly took to attacking civilians (see Chapter 20). 


Sampanthan recalls that in March and April 1983 when there was still no active Tamil militancy in the area, the Tamils of the area frequently fled to the jungle in terror. Then he had to go there with others and call them out.


5.6 June 1983: Anarchy Loosed 


The killing of two Air Force men in Vavuniya by PLOTE militants, was followed by the security forces going on the rampage and widespread arson. Many felt that these reprisals would be continued in Trincomalee where elements already charged with patriotic fervor were waiting to let go. The PSO was promulgated and the security forces were given the 'freedom of the battlefield' to combat terrorism even in places where there was little evidence of it. What then happened in Trincomalee during June, was either not reported in the media or reported in a distorted manner despite the fact that the Tamils were living through hell.


There were a few stray items in the press suggesting that something disturbingly unusual was going on: Tamil youth killed in Mullipuram, Kantalai... Two huts burnt in Andankulam... A man shot in the leg in Kanniya... Bus proceeding to Jaffna shot at and set on fire, driver killed, several passengers hospitalised, and some ran into the jungle and are missing... Small child hacked to death.... In Moraweva (where the Sinhalese population was boosted by recent colonisation) four were shot and cut to death, of whom two were children 1 year and 4 years....  


Most of these items were reports of what TULF MPs had said in Parliament and were frequently late, as getting information was difficult. The Press reported that there was a curfew in Trincomalee and that several persons were detained over the violence, but was extremely vague about what was really going on.


The first indication that what was going on in Trincomalee was planned and had official backing, strangely enough, came not from the media, but from a speech made in Parliament by Gamini Lokuge, UNP MP for Kesbewa, who had in May won a violent bye-election. He is one of those close to Mathew & Co. who had made Trincomalee their hobby-horse. He had recently taken over from a foreigner, Welcombe Hotel in Trincomalee. Renamed Seven Islands Hotel, it acquired a reputation as a meeting place of conspirators.


Lokuge said in Parliament on 27th June: "The Sinhalese people had banded themselves together in Trincomalee because they have been harassed by the Tamils there in the past. Are you [Tamils] trying to chase the Sinhalese people away as you did in 1956?"


Even at this late stage, the Press continued to mislead. The Island of 29th June carried an item : "Army, Police open fire to stop mini-war in the Trinco bazaar area between Tamil and Sinhalese traders.... Two Hindu temples set on fire." The Sun editorial of 2nd July asked whether it was the Armed Forces and Police being at loggerheads or commercial rivalry, that was responsible for the violence in Trincomalee?


Even months after the event it seemed hard to write the truth plainly. T.D.S.A. Dissanayake in his Agony of Sri Lanka put it somewhat humorously (p. 59): "In the Trincomalee district the Sinhala population was of the opinion that the Tamils would evict them forcibly to create the state of Tamil Eelam. Hence they took a pre-emptive strike and the Tamils retaliated. The Sinhala people had the tacit support of some sections of the Armed Forces, the Tamils had the open support of the TULF." (Our emphasis!)


The general pattern was for the security forces to go and 'search' a particular Tamil area, take in a few young men on 'suspicion' and ensure that the place was defenceless. When they left, the organised hoodlums moved in. Later in July when things were more open, naval personnel were seen with cotton swabs and cans of oil, which they used for acts of arson in Tamil owned premises.


However a commendable, and even prophetic, article appeared in the Weekend of 10th July 1983. The writer, the late Ranil Weerasinghe, demonstrated that he could write very objectively when he saw for himself, rather than rely on doubtful sources. Given below are excerpts from his article, "Who fiddled while Trinco was burning?":


"18 deaths have been recorded over a one month period and every single one of them Tamil...Indeed one wonders whether the Government strategists and so-called military analysts are anything but blinkered bureaucrats stumbling from one major mistake to another. Otherwise, one cannot reconcile how the State, which by now must surely realise that the ethnic problem is the biggest stumbling block to development, can allow the situation to deteriorate and its cancerous tentacles to gain a hold on more and more parts of the country.


"The local government elections should have made it clear that the Tigers had no influence there.


"The end result is that the Tigers or any other militant group can become more and more acceptable to the Tamils in the East, not as subversives, but as freedom fighters willing to help defend them, not only against their aggressors, but also against their 'military oppressors' who allegedly turn a blind eye to the activities of their assailants....


"The Government must rethink all the outdated strategies of the past and immediately evolve fresh moves to solve this burning issue which slowly but relentlessly moves towards a major holocaust, (our emphasis)...


"The Tigers have begun by making mistakes....burning trains...attacking police stations...AGAs offices etc. The people sometime must in the face of such inconveniences turn against the terrorists unless the latter can, as it is happening at the moment, convince the public that these are repressive moves by the Government and not a direct responsibility of terrorist action."


It was perhaps the last time for many long years when a Sinhalese would, or could, write in such a frank manner. As we would see later, journalism after the July '83 holocaust, which Weerasinghe had prescience of in Trincomalee, became an even more untruthful, suffocating and conformist affair.


Weerasinghe's article also quoted S.H.P. de Silva, a long time Sinhalese resident of Trincomalee : "The trouble had been allowed to develop because of weak administration and the slowness of the Government to react. It is absurd only to call upon the people to uphold peace. When the leaders at the top work for peace, the people will co-operate. It is high time the Government takes a decision on whether the appeals by the Tamil community are just and a response should be made either way without keeping the country in limbo like this."


