SPECIAL REPORT 5
4 The attack of 25th July 1993 and its sequel
1. Mahaweli Development Project special area
2. Mahaweli System L
3. From Padaviya To Padavi-Sripura To Janakapura
Our Report No 12, which was also meant to mark the tenth anniversary of the July 1983 violence, was nearing completion when the events at Manal Aaru(now renamed Weli Oya) and the reprisals in Jaffna occurred. We started work on the contents of this document to go with the report above. It then occurred to us that issuing this as a separate report would help the reader to concentrate on particular strands that stand by themselves. Report No 12 will be issued shortly.
The interlinked strands brought together here are:
* The legitimisation of a pernicious and destructive Tamil response by deceitful and destructive colonisation policies of the state.
* The close inter-connection of the state's military and civilian machinery, together with loss of accountability and the pursuit of private profit, that has institutionalised the war and made peace all-the-more elusive.
* The ideological misuse of powers under the Mahaveli Authority Act and UDA, and the incompatibility of these with earning the confidence of the minorities.
* The nature of the state as reflected in the use of Sinhalese civilians as shields for the military in a planned, systematic manner.
* An instinct of the state, still much in evidence, of punishing Tamil civilians with bombing and murder, when its incompatible and unjustifiable strategies boomerang.
* A feeling of powerlessness and frustration brought upon the Sinhalese by the state's policies and the resulting drift towards separation.
* The crucial importance of addressing the land question.
* The political bankruptcy of the Southern polity, and the ensuing political and militrary paralysis.
The following Table outlines the chronological sequence of events as concerns the Manal Aaru(Weli Oya) area, as well as its direct human cost elsewhere. The burden of this report is its conclusion that Weli Oya represents a most destructive and pointless attempt to tamper with age-old population patterns through colonisation that has neither the interests of the colonists nor the meaningful solution of the national question as its objective.
Date / Period
Incident / Action
Explanation / Comment
Illegal settlement of Sinhala villagers in Mahaweli System B (Maduru Oya) with connivance of officials.
The plan failed due to Indian pressure etc., but subsequent "cleansing" of Mahaweli areas of Tamils almost total.
Mahaweli System L made operational.
Eviction of Tamils from Manal Aaruarea. Settling Sinhala "villagers" including criminal elements.
New settlers promised land but not given any other than those taken over from Tamils. No prospect of water.
mid - '84
Tamil villagers chased out, harassed near Kent and Dollar Farms.
Kent, Dollar Farm massacres by LTTE. 100s killed.
The perceived political and military importance of the area has determined this strategy.
First attack on "civilian" targets by Tamil separatists.
Weli Oya settlement target of 3364 [Sinhala] families achieved.
Little irrigable land available. Actual residents much less than official figure (around 500).
1992 & 1993
Expenditure under the Mahaweli Program for Weli Oya is Rs 72 and 150 million respectively.
No outward indication of what these monies have been spent on: no notable changes in infra-structure or irrigation system. Farming minimal if at all. The only plausible explanation is that Mahaweli funds are being used for military purposes.
July 25, 1993
Attack on Janakapura Camp and village. 9 civilians killed, 50 million worth of equipment taken by LTTE.
Settlers used as buffer or shield by Army.
This tactic appears to be practiced elsewhere in the East as well.
This means that settlers are pawns in the military game, and that it is inevitable that they will suffer.
July 27, 1993
Extensive bombing of the North by Air Force and extensive shelling by army.
Retaliations of this kind show that the military has learnt nothing in ten years.
July 29, 1993
2 boatloads of civilians attacked by Navy in Jaffna Lagoon, killing over 8 and wounding many.
The brutality displayed according to eye-witness accounts is horrendous. Why does the navy have a long record of carrying swords & Knives?
This report shows clearly that the Weli Oya development project which comes under the Mahaweli scheme as System L, is not a settlement scheme for legitimate farmers, but rather a ploy by which the military is using civilians as both bait and human shields against the LTTE.
The following Table uses the comparisons made in this report to establish that Weli Oya is not a conventional agricultural settlement scheme, but, rather, one which exemplifies the institutionalisation of structures of violence in the name of war. This trend of settling civilians and even criminal elements so that they are both human bait and human shields is spreading to other areas in the East, and Weli Oya remains both the first such instance as well as the test case.
A COMPARISON OF WELI OYA WITH UDA WALAWE
UDA WALAWE SCHEME
WELI OYA SCHEME
(Mahaweli System L)
Number of families enrolled
(still being settled)
[Other Mahaweli areas such as System B,since it is a newly settled area, is more relavant:
[The actual presence of families is said to be around 500]
is "complete" here, though infrastructure and irrigation hardly begun.
[However, this figure is contested since no perennial river source is available.]
b) Engineering Assistants
Rs. 273 million
Rs. 200 million
Rs. 56 million
Rs. 72 million
Rs. 150 million
[There is virtually nothing to show for this investment.]
Administered, de facto, by the military authorities.
"Farmers" not involved in agriculture, and are recipients of NGO aid + government subsidies. They are paid for carrying guns.
Unlike in other schemes, here the existing [Tamil] farmers were displaced in order to accommodate the new [Sinhala] colonists.
The open economy policy of the government which has been in power since 1977,superimposed on a legacy of minority oppression, placed the country on a new course of rising impoverishment, labour unrest and mounting corruption in public life.This greatly exacerbated a latent tendency to insurrection in both the North-East and in the South. The spirit in which minority questions were handled since Ceylon became independent in 1948, had by July 1983 given considerable popular legitimacy to the incipient militancy in the North-East. The character of the presiding government did not allow for a resolution of the minority question through statesmanship and accommodation.
The shameful violence of July 1983 was a direct consequence of trying to resolve these grievances through brute force. The impetus this gave the Tamil militancy, dominated by a nationalism blind to basic morality and human values, gained such destructive strength not merely to threaten the integrity of the nation, but also to have grave repercussions beyond these shores. It dominated the affairs of this country, so as even to largely determine the form of the insurrection in the South.
Weli Oya which gained the headlines during the tenth anniversary of July 1983, tells us much about whether the government has, or is capable of learning anything from ten years of tragedy.
Certain key questions will be addressed in this special report, and tentative answers suggested. It will be seen that Weli Oya resonates beyond narrow military considerations and petty corruption, encompassing the broader issues such as systematic discrimination and state aided ideologically motivated colonisation upon which the entire national question is founded. Some of the unresolved and most troubling concrete issues raised by this study are:
Why were nearly all of the original Tamil inhabitants of the area, many of whom were victims of the 1977 communal violence trying to rebuild their lives, driven away in order to institute a development project?
Why does official Mahaveli Authority literature claim that there are more than 3000 families in System L of the Mahaveli Project (Weli Oya) whereas the number is barely around 500?
Why does the government dump massive funds in an irrigation scheme (an estimated Rs 150 million from the Mahaveli Authority alone during 1993) where there is little water in prospect?
While tens of thousands of Tamil and Muslim refugees whose houses were destroyed by the forces have languished for over two years in the nearby Trincomalee District, without sighting a minister or even receiving the Rs 500/= for temporary cadjan shelter, two powerful ministers rushed to Weli Oya following the military debacle of 25th July to oversee arrangements to resettle the displaced Sinhalese.
Is the government really being benevolent towards these hapless Sinhalese, or are these people pawns in a deadly game?
Given the government's much vaunted policy of ethnic quotas in appointments, how is it that the highest Tamil speaking functionary in the Mahaveli Authority is a superintendent of stores in the Mahaveli Engineering and Construction Agency, while in its parent body, the Irrigation Department, also under the same ministry, Tamils are still prominent from the highest levels, including the director and deputy director levels?
