Land Issues in Sri Lanka Northern and Eastern Provinces

by R. Sampanthan MP

Rajavarothayam Sampanthan MP

Rajavarothayam Sampanthan MP

Mr. Deputy Speaker, my Adjournment Motion that I have proposed to move today deals with nine situations pertaining to land both in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. Land issues are a matter of grave concern to the Tamil-speaking people, both the Tamil people and the Muslim people in the North and the East.

We have made efforts consistently to highlight these issues by bringing these matters to the notice of the authorities concerned and requested that these issues be addressed and resolved in an acceptable way. We have done so at all levels of Government but unfortunately, results have not been yielded and consequent to results not being yielded, there is a compulsory need to raise these matters in Parliament and get a response from the Government.

We would like the Government to examine every one of the issues that we raise; we are prepared to give assistance to the Government in regard to that matter; we are prepared to work out solutions to each of these questions and in that background, Sir, we would like to know exactly what the Government’s response to this position is.

I will now read my Motion, Sir, having made those preliminary observations. Then, with regard to the Ruling which you have been pleased to give, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to say that in point one of my Motion, there is a reference to Valikamam. The allotment of land in Valikamam is totally in extent 6,381 acres and 38.97 perches. In size, it is almost two-thirds of the City of Colombo and about 35,000 people are being kept out of that land. It is true that some of the persons have gone to court. One of the persons who went to court most recently was the son of the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar, a former Foreign Minister. He has gone to court most recently saying that the Government is illegally attempting to acquire the land. The Government has stated that the land is to be acquired to formally vest a land where the Defence Battalion Headquarters is currently situated in the High Security Zone. That is the “public purpose” that they have defined in regard to the reason for the acquisition of the land. Of course, we know that golf courses are coming up there, swimming pools are coming up there and palatial bungalows are coming up there, which cannot be categorized within the expression, “public purpose” or the Government wants to acquire the whole land. All the persons who own this large extent of land 6,381 acres and 38.97 perches, have not gone to court and I am certainly entitled to move this Motion in regard to lands of persons who have not gone to court.

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TNA poster Sept 2013 Northern Provincial elections

The rule of sub judice, if at all, would apply only to persons who have gone to court but in reference to the discussion we had, Sir, at the Party Leaders’ Meeting, I will not insist on moving the Motion pertaining to Valikamam though I do want to mention that in respect of the lands of persons who have not gone to court, out of the large extent of 6,381 acres and 38.97 perches, I would be entitled to speak on behalf of those persons who have not gone to court.

Nevertheless, Sir, I have decided that I will not insist on speaking in regard to that matter apart from what I have mentioned already. I will say nothing more in regard to Valikamam but we would certainly appeal to the Government to take steps to ensure that their present acquisition proceedings are abandoned and that these lands are returned to the people to whom they belong including your own former Foreign Minister, the late Hon. Lakshman Kadiragaamar’s son, whose land too you are attempting to acquire. I will now, Sir, read my Motion. I will read it point by point, Sir, and I will make my comments on each point because otherwise there will be a repetition of what I am saying.

Sir, I move,

“1) The Government through its armed forces on grounds of security has continued to hold in its possession substantial extents of lands owned and / or possessed by Tamil civilians from which lands the said Tamil civilians were earlier evicted and to which lands the said civilians have not been permitted to return for purposes of residence or livelihood, though such security considerations do not apply any longer.
Location – Valikamam, Jaffna District; Sampur – Trincomalee District.”

2) The Government through its armed forces has taken possession of substantial extents of land owned and/or possessed by Tamil civilians, from which extents of land, the said Tamil civilians were displaced as a result of the war, and to which lands the said civilians are not permitted to return for residence or livelihood by reason of the said lands being in the possession of the armed forces.
Location- Kepapulavu in the Mullaitivu District, uthukudiyiruppu, Kokulai, Akkaraiveli, Mariyamunnai, Mankulam, Oddusuddan in the Mullaitivu District, Thalladdi, Sannar, Mullikulam, Musali, Aaatkativali, Vellankulam in the Mannar District. “

3) The Government through its armed forces has taken possession of substantial extents of land for the purposes of the construction of Housing facilities for the Armed Forces or for the purposes of Agricultural activities by the Armed Forces which lands would in the future, become the property of the members of the Armed Forces in violation of the legitimate claim to such lands of citizens resident in the said areas and their descendants for their residence, livelihood and other numerous civilian needs. Such a clandestine take over of lands would be in violation of the law.
Location – Iranamadu Tank Area, Theravil, Mukkomban, Chunnavil, Lands under village Tanks, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts.