It was a sober demand from a Sinhalese who had to live in close proximity to Tamils. The cause of such people was to be grossly distorted in the coming years. Particularly so by crusaders from Colombo who while supposedly taking up the cause of Sinhalese in 'border areas' were only ensuring that their plight became impossible.


As for the Government, there were no signs of remorse. The meeting a government ministerial team headed by Gamini Diassanayake had with GAs of the North and East on the eve of the July 1983 violence had some very disturbing overtones. Gamini Dissanayake told the GAs, "There were people with no right of settlement being trans-rooted from plantations to new areas. Sri Lanka is too small to have one land policy for one district and another for some other districts with the entire gamut of food and other commodity transportation and construction activity, which had a political connotation with a threat to the unity of the State... The Government would soon be enacting new legislation to give the GAs new powers with the support of the Police, judicial, ministerial and other government bodies to prevent exploitation of land resources..."


Deputy Minister Percy Samaraweera said, "Hundreds of estate workers of Indian origin... who were supposed to have been repatriated under the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement have been found to have been resettled in the Trincomalee District. No GA can under any political pressure from separatist organiastions deviate from this land policy..."



The thrust of the meeting reported in the Sun of 20th July 1983 was clear. Also associated in the meeting was Minister K.W. Devanayagam who in 1975 had helped starving Tamils evicted from the estates to settle in the Batticaloa District. The intention of Dissanayake's contemplated legislation (see below & Sect. 20.4) was no doubt to act tough with Tamils from the Hill Country and to make it easier to settle Sinhalese. There were indeed extra-legal connotations.


The activity described by the ministers is the alarmist version of the work of Gandhiyam. All the work of the Gandhiyam had been stopped by the arrest and detention of its leaders, Rajasundaram and David, in early April. Rajasundaram had been tortured and was killed in Welikade Prison in a most horrible manner exactly a week from the publication of this report. It showed that the Government's fear of the Gandhiyam had assumed psychic proportions. The refugees from the Hill Country around Trincomalee had already been terrorised from April. The next act in their drama was even more inhuman.


Following the violence that began in Trincomalee in early June 1983, a large number of Tamils of both local and Indian origin were living in refugee camps. The following account of the singular event which took place on 23rd July 1983, is taken from our Report No. 11:


The refugees of Indian origin displaced from places including Pankulam, Alles Garden and Kappalthurai (near 6th milepost, Kandy Road) were in refugee camps at Nilaveli, Sambaltivu, Pankulam and Trinco town among others.


An order went down the line through Captain Marshall of the Navy, Co-ordinating Officer/Trincomalee, to the AGAs, to compile separate lists of Tamil refugees of Indian and local origin. Senior Tamil officers, such as the Additional GA, were kept in the dark. Later, one night, hand-picked Sinhalese staff officers from the Trincomalee Kacheri were asked to go with  the lists in the company of the security forces to the refugee camps above. They were asked to get hold of the AGA concerned or the Grama Sevaka (Headman) of the division if the AGA could not be located.


The names of Indian Tamils were read out, after the night callers had aroused the refugees from their sleep. Terrified families meekly came forward and got into commandeered CTB buses as they were ordered. Even if some of the family were not present, the rest were ordered to get in, their pleas being of no avail.


The GA/Trincomalee, a Sinhalese, was then out of town. About mid-night the Tamil Additional GA was aroused from his sleep by a telephone call from Captain Marshall. The Additional GA was told of the plan then under execution. The call, he was given to understand, was to keep him informed for courtesy's sake.


Several busloads of Indian Tamils were driven under armed escort to various parts of the Hill Country and dumped in places with which they had no connection. Many families who had already suffered from the violence of 1977 and `83 agonised for weeks not knowing what became of their kin from whom they were forcibly parted. Most deportees collected whatever relief payment was available and eventually found their way back to Trincomalee.


Captain Marshall, a Burgher, himself acted under orders from the government in Colombo and was deeply unhappy. He was powerless when naval ratings under his command ran amok in Trincomalee town during July 1983.


The deportations above followed directly from Gamini Dissanayake's meeting with the GAs a few days earlier. It was also proposed to vest the GAs and AGAs with draconian powers to destroy buildings and use provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to deal with persons of Plantation Tamil origin settled in the North-East and organisations which helped them (see Sect. 20.4 end). Note that a precedent had already been set by the burning of the houses of these people in Pankulam on the AGA's orders. This was a case of bad laws precipitated by bad practice.


The laws proposed had some very curious features. The GAs were to be empowered to use the Police, Army or Navy in doing the dirty work. What was the Navy doing here? It naturally fell into place because of the valuable combat experience it had acquired for this work in Trincomalee during June & July 1983. Here we have the origins of JOSSOP. Because the latter had its head quarters in Vavuniya where the Air Force had a facility, it too was drafted into the job of chasing and corralling Plantation Tamils. Note also the crucial role here for the Sinhalese GA in Trincomalee.


These developments preluded a concerted policy of demographic transformation, whose beginning, although hidden by the violence of July 1983, was part of the same programme and was no less insidious. This will be taken up in Chapters 14 & 20.