What is the role of the Mahaveli Authority which has been generously supported by overseas aid and had spent Rs 55 billion in twelve years up to 1990?
Before coming to these questions, we will look at a particular aspect of colonisation in the North-East touched upon in Report No 11.
1. Helping the poor or enforced recruitment into the army's C-team?
A casual traveller along the Maha Oya - Amparai Road would see a large number of new huts coming up between the air-force camps at Arantalawa and Pulukunavai, a stretch along the border of Amparai and Batticaloa districts, just within the latter. The village of Pulukunavai is five miles south-west of Kokkadicholai. The on-going settlement is a further three miles in the same direction. The area has been the scene of regular ambushes against the forces, attacks on Sinhalese civilians, and in 1986, of a massacre of over 30 Buddhist monks. Although the roadsides had been cleared of jungle and there are armed forces' camps every mile or so, there is no doubt, particularly after Weli Oya, that the LTTE, if they so wish, could strike anytime.
The land itself is dry without any prospect of irrigation, nor could the civilians being settled there go far in from the main-road. Some could be seen ploughing small patches of land with bulls in preparation for the rains. Army bowsers could also be seen distributing water. Civilians passing along the main road cannot understand why this is being done, and regularly remark that these people are going to be massacred.
The airforce squadron leader in charge has a different story. They, it seems, became tired watching empty spaces and wanted to see some development. They appealed to the government. The government being hard of hearing, the airforce moved on its own. It selected civilians, mostly Sinhalese with a few mixed families, and proceeded to settle them, using defence ministry funds.
Other civilians in neighbouring areas said that there were once Tamil villagers in the area being settled, who had long fled. Those now being settled were the overspill of population from nearby settlement schemes which followed upon the Gal Oya project. Poverty is now a serious problem in colonisation schemes. Keeping an open mind on what the squadron leader maintains, we go to other similar projects mentioned in the last report.
Three such projects are prominent in the Trincomalee District - along the Habarana-Kantalai Road, Kantalai-Allai Road and Jayapura and Sinhapura in Thampalakamam, on the Kantalai-Trinco Road. Activist sources in Kantalai confirmed that civilians being settled are all Sinhalese drawn from the overspill of settlement schemes in the area. The first, near Aluth-Oya is peopled by folk from around Habarana, the second by folk from Kantalai and Somapura (Kallar) in the Allai scheme, and the last by folk from Kantalai.
They also confirmed that the settlement was entirely army-initiated and mostly illegal. In the last case the project was helped by the army's influence over the government and a section of the NGO machinery. These sources also said that the civilians went because of extreme poverty, relying on promises of present security and future munificence. Further, they said, the agricultural income of these settlers was almost nil. The main income in the first two cases, was the little derived from collecting firewood, stacking it up along the road and selling it to passing lorries. These sources could not say whether the settlers were receiving government rations, but stated that a large number of them were recipients of Janasaviya grants meant for beginning productive self-employment. These settlements seem to be less the result of government policy, than from its lack of one.
There are also indications that the army's enthusiasm for Sinhalese settlements is not shared by the Sinhalese MP for Kantalai. This MP has a reputation for being strongly partisan. The water available in Kantalai tank is limited. Further encroachment and demand for water would mean that the supply to existing Sinhalese settlers, the MP's voters, would become threatened at some point.
That these new settlements are easily accessible to the LTTE is also not in question. During the first half of this year army patrols have been ambushed near the Mahaveli bridge on the Allai-Kantalai Road as well as in Weli Oya, where the opportunity to attack neighbouring civilians was deliberately given a miss. It was earlier acknowledged in the official media (8.7 of Report No 11) that the LTTE had changed its attitude towards Sinhalese and Muslim civilians for the better. The LTTE was no doubt responding to international opinion at that time.
The government owed it to the people of this country to return the gesture by showing statesmanship and rescinding provocative moves - where extreme poverty among Sinhalese was being used to create settlements which the Tamils saw as a threat to themselves. Such statesmanship, alas, was not forthcoming. What recently happened at Weli Oya lifted the veil off any remaining pretence of development or poverty alleviation. If the police were complaining about having become the army's B-team, the civilians in these settlements seem to be the official C-team.[Top]
We made some notes about Weli Oya in 2.4 of Report No 11. As a peasant colonisation scheme it was meant to be viable only after Mahaveli water was brought to the area through the envisaged North Central Province canal to irrigate about 86 000 acres. But the North Central Province (NCP) canal was abandoned for both technical reasons as well as the insufficiency of water available from the Polgolla diversion. Without the NCP canal there was hardly any water to speak of. Most of the flow into Kokkilai Lagoon through PeriyaAaru (Ma Oya) was impounded for the Padaviya scheme, which is itself experiencing a dire shortage of water. What flows through Manal Aaru(NayAaru) is mostly impounded for the ancient scheme at Thannimurippu Kulam (Kurundavapi or Kurantan Kulam at Kurantan Ur) in the Mullaitivu District. The untapped water in Kiul Oya was sufficient for only about 2000 acres - according to measurements in the 1960s.
When Mahaveli System L was put into operation in April 1988, a new pattern was set. Former schemes such as Gal Oya, Allai and Kantalai did not displace existing farmers. They were at least nominally integrated into the scheme. The Gal Oya scheme, although bringing in Sinhalese colonists, benefitted many Tamil and Muslim farmers who had fields in the area. In the case of Weli Oya not only were nearly all Tamils in the project area driven out, but by 1985 Tamils in the neighbouring ancient Tamil village of Thennamaravady (Thennen-Maravady) in the Trincomalee District were also forced to desert the village.
Feelings about Weli Oya were not necessarily determined by ethnic lOyalties. Sinhalese who were conscience stricken by the violence of July 1983 and were trying to stand in the breach of the disintegrating nation, found Weli Oya deeply embarrassing. Two respected senior clergymen in the National Christian Council, closely associated with the late Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe, the prime minister's uncle, were in a company when the massacre of about a hundred Sinhalese settlers on 30th November 1984 was reported. The massacre by the LTTE in Weli Oya, which was then better known as Kent and Dollar farms, was flashed over the international airwaves. It was the first such massacre by a Tamil group although the state forces had by then massacred thousands of Tamils. It reflected at least a tactical inhibition on the part of Tamil groups seeking international legitimacy as liberation movements.
The two Sinhalese clergyman, one of whom, Rev.Celestine Fernando, is now dead, did not hesitate to concede unasked that Weli Oya was an unwanted provocation by the government and that the target of the attack was more or less a legitimate military one.
An explanation of the carnage was sought from the LTTE leader who was then in India through an expatriate intermediary. The LTTE leader responded that it was not the intention of the LTTE to kill ordinary Sinhalese civilians, and that those killed were criminals brought in for sinister reasons. He further added that his cadre were under orders not to kill women and children. One woman, he said, was killed because when the men were thrust into a building prior to explosives being set off, she had clung to her husband and had refused to be separated. [ However there were allegations from the settlers that children were among those killed.]
What this suggested was that the LTTE leader then still had inhibitions, whether tactical or moral, about being known as a slayer of Sinhalese. A little timely statesmanship from the government could have still saved the situation and prevented the deterioration that was to rapidly set in - not just impairing the moral state of the Sinhalese, but also of Prabakaran as person and the Tamils as a people.