4) The Government arbitrarily taking over substantial extents of lands purportedly for development activities, such as tourism and other industries disregarding the legitimate residential and livelihood needs of persons historically inhabiting such areas, and making arbitrary allocations of such lands to chosen others in a manner that is discriminatory and lacking in due process and transparency.
Location – Tourism – Kumburupiddy, Kuchchavelli, Trincomalee District. Raigam Saltern, Kuchchavelli, Trincomalee District – Army run Hotels Thalsevana Holiday Resort. Jaffna District: Yogurt Factory, Myliddy, Jaffna.

5) The Government arbitrarily taking over substantial extents of lands, wholly or partly owned or possessed by local residents and which include irrigation and other facilities benefiting local residents ostensibly for religious purposes, in which areas, persons belonging to the said religious faith do not reside, clearly raising the question of whether the Government is planning to settle on such lands persons of such religious faith without resort to due process and in a manner that is discriminatory and lacking in transparency.
Location – Thiriyai, Sembimalai, Illanthaikulam, Kuchchavelli Uppural Illangathurai, Muhathuvaram, Verugal D.S. Division, Trincomalee District.

6) The defilement and desecration of both religious and cultural places of the utmost importance to the Tamil Hindu people, and the attempt to obliterate by destruction, evidence of the existence of such religious and cultural places, efforts to forcibly take over possession of such places from the local authority which has administered such places and the installation of new administration arrangements so as to interfere with and impede the use of such places by the Tamil Hindu people who have historically from time immemorial exercised such rights.
Location – Agasthyar Sithamparam Sivan Temple Kanguvelli – Muthur D.S. Division, Kanniya Hot Wells, Trincomalee Town and Gravets D.S. Division.

7) The forcible cultivation of lands by trespassers, in violation of the rights of persons who own or have possessed these lands and cultivated same, prior to being displaced as a result of the war, and the failure on the part of the Government to take effective steps to restore possession of the said lands to the persons entitled thereto, thereby enabling them to commence their livelihood and be permanently resettled, despite numerous complaints to the relevant authorities.
Location -Thennamarvadi, Kuchchaveli D.S. Division, Paddukaddu Kanguveli, Mutur D.S. Division, Trincomalee District.

8) The forcible eviction by the armed forces of local people, displaced on account of the war from lands owned or possessed by them for long and the consequent inability of such people to be resettled on such lands or commence their livelihood.
Location – Jinnapuram Sinnandangkulam, Mankindi Malai, Pulmoddai, Kuchchaveli D.S. Division, Trincomalee District, Puthumathalan, Mullivaikkal West, Mullivaikkal East, Ambalavan Pokkanai, Valaingarmadam, Ananthapuram and Keppapulavu Mullaitivu District.

9) The forcible occupation by persons of the majority community of State lands in various parts of the North and East, actively supported by persons in Government and the failure on the part of the Government to take any action whatever in regard to such illegal occupation clearly indicating the Government complicity in such action. Such illegal occupation would in due course be legalized without resort to due process and in a manner lacking transparency.
Location – TrincomaleeHorawpatana Road, Seruwila-Polonnaruwa Road – Kantalai-Seruwila Road, Trincomalee-Habarana Road- Trincomalee District. Manal AruWelioya, Thalapogaswewa-Mullaitivu Vavuniya Districts.

The above actions with the explicit or implicit involvement of the Government are clearly indicative of a design to alter the cultural and linguistic identity of the North and East and to further change the demographic composition of the said areas.

These steps pertaining to Land also raise grave doubts in regard to an honest commitment on the part of the Government to resolve land issues in such a manner as to facilitate resettlement and rehabilitation of people displaced by the war or faithfully implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission or the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2012 and March 2013.

These actions pertaining to lands are clearly indicative of the Government collaborating in aggressively implementing a secret agenda, which would in the thinking of such persons render superfluous the need for political resolution leading to genuine reconciliation.

The Tamil National Alliance as the democratically elected representative of the Tamil people of the North and East calls upon the Government to immediately investigate credibly the several matters set out in this Motion and take immediate action to redress and remedy the several matter referred to in this Motion, so as to assure the Tamil people of Equality and Justice as citizens of this country”.

Sir, these lands were declared as High Security Zones when the LTTE was in possession of long-range artillery and when installations of Government were vulnerable to attacks with the use of such artillery. For that reason, a large extent of land was declared as High Security Zone.

Now, the LTTE is not there; the artillery is not there; the danger is no longer there and therefore, there can be no justification for the continuance of these High Security Zones.

I will not comment about Valikamam, Sir, in keeping with the undertaking I just gave you. But, I would talk about Sampur in Trincomalee District. Sir, in Sampur, there are 2,795 acres of land privately-owned still being held by the Government and the armed forces. There are 1,486 families who have not been able to commence resettlement.

