Tamil politicians and parliamentarians belonging to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) have decried the Sri Lankan government’s plan to bring a collection of Tamil villages in Mullaitivu district under the Mahaweli Development Project, a move they allege is an attempt to colonise the link between the Northern and Eastern province, the traditional Tamil homeland.
The Mahaweli Development Programme has devised a plan to bring under its administration 8 villages that fall under the jurisdiction of Karaithuraipattu Divisional Secretary, namely; Kokkilai East, Kokkilai West, Kokkuthoduvai North, Kokkuthoduvai Centre, Kokkuthoduvai South, Karunaattukeni, Semmalai and Semmalai East.
Former Northern Provincial Council member Thurairasa Ravikaran denounced this as an attempt by the Mahaweli Authority to alter the ethnic composition of an all-Tamil Mullaitivu by creating Sinhalese settlements.
Ravikaran spoke to the press on Monday after receiving a petition by the Mullaitivu public resident in the villages in question which brought the issue to his attention. “These villages are seen as traditional Tamil areas that connect the North and East. The (Mahaweli) plan is an attempt to encroach the linking points by Sinhalising the areas, thereby sundering the Tamil homeland,” he said.
Ravikaran’s statement comes a few days after a secret conference that took place at the Secretariat of the Governor of Northern Province P.S.M. Charles. The meeting, presided over by the Governor and attended by members of the Mahaweli Authority, Buddhist monks from the Weli Oya colony (Manal Aru), officials of the Land Department and others, discussed ceding the villages in Mullaitivu to the Authority.
Governor Charles reportedly agreed to grant the villages in question to the Authority and it is suggested that the area will come under the jurisdiction of the Mahaweli L Zone. Farmers in the area expressed their anguish at the decision and worried that it will be soon followed by a growth in Sinhalese settlements in their homeland.
Ravikaran pointed out that the Mahaweli plan had already been proposed last year and “on 23rd October, 2020, thirteen of us Tamil parliamentarians signed and submitted a petition to Minister Chamal Rajapaksa requesting him to stop activities related to the plan. Following that, the project was terminated briefly.”
“At this stage, they (the Mahaweli authority) are trying to implement the plan, either with or without the knowledge of Minister Chamal Rajpaksa, and foist the project on the people who oppose it. They are planning to intensify attempts to lump these people together with the Sinhalese settlements created under the name Wali Oya,” Ravikaran said.
Mavai Senathirajah, a TNA MP, said, “If a Sinhalese majority emerges in our provinces, there will be no province for the Tamils.” Senathirajah was speaking to the press on Tuesday after Ravikaran and officials of the Karithuraipattu Divisional Secretariat briefed him on the impending colonization plan.
“Our parliamentarian will be speaking to Chamal Rajapaksa today on the Kalmunai issue. I’ve emphasised to Charles Nirmalathan on the phone that they speak with him about the colonisation by the Mahaweli Development Authority and the effects it would have on Tamil people’s lives,” he said.
TNPF MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam spoke in the Parliament about the issue on Tuesday and asked the President to cancel the order he had given to sanction the colonisation project.
“The President has unilaterally ordered the Mahaweli Authority to take responsibility of the Karaithuraipattu villages without consulting with the responsible authorities. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Ponnambalam said.
“I ask to stop this unjust move. I ask the President to reconsider his decision and put an end to such activities,” he added.
Tamil political parties suspect that the hasty and surreptitious move by the Governor has been made because if elections to the Provincial Council take place, the Council would then be reluctant to cede the Mullaitivu villages to the Mahaweli Authority.
Locals in Mullaitivu worry that if their villages are brought under the Authority, it might be possible that they will merged with the Sampathnuwara Divisional Secretariat, which grew out of sustained state-sponsored Sinhalese settlement near the border of the district.
They are also concerned that a move in the future might create a separate Weli Oya district with a Sinhalese majority which would form part of the Sinhalese North Central Province. If that happens, not only will their villages fall under Sinhalese domination, but the territorial contiguity of the Tamil homeland will be eliminated.