By the time the Anuradhapura, Valvettithurai and Kumudhini boat massacres took place in May 1985, many inhibitions had vanished. Tamil opinion was for the first time ready to acquiesce in the mass murder of even Sinhalese women and children. Only a slight extension was needed to include Muslims and Tamils who could be represented as `traitors'. The stage was set for the LTTE to rise to power by annihilating other Tamil groups and to usher in a politics of auto-genocide. Thus Weli Oya also represented the threshold of a moral choice, leading to a sharp downward turn in the fortunes of the Sinhalese and the Tamils.[Top]
We have recently received further information from sources who have first hand knowledge about the ground situation, which both confirms and complements the information about Weli Oya in our Report No 11. The following account of the reality inside Weli Oya answers many questions arising out of the entire business.
The facts about events during the 80s have been pieced together from press reports, information provided by persons familiar with the developments, a document sent to the Indian Prime Minister by the Mullaitivu District Citizen's Committee in April 1988 and literature circulated by Tamil political groups that took an interest in the matter.
The agricultural lands in the Weli Oya area were either occupied by either Tamil villages or were held under long term lease by Tamil individuals and business concerns. In the latter category were groups like Navalar farm, Ceylon Theatres farm, Kent farm, Railway group farm, Postmaster group farm etc.
There were sixteen such farms holding more than one thousand acres each. There were also individual holdings of ten to fifty acres. Kent and Dollar farms were later used to rehabilitate the hill country victims of the 1977 commnual violence. The leases above were granted by the government about the year 1965
[see Maps 2 & 3 ].
The eviction of Tamils from the area began around the time of the July 1983 communal violence as a result of military harrassment. Tamils who were living in Kent and Dollar farms were driven away by Arthur Herath, Superintendent of Police, Vavuniya, who raided the area in mid 1984. It was alleged these Tamils were terrorists. Subsequently Sinhalese prisoners were settled on Kent and Dollar farms leading to the massacre in November 1984. Just before Christmas 1984, the army by means of a loud speaker announcement asked several villages to vacate within 24 hours. Some of these are Kokkilai, Kokkuthoduvai, Karnaddu Kerni, Kayadikulam and Koddai Kerni. Some of these now form part of the area being `developed', which we will refer to as the core area.
This was the period when the National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali had been quoted as working on a policy of solving the Tamil problem by settling elements like Sinhalese ex-convicts and fishermen in the Tamils' midst. It was in the Mullaitivu area that the policy was most evidently manifest. Tamil militants too responded with massacres of Sinhalese settlers, examples of which are the Kent and Dollar farm massacre and the massacre of traditional migrant fishermen from Negombo at Kokkilai and Nayaru on 1st December 1984. Some of the fishermen had been settled there for a long time.
Following the eviction orders given to certain Tamil villages, the remaining Tamil villagers had to endure all manner of harassment including rape of women by broad day light and theft of cattle. The army too reportedly contributed its share. After over a month, the army reined in, restricted the movements of the newcomers, and talked to the Tamil villagers pleasantly, inquiring after their welfare. The underlying message was clear.
One instance of the harassment of the Tamils was the massacre at Othiya Malai during the succeeding months where more than 25 Tamils were killed by the army. TULF representatives who took part in the Indian brokered APC talks raised the events in Weli Oya with the government. They were told that the Sinhalese were being settled as part of a security cordon.
From 1984 several articles were written about the coming of Israeli advisors into this country through the newly formed Israeli Interests Section in the US embassy. Several analysts argued that the security based settlement policies being followed were Israeli inspired. One such article in the `Saturday Review' of 8th September 1984 quoted a `Veerakesari' report: "Land settlement is taking place from Nayaru to Kokkilai in the Mullaitivu District after a high official visited the area." The same article referred to a visit to Israel by the late Douglas Liyanage, a key figure in the government. The same issue of the SR announced Liyanage's resignation and the government's claim that his visit to Israel was unauthorised. It appeared that Arab influence was still too strong to be played with.
The nature of what went on in the area is reflected by two incidents on 19th December 1984, reported in the `Saturday Review'.
Pulmoddai: Two security personnel killed in a landmine explosion, 4 terrorists killed in a shoot out.
Padaviya : 4 army personnel including 2 officers killed in a landmine explosion, 4 terrorists killed in counter operations.
Readers translating such official claims took it for granted that the terrorists killed were in reality innocent Tamil civilians. Based on the records of citizens' committees throughout the North-East, the Satruday Review of 17th January 1986 reported that the Sri Lankan forces had been killing an average of 233 Tamil civilians every month or about 7 a day. By the end of 1984 up to 200 Sinhalese civilians had been killed in Tamil militant reprisals- a phenomenon which then became part of a regular pattern.
Little else came to light about the goings on in Weli Oya until the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) arrived in July 1987. Members of the Mullaitivu Citizens' Committee and other Tamil government officials visited the Weli Oya area under the protection of Major Tata of the IPKF, in connection with the resettlement of displaced perssons under the terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord. The co-ordinating officer of the Sri Lankan army for Weli Oya now gave a different twist to the rationale for these settlements. He informed the visitors that this colonisation was done under the Mahaweli scheme. When the Citizens' Committee protested to the government, the government replied that the scheme concerned was a dry zone high land cultivation scheme. The government also instructed the Assistant Commissioner of Elections, Mullaitivu/ Vavuniya to register the Sinhalese settled as voters, some in the Vavuniya District and others in the Mullaitivu District.
Evidently it was after the IPKF arrived that the government felt a need to give legal sanction to this colonisation activity. Shortly afterwards a gazette notification was issued on 15th April 1988 by Gamini Dissanayake, Minister for Lands & Mahaweli Development, declaring an area of about 300 sq miles [see Maps 2 & 3] a "Special Area". This was done under section 3(1) of the Mahaweli Authority Act of 1979. This was strange coming from a minister who had staked the most in the Indo-Lanka Accord. What was clear was that the main actor in the game was not the Mahaweli Authority, but the army.
The core area under development consists of about 150 sq miles within the "Special Area". This is made up of portions from the GS divisions of Kokkilai, Karnaddu Kerni, Kokku Thoduvai, Kumulamunai East, a portion of Kumulamunai West, together with Maruthodai and Oottu Kulam areas south of Nedun Kerni in the Vavuniya North AGA division. The total number of families displaced as a result is around 2500 -3000 [See appendix].
We now go on to a description of the area based on recent observation.[Top]
The set up was designed so as to protect the army at the expense of Sinhalese civilians and to gradually secure the expulsion of the Tamil population. The interior of System L was an extension of the Padaviya colonisation scheme of the 1950s to the north. The remaining Tamil populations were to the north and east of the core area. The forward settlements at Jankapura were such that the army was behind an earthen bund raised as a defensive redoubt. Beyond the redoubt facing the Tamil inhabited area were up to 400 dwellings of Sinhalese settlers, in the form of a shield. Beyond the Sinhalese dwellings, towards the Tamil habitations ( to the east) were open fields belonging to Tamils known as Punniya Poomi (Blessed land). The inscription on one of the several wells in these fields indicated the year 1921, showing that the fields were cultivated for 3 generations or more. Beyond the fields, going further eastwards is jungle, followed by a line of low hills from which the sea is visible (see Map 3). The bund, Sinhalese settlements and the open fields (going eastward) therefore made up the army's defence.It also explains why the brigadier blamed the settlers when Janakpura camp was demolished on 25th July [see 4].
The approach to the settlements as described in the last report was through Dollar farm, now named Parkumpura. Outsiders are not normally allowed beyond this point. The road then reaches a T -junction having a small recently planted bo -tree with a Buddhist shrine - the stampp of territorial conquest. From there the southern road is Brigadier Janaka Perera Road and in the opposite direction is General Denzil Kobbekaduwa Road - an unfortunate memorial to one who wished to be remembered a man of peace. The former leads to the main settlement of Janakapura.