I have raised this matter in Parliament even before and on one occasion when I raised this matter in Parliament, the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development, who is in fact present in the House even now, was kind enough to stand up in Parliament in response to my urging him to give back the land to these people and say, “Any land which is not necessary and which will not be acquired for the construction of the power plant will be given back to these people and they will be resettled. Any land which will not be required for the Indian-Sri Lankan power plant will be handed over to the people. We have permitted them to cultivate. We want them to cultivate this time also. We will never unnecessarily keep anybody out of their own lands. We will guarantee that”.

I was very thankful to the Hon. Minister. We would like that assurance to be kept.

That assurance was made by the Hon. Minister on the 21st of October, 2011and now we are in 2013, in the month of August. Only two months more for two years to go. Apart from one village, Navarathnapuram, where about 100 families have been resettled, the people have not been resettled in the other areas. We want the people to be resettled as early as possible.

As I said before, there are 2,795 acres of private land in this area belonging to 1,486 families. There is a famous ancient temple called the Sri Bhadrakali Amman Temple at Sampur. People cannot even go to that temple. The war was over in 2009 and four years have gone by. So, we would like, Sir, these matters to be looked into and the people in Sampur to be resettled along with the persons in Valikamam. Apart from those who have gone to court, I am entitled to talk about the others. But, I will not insist on moving my Motion, Sir, as it presently stands.

Sir, point 2 in my Motion states: “The Government through its armed forces has taken possession of substantial extents of land owned and/or possessed by Tamil civilians, from which extents of land, the said Tamil civilians were displaced as a result of the war, and to which lands the said civilians are not permitted to return for residence or livelihood by reason of the said lands being in the possession of the armed forces.
Location- Kepapulavu in the Mullaitivu District, Pudukudiyiruppu, Kokulai, Akkaraiveli, Mariyamunnai, Mankulam, Oddusuddan in the Mullaitivu District, Thalladdi, Sannar, Mullikulam, Musali, Aaatkativali, Vellankulam in the Mannar District”.

I will, Sir, give the particulars in regard to these matters. The 59th Division of the army has built a large military facility in Kepapulavu in the Mullaitivu District. The families belonging to Kepapulavu were forced to relocate to Seenimottai, a barren area in South Eastern Kepapulavu as a temporary measure upon leaving Manik Farm in September 2012.

Then, I come on to army occupation of private land in Pudukudiyirippu. The 7th Division takes over land for the purpose of a camp and an army hospital. Land concerned is 13 acres. The army takes over four shops belonging to businessmen within the Pudukudiyurippu city limits. The army occupies Pudukudiyurippu market land belonging to the Pradeshiya Sabha for the purpose of running an army canteen. Then, denial of access by the army to 2,000 acres of paddy land belonging to the people in Kokulai, Akkaraiveli and Mariyamunnai. The army occupies land close to the old Army Camp in Mankulum. The army occupies land in Oddusuddan, the Muthiankattu Water Supply Department building, the Mankulum Water Supply Department building, the Olimadu Pradeshiya Sabha building and the Olimadu Ayurvedic Hospital building. All these buildings meant for public use are being occupied by the army and the people are prevented from using these buildings for the purposes for which they are meant.

In the Mannar District, the military has been directly responsible for the displacement of communities owing to the establishment of cantonments. The army evicted the people of Mullikulum from their homes in September 2007. Thereafter, the Navy’s North-Western Command Headquarters was established in Mullikulum. Land occupied is approximately 250 acres. The boundary of the Naval Headquarters extends over private lands, lands belonging to the Catholic Church, lands belonging to the village school and six large tanks. People cannot have access to these areas. They are all under army and navy control.

The navy occupies 30 acres of land for the purpose of building the Talaimannar Pier. The army occupies 272 acres of land in Thalladdi and 3,500 acres in Sannar for a military training institute. Most of this land belongs to civilians. The army occupies 950 acres of land in Mullikulam and Musali. In Mullikulam, the entire land is owned by civilians. In Musli, 90 per cent of the land is owned by civilians. The army occupies 10 acres of land in Aatkativali, earlier used by the LTTE. The army occupies 600 acres of land at Vellankulam, which was a farm belonging to the Tamil civilians and later occupied by the LTTE.

Sir,that is the position with regard to the extents of land, buildings, irrigation facilities which are meant to be used by the civilians, but which they are unable to use in the various areas which I have mentioned in the Mannar and Mullaitivu Districts.

My 3rd point is: “The Government through its armed forces has taken possession of substantial extents of land for the purposes of the construction of housing facilities for the armed forces or for the purposes of agricultural activities by the armed forces, which lands would in future, become the property of the members of the armed forces in violation of the legitimate claim to such lands of citizens resident in the said areas and their descendents for their residence, livelihood and other numerous civilian needs. Such a clandestine takeover of lands would be in violation of the law”.

I will now read out to you, Sir, the locations where all these activities are carried out by the armed forces, largely in the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts. They are: West of the Iranamadu Tank, East of the A9 Highway and on 4,600 hectares of land – approximately 12,000 acres of land.