One of the settlers said that he came from Alawwa, south of Kurunegala, 8 years ago. He was recruited by the MP who promised him among other things Rs 15,000/-in cash (about Rs 50 000/-today), a house and paddy fields. Several others had come from the nearby ailing Padaviya scheme. Upon arrival they were offered as much building materials as they needed for a house. As for fields, they were shown the area which was already cultivated by Tamils and told that they could cultivate as much as they liked.
Cultivation was something they hardly ever did. The men were given homeguard training and a shot gun for which one is now paid Rs 50/- a day. If both the man and the woman are willing to carry guns, they receive Rs 100/-a day. From the beginning the game was that "Tamils cultivated and the settlers pinched". According to our sources, any Tamil protesting or complaining to the army could be beaten or even killed and branded posthumously a terrorist, as an act which even the law of the land permitted. They also believe that several terrorists claimed to have been killed in the area by the official media during the mid 80s were really Tamil civilians. Over the years the Tamil population receded eastward towards no - man's land, the jungle and over the hills facing the sea. Only about 15 Tamil families are now left west of the hills.
When some of the Tamils living in that area were questioned about the portion of land which they were said to be demanding, they reacted angrily and said that they had never asked for anything and that they only wanted to live peacefully as their fathers and forefathers lived in that area. When the Sinhalese settlers were questioned about why they did something so outrageous to the Tamils, their response was, "How could we let the Tamils live here ? "
Given their own fears it had been easy to brainwash them and implant the Sinhalese establishment perception- the need to "protect and preserve the carved out area of Weli-Oya"-a perception in which they had no stake, except to reap its tragic cost. They were quite open about rape and robbery inflicted on Tamils.
The majority of soldiers and officers in the area felt that something very unreasonable was being done, but for their part they had to obey orders or face court martial. Such orders should have been questioned by parliament and the press- but these institutions are, sadly, what they are.
As far as their material necessities go, the Sinhalese civilians are well cared for. Each family receives 50 to 100 rupees a day for keeping a shotgun or two at home. Producers from just outside Weli Oya bring vegetables to the Dollar Farm market. These are sold cheap - e.g Rs 6/- per kilo of brinjals (aubergines). Venison is hunted with guns or bought for about Rs 25/-per kilo. A school has been established at Nelunkulam. The head master from Matale is helped by seven teachers. Being a government servant, the head master took his posting unwillingly and had been trying to obtain a transfer for several years. With only 30 of the 200 children enrolled attending, there is hardly any work for the teachers. But the army has ordered them to report in the mornings and mark time until 1.30 PM. One can only imagine the impending social disaster for the next generation.
Among other benefits received by the settlers are dry rations from the NGO Sarvodya. Sarvodya claims to be a grass‑roots organisation subscribing to Gandhian economics and non-violence. It works in Weli Oya through a Govi Samitya - a Farmers Association of non- farmers. Posters in Weli Oya announced the visit on 15th July 1993 of Sarvodya's chief Dr. Ariyaratne.
Sarvodya's involvement in colonisation activities in the North-East and the visible homage paid to the armed forces by visiting Sarvodya dignitaries has led to accusations of pro-army bias against Sarvodya by Tamils. In a similar vein its involvement in areas where the LTTE was active, particularly in the latter 80s, also resulted in accusations of support for the LTTE. From what we understand, the Sarvodya leader Dr. Ariyaratne has a vision of his own role as a peace - maker. He is said to have indicated a number of times in private, that he must get what is known as mainstream Sinhalese opinion behind him. A way of doing this, he appears to believe, is to build up his `strength and credibility' among the armed forces.
Such thinking is only a variation of what is advocated by many highly respectable peace-makers from around the world. We have repeatedly argued that pragmatism which constantly places tactics above principle leads to the kind of degeneration that characterised the Tamil liberation struggle. In the case of Sarvodya it seems to be eroding its credibility among the grassroots to whom it is committed, in return for favour among those who count. Moreover, becoming embroiled in and legitimising activities which are the main obstacles to peace, cannot be by any means explained away with pragmatic reasoning. The settlers are being used by the state in particular ventures to undermine the security of the Tamils.
An organisation such as Sarvodya which cannot challenge the perceptions of these settlers and the policy of the government cannot claim to be involving itself in peace activities. Weli Oya is among the more intractable causes of war. It will, and quite rightly, never be found acceptable among Tamils. To help create the problem and then try to be peacemaker, is surely, more than farcical. In Weli Oya itself a number of settlers spoken to expressed their feeling about Sarvodya: " Api vikunanuwa" (Our miseries are being sold). It is also part of a wider dilemma concerning NGO activity.[Top]
According to Polonnaruwe Thilakakankara Thero who is resident in the area and was quoted by the "Sunday Times" of 12th September, "from 4000 families, the settlement had today dwindled to about 1000". This shows the official claim of 3364 to be greatly exaggerated. We quoted a knowledgeable senior Tamil leader in Report 11 as saying that the number was closer to 300. A source with first hand knowledge said that there were 400 residences at Janakapura and a further 200 around Kent and Dollar farms. An upper estimate for System L was placed at 1000. According to a report in the "Sunday Island" of 1st August 1993 the entire population of Janakapura which was displaced came to 130 families. This was confirmed by other sources. We may take it that the population of Jankapura had declined from 400 to 130 families over the years. The total number of families in Manal Aaruhelped by Sarvodya is about 150 -200, who were said to have been neglected by the authorities. A total of 500 families in System L may be a good average estimate. The number is corroborated by sources in the South.
Another difficulty in pinning down a more accurate estimate is the shifting nature of the population depending on security perceptions at a given time and the poor conditions in the nearby ailing Padaviya scheme. In Padaviya cultivation has greatly declined as a result of water problems attributed to environmental stress. Under these conditions helpless people can be lured by rations and incentives offered in Weli Oya. Much of the administration and supplies for Weli Oya are managed from Parakramapura in the Padaviya scheme.
The settlers in general are said to be angry with the government - often a trend in the colonies, although they may hesitate to show it through the ballot box. They feel that many crucial promises made to them by the government to encourage them to settle there have not been kept. These include security, a bus service and a proper hospital. Even when going to the well to fetch water at sunset, the settlers go in fear of meeting the LTTE. Weli Oya proper is run as a military cantonment. Even relatives visiting civilians there have to get army clearance. This blot on civilised humanity which could have been exposed by journalists and organisations in the South has been well hidden.[Top]
We give the basic facts that could be gleaned from press reports. A party of 250 to 500 Tigers attacked Janakapura camp at midnight following diversionary attacks on Kokkutoduwai and Kovil Point camps. 70 out of 150 soldiers in the camp had divided into two parties and were out on ambush duty. Being outnumbered they had not confronted the Tigers on their way to attack. The Tigers took the camp after attacking it with RPGs. 14 of the troops including a captain escaped on foot. The rest are believed to have been killed either in action or after capture.
Next, civilians in the village adjoining the camp were attacked, killing about 9 in shooting, knifing and in a grenade explosion. Women and children were among the dead. The attack on the village appears to have been more in the nature of a warning than a total massacre. About 130 families fled the village. Seven civilians and the corpses of 18 soldiers were evidently taken away along with over Rs 50 million worth of weaponry and equipment in the camp for exhibition. The civilians alive and ashes supposedly of soldiers were handed over to the ICRC a few days later.
Although pictures of dead Sinhalese civilians were published in the Colombo press with the usual expressions of indignation which Tamil dead were never given the benefit of, it was clear from the spirit and substance of the reporting that the civilians did not ever count. A feature by Manjula Silva and Keith NOyahr in the "Sunday Times" of lst August concluded thus : " ... the mood among the junior officers was more one of anger. For them an end to the war was a crying need and they seemed frustrated over the lack - lustre approach to the war... The moods may differ from one rank to the other in Weli Oya. But there is one common goal for all - protecting and preserving the carved out area - " Weli Oya" - that forms part of four districts - Muullaitivu, Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Anuradhapura - separating the contiguous land of the North from the East."
This was reflected in nearly all reporting and editorialising on the matter. The role of Weli Oya stated in these terms was an acknowledgement that Tamils were the enemy who could not be trusted, and it was somehow necessary to break them up into enclaves by strategically capturing territory and decimating the Tamils through military backed colonisation. It was a more sophisticated expression of the ugly spirit of July 1983. Seen in these terms, there was also a tacit acknowledgement that Weli Oya was fair game for the Tigers. Obligatory expressions like "Tiger Terrorists" had a hollow ring when the government together with the Sinhalese establishment, and the Tigers, were all on the same moral footing.
The government's approach to the burning minority question revealed intellectual incoherence, a lack of strategy - whether towards winning the war or securing peace - an absence of tangible goals, and damningly the absence of a chain of responsibility and accountability.
Here are some quotes from the "Sunday Times" of lst and 8th August:
" Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, himself expressed concern when the National Security Council discussed the latest attack. He did not mince his words when he spelt out the measures necessary" (1/8).
" A visibly angry President D.B. Wijetunga has expressed utter dissatisfaction with the security authorities over the Janakapura debacle and warned the top brass to do their job properly or face the consequences .... President Wijetunga, Commander - in - Chief of the Armed Forces and Defence Minster, ordered the security forces " to go all out on the offensive" (8/8).
" Army Commander Cecil Waidyaratne had pointed out that the army was made responsible whenever there was a failure in operations or defence, but the Joint Operations Command got the credit whenever there was a success.... The Army Commander also pointed out that he had no hand in strategy and deployment of troops and it was the JOC which had the say always" (8/8).
The most curious comment came from the brigadier responsible for Weli Oya. "An angry Brigadier Parry Liyanage complained that there had not been sufficient public co-operation by way of providing information and the like " (1/8). Behind the grunts of indignation pouring down the crossed lines, the role of Sinhalese civilians in these settlements also becomes clearer. They were also useful scapegoats.[Top]
The "Sunday Times" feature of lst August by Manjula Silva and Keith NOyahr reports: " The entire village has been abandoned by Janakapura settlers contrary to reports reaching Colombo. The settlers are now housed at the nearby Nikawewa Maha Vidyalaya. But for the senior officers in the area, mapping out strategies to enable the resettlement of villagers is a top priority. In fact, that was one of the main topics taken up when military top brass and two cabinet minsters visited Weli Oya early this week. Joint Operations Command Chief Hamilton Wanasinghe, Army Commander Lt General Cecil Waidyaratne, Rehabilitation Minster P.Dayaratne, Mahaweli and Lands Minster Gamini Atukorale were among the visitors".
Thus tens of thousands of Tamil refugees could languish for years. But the 130 or so Sinhalese families in Weli 0ya when displaced were to be treated as very special refugees requiring such high powered concern. Was this human concern or something else? These settlers would naturally be at a loss as the army which encouraged them to settle on the promise of protection now appeared to be blaming them for not protecting the army. Reportedly, their meeting with the ministers was not without acrimony.
It was clear that the people did not view the exercise as development. The government clearly was throwing good money after bad, with the lives of those it regarded as dispensable civilians, in pursuance of an unsustainable ideological project. When the president of the country is unable to visit Puliyantivu in Batticaloa, a small island and administrative centre bristling with security men, and the prime minster can only venture a brief foray during the Presidential Mobile Secretariat of July, is the government really honest about providing security for settlers in Weli Oya?
The "Sunday Times" (1/8) has taken the trouble to verify "the fact that they (the villagers in Weli Oya) came of their own accord several years ago". That simplified representation of their plight may salve consciences of the Colombo elite. That government money had to be spent helping them is not in question. Were they ever consulted on how and where they wanted help? To use their poverty and government money as bait to draw them into sensitive areas is something else. The corpses of these obscure people were interesting as front page material to castigate the Tigers as a group that could not be constrained by international opinion.
There are two related issues here. When earlier this year the LTTE showed signs of being constrained by international opinion, it fell upon the government and the Southern establishment to show statesmanship and work towards further guarantees for the safety of all civilians. Getting civilians on both sides out of the firing line should have been the first step towards peace. But to continue pushing Sinhalese civilians as colonists and massacre Tamil civilians in the Jaffna lagoon after the inevitable happens, is both cowardly and utterly irresponsible.
Moreover had these hapless Sinhalese civilians been important as people deserving of a human existence before they were corpses, their fate would very likely have been averted. Has the "national press" published one in -depth feature on the misery that prevails in the colony villages from which these para - military settlers are largely drawn? Have we been told of the tragedies of Gantalawa and Vendarasanpura or of Ambagahawelle and Paragahkelle from where a large number of alienated youth joined the JVP in 1971 and during the late 80s? How the villagers became depoliticised and disillusioned by the brutality of both the JVP and the state? Why many of them joined the forces either out of poverty or in order not to be suspected of JVP links and picked up? Why social mobility in the colonies is low? Why a large number of colony youth desert from the forces?
These are evidently subjects too embarrassing to be touched upon, for that would lead to questioning assumptions dear to the elite - assumptions which are as callous about ordinary Sinhalese as they so vividly showed themselves to be about Tamils ten years ago. [Top]
It may be useful to compare Weli Oya with another long standing programme in order to better understand the magnitude and extent of its anomalies. The Uda Walawe project is the largest and only major multi-purpose project in the deep South. This area has long complained of neglect and has been the cradle of two Sinhalese youth uprisings. The budget estimete for the project for the year 1993 is Rs 200 million on capital expenditure (273 million in 1992). The project is supported by the Asian Development Bank. Although many questions are being raised about the adverse environmental and social impact of the project, it remains a conventional project in an area where government help was badly needed.
The Weli Oya project with an estimated expenditure of Rs 150 million for 1993 (72 million for 1992) comes very close in annual capital outlay. Rs 56 million in 1988 was the first time expenditure by the Mahaveli Authority in System L was recorded, although settlement had been taking place from 1984. The total Mahaveli budget has stood at Rs 2.7 billion for the last 3 years (in contrast to Rs 24 billion on defence during 1992). Though expenditure on other systems has shown a downward trend, that in System L (Weli Oya) has shown a rapid rise. In terms of human need, unlike the Uda Walawe project which now has nearly 28 000 families settled, System L is one which hardly anyone seems to want. While Uda Walawe has yet 7000 families to be settled, in System L, at an official 3364 families settled, the target is said to have been achieved!
More curious features present themselves upon closer examination.[Top]
An official document suggesting cadre allocations in the Mahaveli Authority makes the following recomendations. Among the cadre suggested for Uda Walawe there are 6 engineers, 14 engineering assistants and 49 clerk typists. For System L there are no engineers, 3 engineering assistants and 2 clerk typists. Compared with several professionals for Uda Walawe, there is not one for System L which has a similar budget allocation. The only rational explanation is that nothing serious of an agricultural nature is taking place in Weli Oya (System L).
The official break-down of settlers in Weli Oya is given as follows:
Farmer families 1076
Non-Farmer Families 2288
The latter being more than double the former is very unusual for a bona fide new-settlement area. In System B, for instance, there are 13,434 farmer families as against 465 non-farmer and 1969 sub-farmer families. The corresponding figures for System C are 19083 : 1098 : 2251. The general ratio of farmer families to others is about 20:3. The non farmer component makes sense if one regards 20:3 as the farming sector : service sector ratio. But in System L, given that agricultural production is almost nil, the need for a service sector too is nearly non-existent. Evidently what the Mahaveli Authority envisaged was that there would be 2288 families sitting outside army camps holding shotguns, receiving rations and support from the state.