Approximately 10,000 houses are being built for the army. These are not camps. Ten thousand houses are being built for the army. It is a large housing scheme. The majority of them are going to be soldiers from other parts of the country. They will come and settle down in those houses with their families. That is what they are planning to do.

In Iranamadu, the army is cultivating 25 acres of land with vegetables. In Theravil, 150 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with fruits. In Vallamkulam, about 600 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with cadjunuts. In Mukkombu, 100 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with coconuts. In Chunnavil, 600 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with cadjunuts. These are all in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts. People cannot go there. The army takes the produce for their use and markets the balance.

How can people compete with the army? The army has their water pumped free; they have their fuel free; they have their fertilizer free and they have their seeds free.

How can the people survive? How can the people sell their produce?

What is happening? If houses are constructed for them, the resulting position will be that the army will occupy those houses with their families in due course and as far as their livelihood is concerned, they are already in possession of land. Apart from what I mentioned, the army is cultivating substantial extents of land under village tanks. So, they do not have to look for livelihood; it is already available. All they have to do is, at a convenient point of time, whenever they desire, bring their families and settle down in this area.

I will get on to my 4th point: “The Government arbitrarily taking over substantial extents of lands purportedly for development activities, such as tourism and other industries disregarding the legitimate residential and livelihood needs of persons historically inhabiting such areas, and making arbitrary allocations of, such lands to chosen others in a manner that is discriminatory and lacking in due process and transparency.
Locations – Tourism – Kumpurupiddi, Kuchchaveli, Trincomalee District. Raigam Saltern, Kuchchaveli, Trincomalee District – Army-run Hotels like Thalsevana Holiday Resort. Jaffna District: yoghurt factory Myliddy, Jaffna”.

Sir, there was a large extent of land which was used by the people of Kumpurupiddi and the adjoining areas for the purpose of onion cultivation. Those lands were all taken over. These people had been cultivating onions in that land for several decades but Government apathy resulted in those people not being given permits for those lands. Some of them wanted that land for residential purposes. They do not have any land, either a residential land or land for the purpose of livelihood. They wanted this land to be given to them. But, now the land has been taken over for the purpose of tourism.

Sir, I am tabling* the plan of the land taken over, prepared by the Surveyor-General; an extent of 206 hectares which will be about more than 500 acres. This land has been plotted out. A big golf course is due to come up there; hotels are due to come up there. It is all being done in secrecy. There is no public notification of the availability of this land for tourist development. In one of the lands, a tourist hotel has come up. The land has been valued at Rs. 140,000 a perch and Rs. 20 million per acre. The local people have been deprived of this land and the land is going to be used for purposes of development at the expense of the local people in such a way that only chosen people will have access to these lands. This has not been done under the due process with any measure of transparency that would enable anyone to apply for this land. What is much worse is that the local people who had been cultivating on these lands for several decades have been deprived of these lands and kept out.

A saltern called the “Raigam Saltern” has come up on Karachi land which is in the extent 1,805 acres at Periyakaraichchi, Kuchchaveli, in Trincomalee. When this proposal was mooted, I had the good fortune of meeting His Excellency the President and also the Minister, Hon. Basil Rajapaksa. I met them together. I had a meeting at the Presidential House and when I mentioned this, I was told, “No, that will not happen. No saltern will come up there”. I explained to them that over 2,000 Tamil and Muslim families depend on the expanse of Karachi land for prawn farming from which they derive their income to sustain themselves and over 500 other families benefit from subsidiary employment related to prawn farming and if this land is taken over for a saltern, 2,500 families will be affected. I appealed that it should not be taken over. The President assured me that it will not be done but the saltern has come up and the saltern is functioning.

Persons have been brought to work in the saltern from outside and the persons who were carrying on prawn farming on this land – about 2,500 families both Tamil and Muslim were depending on the income derived from this land – have been deprived of this land. I state this, Sir, because we want this House to know that we have taken up this question at all levels, even at the level of the President, at the level of Ministers, at the level of authorities and asked that these things not be done. But, there has been no response, no favourable response.

The army is running a hotel called “Thalsevana Holiday Resort” and a yoghurt factory in Milliddy, Jaffna. I would like to ask, Sir, why the army should be engaged in manufacturing yoghurt or running hotels or holiday resorts. It surely must be left to the civilian people of that area, which will enable the people of that area to be the beneficiaries and not the army to be the beneficiaries.