Minister Dayaratne himself indicated to an all party delegation in 1991 that most of those supposedly settled had left. We may take it that the majority of these families are present only on electoral lists.[Top]
Of a total land area of 100 000 acres (154 square miles) in System L, the Mahaveli Authority claims that 6 200 acres is irrigable land where irrigation has been provided for a little under 2 000 acres(775 hectares). By December 1990 the settlement target of 3364 families had been achieved. This is very unusual for a scheme. Normally settlers are brought in only when irrigation and other infrastructure is ready. With no perennial river flow in the area it is hard to see how anything like 2000 acres could be irrigated as claimed unless the Kiul Oya reservoir was in service. As of a Mahaveli update of March 1991, this reservoir was yet to be constructed. Its cost at today's prices will be of the order of Rs 100 million. Given the security situation and budgetary provisions, the claim of irrigating 2000 acres (made in 1992) appears to be very misleading, if not mischievous.
Of the Rs 2.7 billion budgeted for the Mahaveli Authority for 1992 about Rs 1.5 billion came from the consolidated fund. Of the balance which came from foreign aid, 16O million came as grants. For 1993 about 2 billion of the budgeted total of 2.7 billion came from the consolidated fund. Of the Rs 150 million for System L in 1993, 96.4 million was designated for `Land Improvement and Structures Outlay'. Rs 50 million was designated for `Other Capital Expenses'.
The wretched conditions of soldiers and settlers in Weli Oya has been the subject of much comment. But for others in the higher ranks of the administration and the military there have been fat pickings. The charge of corruption has recently been made by the Buddhist monk Ven.Thilakalankara Thero of System L. We reliably understand that with the authorisation of a minister Rs 16 million was paid to an army officer in 1991 to carry out a survey in the area - ten times what the survey was worth. There was difficulty in sending government surveyors into the area and the officer concerned had a surveyor's license. The officer, it is said, never touched a theodolite or drawing paper. He hired 4 government surveyors to work under his protection and made a thumping profit. The payment of 16 million was passed in record time.
The System L budget for the year 1991 was Rs 75 million. It would be surprising if the Mahaveli Authority placed the Rs 18 million for surveying and supervision as an item in the System L expenditure. A new item called General Administration introduced into the Mahaveli budget from 1992 and costing an annual Rs 295 million, seems to be an appropriate source for expenditures which are not adequately circumscribed.
It has been claimed that System L is financed from the government's consolidated fund. However, it could be argued that such an attribution is, as is much else, a mere book-keeping exercise. A total of Rs 127 million of the 180 million foreign aid grants go to meet the expenses of the EIED (Employment, Investment & Enterprise Development) Project. This project now costs an annual Rs 183.5 million. The 127 million foreign aid grant for this comes from USAID. The role of the EIED is to provide banking facilities and infrastructure for export oriented commercial investors on Mahaveli lands. If this project was, in fact, beneficial for the country, the government should have had no qualms about financing the EIED from its consolidated fund. Thus foreign aid does help to free money for System L.[Top]
It has long been held by many activists that the visible military budget running at an annual Rs 24 billion (or 21% of the total budget) is only part of the expenditure incurred. There is an unquantified invisible military budget, which if revealed may make the total even less acceptable. To cite another small, yet "invinsible" component: the feeding of,say, 100 000 families displaced by the armed forces, at an annual cost Rs 1.5 billion which is picked up by the ministry of rehabilitation. This too is a very small part of the untold story.
In System L, the military is the only substantive administering authority on the ground. The Mahaveli Authority's machinery there has merely a token character. Given the inconsistencies and lack of substance in the claims made for legitimate Mahaweli Authority expenses, one is led to believe that the System L budget reflects largely military-related expenditure. In this respect, the deliberate distortion of the number of residents in the area becomes crucial as can be seen in the following example.
In response to the Janakapura incident of 25th July, we reliably understand that Mr.Dayaratne, minister for rehabilitation, approved the sending of dry rations to 2100 families in Weli Oya. This is worth an annual Rs 33 million passed into the care of the army. The actual number of families displaced in Janakapura is 130 according to a "Sunday Island" report and other sources.The annual Rs 33 million approved is, we may take it, at the army's disposal and far in excess of the designated need.
We cited instances earlier where the forces claim to be funding defence-related colonisation. We are also confronted with the ease with which other ministries can transfer funds to defence-related spending. The war and the ensuing lack of accountability and corruption, have become disturbingly institutionalised, and Weli Oya has become the classic example of this phenomenan. It should be noted that funds released through such means do nothing to improve the lot of rank and file soldiers, who have persistently complained about wretched conditions. Nor does such money reach ordinary people.
Mahaveli officials when asked about System L tend to become embarrassed and evasive. They strongly hint that it is something in a `terrorist area' and is not quite their project. Mahaveli literature is singualarly uniformative about System L. Whatever is said can but hardly fail to arouse suspicions. What then prompted the connection?
According to Mahaveli Authority literature: "Mahaveli lands are State owned lands, gazetted under section 3(1) of the Mahaveli Authority Act No.23 of 1979. The Director General of MASL is empowered to determine the utilisation of Mahaveli lands including the issue of permits and leases.The Minister of Mahaveli Development confirms the recommendations of MASL...". The powers vested with the minister concerned therfore made the MASL an ideal vehicle to colonise Sinhalese in the North-East, bypassing normal procedures for land alienation. The Urban Development Authority has similar powers `to acquire lands in its area of authority and to lease or sell these lands for specific purposes'. The role of the UDA is now being feared in Trincomalee town, where the Minister for Housing and Construction is taking a very keen interest.
Whatever was in the minds of the framers of the Mahaveli Act in 1979, the possibilities were quick to be realised. Led by the Buddhist monk, Dimbulagala Thero and with material help from the Mahaveli Authority, about five thousand Sinhalese were transported into Batticaloa District on 1st September 1983, just after the July violence. The number later climbed to 4O thousand. They proceeded to occupy lands which were designated for System B (Maduru Oya) of the Mahaveli project, driving away several Tamil and Muslim villagers who were settled in the Vadamunai area. The idea was that once the project got under way, it was simply left to the MASL to regularise unlawful occupation. The attempted conquest fizzled out following strong protests by the Tamil representatives, Indian pressure on the President of Sri Lanka and the December rains. Some of the Sinhalese who were asked to leave by the Government later went to Weli Oya, where again Rev.Dimbulagala took a keen interest. The inner circle in the MASL which hatched the plot was very bitter with what was seen as the work of Tamil moles from within the public service and cold feet on the part of Gamini Dissanayake, then the minister concerned. [See `For a Sovereign State' by M.H.Gunaratne]. Between then and now, the cleansing of Tamils from the MASL has been practically completed-more thoroughly than in the armed forces.
In the case of the Weli Oya scheme it is interesting how the Mahaweli Authority and the Defence Ministry (National Security Ministry) have complemented each other. System L, though in the Mahaweli development plan from the 60s, was not included in the Accelerated Mahaweli Project taken up in 1978. From 1984 the settlement on the lands concerned was undertaken by the army. The gazette notification of April 1988 strongly suggests that powers under the Mahaweli Authority Act were implicitly assumed in the whole exercise.
This is given further substance by the singular role played by Mr.Bandaragoda as described in Report No 11. Mr.Bandaragoda as GA/Trincomalee was responsible for initiating semi-legal colonisation activity in that area on a large scale. Thereafter, from September 1981 he did post graduate work on land settlement at the University of Cambridge for an year. On his return he was appointed Additional Secretary for Mahaweli Development.
In the aftermath of the July 1983 violence the Joint Security Services Operation (JOSSOP) was instituted and was based in Vavuniya. This institution was to oversee security and allied civil affairs, such as land settlement, in the districts of Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Mannar. Jaffna was under a separate command. The JOSSOP was headed by Asoka de Silva, former navy chief. The second in commnad was D.J.Bandaragoda. It was said to be his task to monitor and oversee the Weli Oya project. His job as Additional Secratary, Mahaweli Development, which he simultaneously held, was evidently one of co-ordination of his tasks in which different ministries were involved. He later became Secretary, Mahaveli Development. Following the Indo - Lanka Accord of 1987, he was moved to the Ministry of Rehabilitation where he also held the post of secretary.
Another actor in the drama is the civil servant T.H.Karunatillake then General Manager, Planning, MASL. The author of "For a Sovereign State" credits him with having conceived of projects like Yan Oya, Weli Oya and Maduru Oya as a means of protecting the Sinhalese race. In October 1983 the government was faced with removing or relocating the large number of Sinhalese who had flocked into the Maduru Oya basin. N.G.P. Panditharatne, Director General of MASL and UNP chairman gave Karunatillake the brief of locating suitable places in the Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts. Karunatilleke filed his report on 12th October 1983. The burden of his report was that the presence of Tamils in the south of Mullaitivu District was "illicit" and furthered " anti- national" activites. He suggested that these should be dealt with so as to secure the Sinhalese in Padaviya and enable their northward expansion. There were constraints on the government which hindered immediate action. But the establishment of the JOSSOP in Vavuniya, its functions and its connections with the MASL could hardly be a co-incidence.
It is however too naive to credit Karunatilleke with having originated the possibilities of Systems B, I, M and L. The establishment had a mind of its own and discretion was its code. To discuss this will take us beyond the subject.
Karunatillake has recently been appointed Subject Specific Secretary to the Ministry of Land Alienation, under cabinet minister Paul Perera. Thus wherever deceit and subterfuge are required in colonisation activity, we see the same personalities doing the rounds. This approach to colonisation is therefore very much a going concern despite all talk about a political solution. We also see some of the links bringing about a division of labour between the ministries of Defence, Mahaweli Development, Rehabilation and Lands.
It is significant to note that as late as 1987 the Mahaweli Authority recorded zero expenditure for System L. All the available evidence points to the fact that the Army has right along been the main actor in this "development" drama, with the Mahaweli Authority merely lending its credibility and sponsorship to the play. It also reveals the extent to which the dominant state ideology has welded the civilian administrative machinery and the military into an essentially anti-Tamil front.
Having to justify its involvement in System L, which was not admitted before 1987, the MASL woke up after more than 4 years to declare Manal Aarua special area, put in money, though with no credible machinery on the ground, and churn out largely fictitious reports of activity. We do not wish to cast aspersions on many no doubt genuine and competent professionals who work for the MASL. But once it lent itself to becoming a vehicle of some of the uglier manifestations of state ideology, it became a poisoned well. The fact that the MASL found itself obliged to keep Tamils out of responsible positions shows its character. Indeed a state tainted by such an ideology would need to keep more and more under wraps, and thus be driven to keep Tamils out of even innocuous and straightforward aspects of administration.
As we mentioned above individuals who were in powerful positions in the state machinery had been involved in major programmes which have reinforced the fears of the minorities and further alienated them from the state. But those who were involved in these projects could come out with very plausible reasons for their activities pointing to what they believed to be the threat from the Tamils. Their irrational fears based on inconsistent arguments may not hold water. Without understanding the basis of what was taking place, the happenings in the North-East became in the South, the subject of uninformed gossip and speculative fears.
But when persons with such beliefs exercise the power to act with impunity, the implications are indeed very damaging. The dangerous subjectivism of the group which was involved in the Sinhalese settlements in Maduru Oya and later Weli Oya together with their associations are revealed in the book "For a Sovereign State". The thinking of those in the Operations Room of the Mahaveli Authority during August and September 1983, was without any reference to the horrendous violence of July, the resulting helplessness of the Tamils and the new political realities - such as India's decisive influence in the country's affairs. Even in August 1983 they were getting into a panic over reports of organised Tamil settlement in the Maduru Oya basin in Batticaloa District and the Yan Oya basin in Trincomalee District. It seemed to them that there was not a moment to lose in sending Sinhalese down the river before Tamils came up the river.
The experience of the Tamils after independence is one of betrayal by the Southern leadership together with periodic violence unleashed on them in the South. Tamils began to treat the North -East as their homeland at least in the sense of a last place where they were safe. With colonisation and Mahaveli Development a hot issue, Tamils in general feared that any part of the provincial boundary left unsettled would be settled with Sinhalese by the state, bringing the threat of violence ever nearer. In the context above Gandhiyam was about the only organisation in the forefront of settling refugees (particularly those of Hill-Country origin) in border areas. Dr.Rajasundram who was an active member of the Gandhiyam had been murdered in a most cowardly fashion in the state instigated massacre at Welikada Prison in July '83.
Those, particularly the mandarins in the MASL, who were involved in the grand project never stopped to think how the Tamils could resort to organised encroachment in August 1983. Many Tamils settled in the Trincomalee and Vavuniya Districts were dispersed by police action during the run up to July 1983 following the sealing of Gandhiyam. Moreover the Sri Lankan navy had in late July run amok in Trincomalee striking terror among the residents.
Had President Jayewardene even as late as 1984 shown statesmanship and defused the fears Tamils had of state policy- he admitted in 1987 that he had failed in that respect- the issue would have died down. The fears entertained by Sinhalese such as those in the MASL group above, resulted directly from a failure to take responsibility for and come to terms with the 1977 communal violence. These fears in turn spurred them into actions like the colonisation of Maduru Oya and Weli Oya through brute force, which solved nothing and only exacerbated the problem. Their actions reinforced Tamil anxieties, leading to a spiralling of mutual fears.
Angered by the defeat at Weli Oya on 25th July 1993 the government once more launched into cruel,idiotic and politically suicidal reprisals against civilians in Jaffna. We give more detail as such reprisals are generally blacked out of the news.
About 7.45 A.M. on Tuesday 27th July, around 26 hours after the Weli Oya debacle, two airforce jets circled the Kalviankadu - Kopay area dropping several bombs. Four dropped one after the other fell among residences off Rajah Veethy (Street) killing six and injuring 3. Among the dead were three school children Ajith(9), Gajendran(9) and Selvakanthi(11). Another was K.Shanmuganathan(65). Among the injured was a young girl who upon seeing the bomber diving left her bicycle and lay flat on the ground. The force of the exploding bomb threw her, and her blood stained form was seen wriggling amidst the ruins of a building.
Ajith's mother survived because she had left him a while ago to serve his breakfast and send him to school when the bomb exploded. The two dead unidentified are believed to be passers-by who had taken refuge in the Murugan temple. Their flesh was scattered over a radius of 200 yards. Many distraught parents went in search of their children and it was long before any conclusions could be reached. The bodies were charred. A broken skull with teeth sticking out and an arm were discovered separately, demonstrating the high potency of the bombs now used. Several houses were damaged in Kopay where an unexploded bomb was discovered.