My next point, point No. 5 is: “The Government is arbitrarily taking over lands, substantial extents of lands, wholly or partly-owned or possessed by local residents and which include irrigation and other facilities benefiting local residents, ostensibly for religious purposes, for the benefit of one religion”. None of us have anything else but the maximum respect and veneration for Buddhism. I do not want to be misunderstood when I say certain things. I do not pass a Buddhist Temple without bowing my head. When I go to Kataragama, if I travel along the Galle Road, I always stop at the Kalutara Maha Bodhi and first pay my respects to the Kalutara Maha Bodhi before I go to Kataragama. I do not return from Kataragama without going to the Kiri Vehera. So, I do not want any misunderstanding in regard to this matter. But, substantial extents of land are being taken over in our areas for the installation of Buddhist influence. Persons belonging to the said religious group do not reside in .those areas, clearly raising the question whether the Government is planning to settle on such lands persons of such religious faith without resort to due process and in a manner that is discriminatory and lacking in transparency.

The location, Sir, is Thiriyai, Sembimalai, Ilanthaikulam, in the Kuchchaveli DS Division in Trincomalee District. Uppural, Elangaithuraimugathuwaram in the Verugal DS Division in the Trincomalee District. One thousand two hundred and forty two hectares of land, approximately over 5,000 acres of land, had been identified and surveyed. I have in my hand a copy of that plan. The plan says the land to be declared as “Pooja Bhoomi” at Thiriyai. I will table* this, Sir, and request that this plan be included in Hansard at the end of my Speech.

There is an ancient dagoba in that place, which had survived the war. It is still there; there is no problem in regard to the dagoba. There are no Sinhala Buddhist people who live in this area but 5,000 acres of land have been declared as a pooja bhoomi. What is it going to be used for? Why 5,000 acres of land? Is it going to be used to bring in to that area people from outside and settle persons of the majority community and the majority religion in those areas? These are vital question that we are concerned about. That is an ancient village, Thiriyai. No damage had been caused to dagoba; the dagoba is quite safe. Pilgrims come from outside, pay their respects and return. Why should such a large extent of land be allocated for a religious purpose in that area?

Sir, in Sembimalai in Kuchchaveli DS Division in Trincomalee, 23 hectares of land, approximately 58 acres of land, have been identified as pooja bhoomi. Why should this be done? There is said to be the remnants of an ancient Buddhist vihara in that area. Why should 58 acres of land be given? There are no Sinhala Buddhist people who live in that area, but such an extent of land is being given for a religious purpose.

In Ilanthaikulam, the third area, 138 hectares of land amounting to 341 acres are to be declared as a pooja bhoomi. There are no Sinhalese Buddhist people living in this area. There were Muslim people living in that area. There are some Muslim people who are permit holders of this land. There was a Muslim school in that area in Ilanthaikulam. The Muslim people lived there, but now that land is being taken over and declared as a pooja bhoomi. I am tabling*, Sir, the plans in respect of Sembimalai and Ilanthaikulam and the tenement sheets attached to those plans.

In the Uppural Grama Sevaka Division in the Verugal DS Division, there was a Murugan Temple from time immemorial on a rock close to the villages of Uppural and Elangaithuraimugathuwaram. In Uppural, 250 Tamil Hindu families live, in Elangaithuraimugathuwaram, 350 Tamil Hindu families live and not one Sinhala family lives in that area. Now, that Murugan Temple has disappeared from the rock. A monk has suddenly appeared on the rock along with a statue of Lord Buddha, and a Buddhist temple has come up there. The temple had been given 5.26 hectares of land, around 13 acres. There are no Sinhala Buddhist people in that area to give dana to the monk. Dana is given to the monk by the army.

Sir, there was also an Amman Temple called Malai Neethi Amman Temple at Elangaithuraimugathuwaram in the Verugal DS Division. All the families who live around that area are Tamil Hindu families and not one single Buddhist family lives there. The Malai Neethi Amman had been removed from the rock and kept on the roadside in a small hut and a statue of Lord Buddha has been installed on the rock by the Amman walls. A monk resides on the rock with the statue of Lord Buddha. No Sinhalese people are there to give dana to the monk. Dana is given by the army.

We are very concerned about these things, Sir, because we see these steps being taken by the Government to declare such extents of land as being required for particular religious purposes as a deliberate, calculated attempt to change the cultural and linguistic identity of those areas. I am sorry to state that the Archaeological Department is playing a very sinister role on the pretext of preserving places of archaeological value. I think they are encouraging land being taken over by persons who are motivated by a designed plan so that such land can be used by them for the purposes for which they wanted to use it when it is convenient, which would be to change the demographic composition and the cultural and linguistic identity of those areas. I can understand it being done if Sinhala Buddhist people live there. But, no Sinhala Buddhist people live there. Sir, how can these be done? Why should these be done?

While these have been done in regard to one religion, the religion of the majority, what is happening to the other places of religious and cultural importance of the Tamil Hindu people? We have a Sivan Temple in a village called Kanguveli in Mutur. It is an ancient Sivan temple called the Agasthiyar Sthapanam. The temple was built by Agasthiyar and is said to be over 2,500 years old. That temple had been destroyed. I have got here with me, Sir, a whole lot of pictures of the statues of that temple, of Lord Ganapathy, Lord Shiva and of various ceremonies being performed. They performed the Aadi Amavasai festival there. I have got some pictures here of members of that village being engaged in a fire-walking ceremony at the time of Aadi Amavasai festival in that temple, which is very close to the ganga. That temple too had been destroyed. I do not want to table these pictures, Sir. But, I want to table* a letter which I sent to the President in regard to this matter on the 29th of May, 2010. In fact, I met him personally and complained to him about this matter before I sent the letter. I sent the letter but there has been no response. The temple is yet lying in a state of destruction and the Government does not seem to be concerned. Surely, Sir, when we write to the Government about such serious matters, if the Government is not complicit in such activities, we expect a response from the Government but there has been no response.

Similarly, Sir, the Kanniya seven hot water wells, is an ancient place of cultural importance to the Tamil Hindu people. From time immemorial, people have performed the 31st Day Ceremony of their kith and kin at this place. It was controlled by the Local Authority who maintain the seven hot water wells which goes back to Ravana’s time. The history of the hot water wells is interrelated to Koneswaran which is looked upon as Dakshina Kailasam – the Southern abode of Lord Shiva. Now, some monks have gone and taken over the place. The Government Agent of the area is a retired military official who had been there for seven years. The Sri Lanka Administrative Service Association has protested him being appointed as the Government Agent because he is a retired army official, but that person had been there for seven years. He has been allowed to go on. He has gone to this place and removed the board of the Local Authority which contained some information in regard to the importance of that place. Now, a statue of the Lord Buddha has appeared in that area. There was a temple of Lord Pillayar in front of the seven hot water wells and that temple has been destroyed. The statue of Lord Pillayar has been taken away and kept aside in a small shed and what one who goes there sees is the statue of the Lord Buddha. I am a little ashamed that the statues of the Lord Buddha are being used for such nefarious purposes. The entire objective is to take over the seven hot water wells for commercial purposes to make money out of it. As a result of these new people taking control of that area, the Hindu public who go there to perform their 31st Day Ceremony – as they have done for several generations and several centuries – face several impediments in performing those ceremonies.

Now, Sir, I am told that steps are being taken to allocate some lands behind the hot water wells for the construction of a Vihara and after they do that, they want to close the present road that leads to hot water wells, open up a new road through the Vihara to the hot water wells so that the hot water wells will be annexed to the Vihara and become a part of the Vihara property. I am amazed that this type of outrageous thing is being done without the Government taking any action, whatsoever, to prevent this matter. I wrote to the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, who is the senior adviser to the President about this matter and asked for the intervention of the Government. I am tabling* that letter dated 20th of July, 2009. I wanted the Government to intervene and stop this matter but there has been no response, no answer whatsoever.

So, what is the inference you have to draw? I would better draw the inference that the Government is also a party to such activities.

The President delivered his Independence Day speech, this time celebrated in Trincomalee on the 04th of February, 2013. I have here with me a copy of the speech reported in the newspapers the next day. The President referred to the Vilgam Vihara in the course of his speech. He said, “In building up the Vilgam Rajamaha Viharaya here in Trincomalee, at a certain era the Tamil Hindus also contributed as much as Sinhala Buddhists”. He seems to be aware of that. As a matter of fact, the Tamil people at one time were Buddhists. Many of them had embraced Buddhism. As you know, Sir, there is not much of a difference between Buddhism and Hinduism. Many people take the view that Buddhism is in fact a refined and revised version of Hinduism. There are many letters, inscriptions written in the Tamil language in Vilgam Vihara showing that the Tamil people had been worshipping at that Vihara in ancient times. Now, that Vihara is seeking to take over the seven hot water wells which goes back to Ravana’s time and where the Tamil Hindu people have been performing their 31st Day Ceremony. I have gone there from the days of my childhood to attend so many ceremonies of my near relations. They want to take over that for commercial purposes, attach it to the Vihara, close the existing access to the seven hot water wells and open up a new access.

These types of activities are going on brazenly without any effort on the part of the Government to stop these things.

The next point, point 7, I want to refer to, Sir, is “the forcible cultivation of land by trespassers in violation of the rights of the persons who owned or have possessed these lands and cultivated same prior to being displaced as a result of the war and the failure on the part of the Government to take effective steps to restore possession of the said lands to the persons entitled thereto, thereby enabling them to commence their livelihood and be permanently resettled, despite numerous complaints to ther elevant authorities.
Location – ThennamaravaddyKuchchaveli DS Division and Paddukaddu-Kanguvelli, Muttur DS Division, Trincomalee District”.