Two days later it was the turn of the north-bound passengers in the Jaffna lagoon. Normally passengers begin the crossing before mid-night. But on the night of 28th July two boat loads of passengers (16 in one & 17 in the other) were delayed, evidently because of engine trouble, after paying their fare.They had to wait for boats from Kilaly on the northern shore. They set off just after 2.30 A.M. When the engine of the first failed, it was towed by the second. Half an hour later the engine of the second also failed. The passengers appealed to the boatmen to turn back. The boatmen insisted on going on using paddles and sails. Shortly before dawn one boat was picked up by a searchlight from Elephant Pass which was immediately switched off. The passengers screamed. The boatmen sundered the boats and jumped into the sea, leaving the boats adrift.
Shortly afterwards five naval gun boats came in firing continuously from several directions. By this time morning twilight provided clear visibility. The passengers, including the women, shouted in English, Sinhalese and Tamil that they were civilians and would surrender. Sabanathan(63) stood on the plank at the prow of the first boat and shouted in Sinhalese, `We are civilians'. He fell when a bullet hit his head. His wife Mahaletchumi survived with injuries. Another man and a middle aged woman were among the early casualties. One man drenched himself with the blood of the fallen and played possum when a middle-aged naval man in black boarded the boat with a scimitar-like curved sword. An injured young woman pleaded with him on her knees. The attackers rapidly exchanged a series of words in Sinhalese and orders were given. The man in black struck the bottom of the boat several times with his sword until sea water started coming in. He then poured kerosene into the boat. As he got back to his own boat, a fireball was thrown into the stricken boat, after which the navy sped away. The passenger, Tharmalingam(65) who pretended dead, warned by the young woman, threw the fireball out and doused the flames. Two children in the boat were lying face down in a pool of blood. One boy alive was taken away by the navy.
Two men and two women in the second boat were killed. A helicopter flew over the boats in the morning. The two boats were later towed ashore by the sea Tigers, reaching land about 11.oo A.M. Eight dead civilians were brought ashore for internment. Of the six admitted to Jaffna hospital with injuries, one had a hand blown off by cannon. Six passengers had jumped into the sea and were not immediately accounted for.
On Saturday 31st July, airforce jets reappeared and bombed the Vaddukkoddai-Sithankerni area. A student was among those killed.
The unexpiated evil which made it convenient for the state to connive in bludgeoning a section of its citizenry in July 1983, has spread like a cancer to prostrate the entire body politic in a web of mutual fear.The press, the elite and the political leadership are urging the army to move forward and finish the war. An editorial writer opined that the grievances of `racial minorities' should be looked at afterwards - again that execrable scholarship of official history texts! Academicians too have done their part by proving that the Tamil homeland notion is historically unsustainable and that colonisation of Sinhalese in the East is necessitated by reasons of social and economic justice. That the Tamil homeland claim is less one of sound scholarship than one born through the experience of violence and insecurity, has been wantonly ignored. The army and the Sinhalese youths sucked into it have been the victims of a want of understanding and integrity among the elite. Given the low morality of the leadership, can the army move forward when a vast section of officers and men, notwithstanding a Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry, continue to believe that the killing of General Kobbekaduwa was an inside job? Can the ebbing morale of a fighting force be restored by hot air?
On the contrary, what is needed at this time is for the government to be big enough to trust the minorities, give them confidence, and win back their trust. To use the army as a vehicle of ethno - religious supremacy and to carve up territory like in Manal Aaru(Weli Oya) will only further the division of the country. When Sinhalese poor used in this game and sent into carved up territory are killed, as is bound to happen, what is sacrificed is the legitimate rights of the Sinhalese in the North-East - to travel freely, to reside and to earn a living under normal circumstances.
This country has historically cherished its plural character. Every debacle like in Weli Oya strengthens the impression in the Sinhalese mind that the North- East is alien territory where they are unwelcome. This is for instance reflected in the paranoia building up against minorities among a significant section of senior academics in Southern universities. Another illustration is the recent fiasco that was meant to be the Batticaloa Presidential Mobile Secretariat.
An instance of this defeatism is the government's rejection of the peace plan put forward by the Canada based World Council for Global Co-operation, signed by a team of Nobel laureates. As a starting point the plan which envisaged a federal solution and addressed questions of political prisoners and human rights was eminently reasonable. At the same time there were questions to be raised about whether the signatories, as distinguished as they were in their special fields, had a sustained and in-depth interest in developments here to understand the implications of what they had signed? Experience has further shown that whether direct UN involvement in peace-making can be fruitful or not depends much on whether there is any creative potential in the local political scene. The governemnt could have asked questions of the signatories to find out if they had taken adequate cognizance of the complexities of a UN involvement advocated by them. The reason for the government's blunt rejection, however, was the nonsensical one citing the marooned parliamentary select committee which was to put forward a solution. The government notably had no suggestions of its own. The true reason for the rejection, as it turned out, was a paranoid fear that the Tamil expatriate lobby would take advantage of any internationalisation.
The reality is that if the government's actions were defensible and it was confident that it had the interests of the minorities at heart, it had nothing to fear. There are enough diplomats and spokesmen in this country to then put forward the government's case ably and persuasively. Projects like Weli Oya, the bombing of civilians and the murder of passengers in the Jaffna lagoon are clearly indefensible. With an unclean conscience on the part of the Sinhalese polity the Tamil expatriate lobby is seen as super- intelligent and super - persuasive as against seeing themselves (the Sinhalese) as helpless fools.
It is the unsustainable goals arising from the spirit of July 1983 that led the government into shameful uses of Sinhalese peasants themselves. What is needed is to bury this legacy. No phoenix could rise from the ashes of Janakapura and never will. What Janakapura symbolises is the legitimisation of something as pernicious among the Tamils, together with the spectre of separation.[Top]
A document prepared in 1988 which totalled the numbers of families from villages within or close to the core area of System L from which nearly all people were displaced, placed the total at 3100 families of whom 290 were from the Vavuniya District and 2910 from the Mullaitivu District (1294 from Kokkutoduwai GS division and 1516 from Kokkilai Division). They came from 15 locations, the large ones being Kokkutoduvai (861), Karunartukerni(370), Kokkilai (508) and Muhattuvaram(1004).
A report in the "Saturday Review" of 27th April 1985 stated:"People from Alampil, Kumulamunai and Chemmalai displaced after attacks on Kokkilai and Nayuaru have now been given permission to occupy their lands by the government. Each family is receiving a settlement allowance of Rs 1000/-"
"There are still 7000 refugees in camps in Mulliavalai and Vattapali.Most of them are refugees from Kokkilai, Nayaru, Kokkutoduwai, Karunartukerni and Tennamaravady (in the northern extremity of Trincomalee District). They have been in occupation of 14 schools which have been closed since December 1984. All places last named have been declared prohibited zones".
According to a senior Tamil leader, the position in Mullaitivu as recently compiled, is as follows:
Villages completely evacuated: Kokkilai, Karunartukerni, Kokkudoduwai, Nayaru, Kent and Dollar farms, Andankulam Kanukkerni, Untharayankulam & Udanga.
Villages where part of the evacuees have gone back: Othiyamalai, Periyakulam, Tanduvan, Kumulamunai( East & West), Tanniyoottu, Mulliyavalai, Chemmalai, Thannimurippu and Alampil.[See Map 2.]
He placed the number of families displaced at 2500 (Mullaitivu District) and the total number of persons affected in some way at 25 000.
Thus all sources point to 2500 - 3000 Tamil families displaced as the result of the so - called Weli Oya project. This is about the number of Sinhalese families the government claims to have settled in the area. The number of families which come within the entire "Special Area" number over 10 000 from the districts of Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Trincomalee. The Minister for Mahaveli Development is empowered to give them marching orders anytime, to evacuate lands on which they have lived for generations. We need not labour the point of how counter- productive and stupid the whole exercise has been. History is very eloquent.[Top]
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