People in Thennamaravaddy were displaced, evicted in December, 1984. That is an ancient village. People of Kanguvelli were displaced at various points of time. They have now come back. They have 800 acres of paddy fields in Kanguvelli called Paddakadu. These people have been cultivating these lands in Thennamaravaddy for generations and centuries. Now, the lands are being held by other persons, by Sinhala colonists from the adjoining areas like Padaviya, Dehiwatte and so on and so forth. They have got their own lands but they have trespassed on these lands and are forcibly cultivating these lands. These poor people have complained to the Government Agent; they have complained to the Divisional Secretary; they have complained to the Provincial Land Commissioner; they have complained to the police and I have intervened on their behalf. I have requested that these people be given back their lands. I have got here with me the letters sent to me by them. The police have gone and inquired, the Divisional Secretaries have inquired and despite all these inquiries being conducted by all these officials, these people will not give up possession of these lands. They are cultivating their own lands in their colonization schemes and insisting on cultivating the lands from which they were displaced on account of the war and now they have come back and they want to cultivate their lands. They are unable to do so.

We are told, Sir, Provincial Councils cannot have land powers; cannot have police powers; they must all remain with the centre to perpetuate these evil practices and to perpetrate such further evil practices.

The 8th point, Sir, that I would refer to is: “The forcible eviction by the armed forces of local people, displaced on account of the war from lands owned or possessed by them for long and the consequent inability of such people to be resettled on such lands or commence their livelihood.
Location -Jinnapuram Sinnandangkulam, Mankindi Malai, Pulmoddai, Kuchchaveli DS Division, Trincomalee District. Puthumathalan, Mullivaikkal West, Mullivaikkal East, Ambalavan Pokkanai, Valaignarmadam, Ananthapuram and Keppapulavu, Mullaitivu District”.

I have got with me, Sir, here, the letters sent to me by 118 people, Muslim people in Pulmoddai, whose parents and grandparents lived on these lands. All of them do not hold permits on account of Government’s apathy in issuing permits. I have got with me a Crown Grant issued to one person to show how ancient the occupations of these lands by these people have been; they have all been chased out by the navy which says that they require the land and that these people must leave. How can this be done? How can you chase our people like this from the lands on which they have been living for so long? But, they have complained to the Government Agent; they have complained to the Divisional Secretary; they have made efforts to regain possession of land, but they have been told, “No way; you cannot come back to these lands”.

In the Mullaitivu District, the families in the villages of Puthumathalan, Mullivaikkal West, Mullivaikkal East, Ambalavan Pokkanai, Valaignarmadam, Ananthapuram and even at Menik Farm at Cheddikulam and some of them with host families in Vavuniya want to get back to their lands. They are all persons who are engaged in fishing. These lands are close to the sea; they want to live on their lands because they need to carry on their livelihood activities but they have been told that they cannot get back to their lands and that is wanted by the military. Is that for their own purposes or to bring in their own fishing people there and settle them on those lands? They have been told that they must go to a place called Kombavil which is about eight kilometres away from the sea. And, these people who are fishermen are unable to live on their lands and carry on their fishing and they are compelled to go to a place eight miles away.

The 9th point that I have mentioned in my Motion, which is in fact my last point, states, “The forcible occupation by persons of the majority community of State lands in various parts of the North and the East, actively supported by persons in Government and the failure on the part of the Government to take any action whatever in regard to such illegal occupation clearly indicating the Government complicity in such action. Such illegal occupation would in due course be legalized without resort to due process and in a manner lacking transparency.
Location – Trincomalee – Horawpatana Road, Seruwila-Polonnaruwa Road-Kantalai-Seruwila Road, Trincomalee-Habarana Road, Trincomalee District; Manal Aru-Welioya, and a place called in Tamil Kokkachchankulam, now called Thalapogaswewa in the Mullaitivu and Vavuniya District”.

I have referred to these matters even earlier in Parliament Sir, in regard to all these illegal encroachments by people on the roads. No action has been taken against them. Why? They are trespassing on State lands. They would all be given permits in due course and they will become permanent inhabitants there. Nobody is interested in stopping that.

In regard to the other matter, Sir, in regard to Manal Aru, Welioya and Kokkachchankulam, now called Thalapogaswewa, a fact-finding team had gone to this area recently and they have come up with a report. This is what is stated in that report. In Welioya, called Tamil Manal Aru, that was the ancient name and in Thalapogaswewa, called in Tamil Kokkachchankulam, one is in Mullaitivu and the other is in Vavuniya,

Sinhalese settlers are being brought in by the Government in busloads for colonization. To date, there have been about 4,800 Sinhalese families brought to Welioya, that is Manal Aru and about 2,000 families to Thalapogaswewa, that is Kokkachchankulam. On 20th April, the President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Welioya and personally instructed the Government officials to expedite settlement there and handed over land documents to new settlers. How come? How can it be done in this way? Current Sinhala settlement is taking place under the tight control of the Governor, especially appointed army officers and Sinhala Government officers in these two areas. Even the NGOs cannot have access to Welioya, Manal Aru or Thalapogaswewa, Kokkachchankulam without the prior permission of the officers concerned. It goes onto say that there is a plan to settle at least 22,000 Sinhalese before the Provincial Council Election are held in the Mullaitivu District. So, you will see, Mr. Presiding Member, that this is the position in which we are now.

Before I proceed any further, I want to pose just one question. I have dealt with the nine matters that I have referred to in my Motion. Sir, these things seem to be done without any regard for the law. I do not think, under the law of the land, these things can be done.

I will not read at length from a judgement delivered by the Supreme Court in regard to land powers vested in the Provincial Councils. This was on an application made by an Hon. Member of this House. The Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakkara went to the Supreme Court by way of a Fundamental Rights Application. In the course of that hearing when the court delivered its judgement, this is what the Court said. I will just read one paragraph from the Judgement. It says, I quote:

“’Appendix II’ my view establishes an interactive legal regime in respect of State Land within a Province. Whilst the ultimate power of alienation and of making a dispositions remains with the President, the exercise of the power would be subject to the conditions in Appendix II being satisfied.

A pre-condition laid down in paragraph 1.3 is that an alienation or disposition of State land within a Province shall be done in terms of the applicable law only on the advice of the Provincial Council. The advice would be of the Board of Ministers communicated through the Governor. The Board of Ministers being responsible in this regard to the Provincial Council.”

Are all these things being done on the advice of the Board of Ministers of the Provincial Council? Certainly not. If that is so, how are these things being done? Under what law are those things being done?

Today, Sir, we have many questions being raised in public with regard to the Thirteenth Amendment. I do not want to take your time very much. We have the Joint Statement signed by the President along with the Secretary-General of the UN. We have the speech delivered by the President at the inaugural meeting of the APRC and the Committee of Experts, where he has not merely talked of implementing in full the Thirteenth Amendment, but going beyond the Thirteenth Amendment and building upon the Thirteenth Amendment, so as to bring about maximum devolution.

The President wanted maximum possible devolution when he delivered his inaugural address. He wanted security to be looked after. He wanted identity to be preserved. He wanted devolution, that will enable socioeconomic advancement. He talked of the BandaranaikeChelvanayakam Pact. He wanted that Pact to be studied. That Pact gave the entire power to select allottees to regional councils. The Dudley SenanayakeChelvanayakam Pact gave a preferential right, subject to the prior right of landless people in an area, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces to the Tamil-speaking people primarily from the provinces concerned and subsequently even from the rest of the country, Tamilspeaking people were to be given priority. That was the position. There were statements made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of our country. Statements made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India. They all talked in terms of the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and building on the Thirteenth Amendment so as to bring about meaningful devolution.

Are all these being done? Are the present actions in conformity with these assurances made at different points of time? Can the Thirteenth Amendment be disregarded? Can it be ignored? Can the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord be disregarded? It is covered by the Vienna Convention. No country is entitled unilaterally to abrogate that Accord. That is not possible.

So, this is the situation in which we are, Sir. Land powers are fundamental. I have demonstrated how unjustly actions have been taken in regard to land, which has had a very, very adverse impact on both the Tamil people and the Muslim people of the North and the East.

We have brought these matters to the notice of the Government because we want the Government to take action in regard to these matters. We want the Government to investigate every one of the points I have raised here in this House today. We are prepared to assist the Government in regard to this matter, to be able to resolve these land issues in such a way that justice is done and there is an acceptable resolution of the issue. We want the Government to engage itself actively in this matter and we are prepared to co-operate with the Government to resolve these issues. But, the present thinking of the Government does not seem to be on those lines.

Nevertheless, Sir, on behalf of the Tamil-speaking people, I want to appeal to the Government to kindly bring to an end these very unjust procedures and actions that presently prevail on the question of land in both the Northern and Eastern Provinces. I thank you Sir)

(The Hon. M.A. Sumanthiran)

I second the Motion presented by the Hon. Memberfor Trincomalee.

As agreed, I will not speak at length but I will take just two minutes with the permission of the Chair, to read out a story from an ancient text.

Sometime later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the Palace of Ahab, King of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.

But, Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors”. So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors”. He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat? “

He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite”.

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But, seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death”.

So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has seen stoned to death”.

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead”.

When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab, King of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood – yes, yours!’”

Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. He says, “I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel – slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat and that of Baasha, son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have

caused Israel to sin’.”

“And also concerning Jezebel, the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel’.”

“Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country”.

This is taken from the Bible, 1 Kings 21, and because this story is important, I am tabling* the Sinhala and Tamil versions of this to be included in Hansard.

Thank you. (TNAPolitics.org)