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The Sinhalese in Jaffna face problems merely because of them being Sinhala

(Translation of an interview of Ven Akmeemana Dayarathne thero had with Eric Gamini Jinapriya published in Sunday Divaina of 29thDec 2013 by Ranjith Soysa))

 On  24th of  November in Irida Divaina , M.A.Sumanthran, MP has stated that still it is  a problem to know definitely  whether the Sinhalese who have arrived in Navakuuli were displaced due to war or not.

Therefore, we decided to seek the comments from Ven Akmeemana Dayarratne thero who is involved  in the resettlement of the Sinhalese in the North.

Question- What is the position of the Sinhlaese who were resettled in Jaffna?

Answer- Now 4 years have elapsed after the war in the Northern Province. The steps have been taken to resettle the Tamil people and the LTTE cadres too. Towards this end the Government, NGOs and the army have extended maximum support.  They have also assisted in a big way to uplift the standard of living of the community.  The settlers have been given agricultural implements, seed material and also every assistance to market their products. We have no problems with these efforts to help these people. That is what is meant by empowering the people. Not only in Jaffna, everywhere in Sri Lanka theTamil people do enjoy decent living standards. Therefore, the Tamils do nor encounter any problems merely because they are Tamils.

But, it is clear that the Sinhalese who are planning to re-settle in Jaffna do have a problem merely because of being Sinhalese. We know that there is a large Buddhist area in the North. Therefore, we believe that there had been a large Sinhala population in the North and by the time the incidents in ‘83 took place there were nearly 17,000 Sinhalese families living in these areas. They were involved in among others in running   bakeries, jewellery shops etc. Among them were the ones who migrated from the South as well as others who were born there. The Sinhala Maha Vidyalya where they received education is still can be seen in Jaffna.

Even though there were 17,000 Sinhala families living in Jaffna to date neither the government nor a NGO had helped a single Sinhala family to re-settle in the North. As at present the regional power is in the hands of Tamil leaders. They and the Muslim leaders talk of the concerns of the Tamils and the Muslims. We are happy that they are interested   in their own communities. But, it is indeed surprising to note that even the Sinhala leaders air their views on the Tamil and Muslim people but dare not speak about the plight of the Sinhalese. There are no leaders to speak about the Sinhalese . The Sinhalese have become helpless in their own country of birth. The pathetic situation was created due to the non –recognition of the plight of the Sinhalese by those who are responsible for the local and national politics as well as the NGOS. They have failed provide them with lands to resettle and help them to build house including assistance to lead a normal life.

But, we have observed that the political extremism is in operation and all facilities are provide to the Tamil people while the Sinhalese are neglected. There are reports that the assistance will be extended to the Muslim people too. But, we can say that not a single house had been given to a person of Sinhala origin

The Sinhalese people who were ousted from the North were returning after the war in the expectation of re-settling In their own lands but they had to stay at Duriupph stadium. At that stage no one from the Government or the Opposition came forward to help them. We volunteered to feed them and provide them with bare facilities.

There was a state land of Housing Authority at Navakkuli junction and it was utilized to provide temporary housing to these helpless victims of the system. As Buddhist, monks we inquired from the settlers what they wanted. They requested for a community hall and also a place to worship. As the practice of one’s religion is a basic human right a small Buddhist temple was established and we invited a monk to reside. Subsequently, a bomb was exploded at this temple and we would like state categorically that this incident was promoted by the TNA politicians. There were threats aimed at these people indicating that they must leave the area urgently as there is no place for the Siinhalese in this area. That is why I wish reiterate that there is a problem for the Sinhalese in the North of the country because they are of Sinhala origin.

We complained officially to the authorities about the bomb explosion and the threats to the people. To date. No one has been apprehended. We would like to ask about the rights of the Sinhalese and what happened to the laws protecting the civilians? We have built 5 houses so far and we request the authorities to allocate 10-15 perches per family at Navakkuli.

Question- Didn’t the Chief Minister of the Northern Province in his inaugural address mentioned that he invited the Sinhalese people who were driven out to come and settle themselves In the North?

Answer- If Mr Wigneswaran says such things it is good. But, the effort they put into resettling the Tamils and the Muslims does not seem be applicable in the case of the Sinhalese. If they really wanted they could have an advertisement in a newspaper inviting the Sinhalese who were driven away during the LTTE ruling to come back. If they did that the people could have submitted their documents such as the birth certificates, deeds etc . According to reports there had been 17,000 Sinhalese families in the North.  We request that these people be allowed to claim their properties and live in the North.

Question- Without waiting for action on the part of Mr Wiigneswaran these people can furnish the documents to the authorities?

Answer- We have submitted the documents to the Ministry of Defence. We as members of a nationalist movement we are representing these people. Mr Wigneswaran is only a person of a provincial government under the central government. The central government could have brought to the attention of the provincial government the issue of resettlement of the Sinhalese people in Navakulli. The TNA knows about the people in Navakulli and it is strange if the Chief Minister does not know about them. If his request for the Sinhalese to return to the North was genuine he could have taken some measures to help the people in Navakkuli. His silence is indicative of the fact that he is neither interested  nor enthusiastic in the resettlement of the Sinhalese.

Question- Isn’t it possible for the affected people to furnish the documents to the Chief Minister?

Answer- Definitely we will attend to the issue. But, what I am stressing is that we should not be expected to keep on passing the ball from one to another. The leaders who are entrusted with the responsibility to rule should handle the tasks with authority.

Question- Some are of the view that the Sinhlalese people were living on rented and leased lands .Did they live in the land owned by them?

Answer- There are documents relating to their ownership. We can submit these documents.

Question- Where are the people who were ousted from Jaffna are living now?

Answer- In areas such as Anuradhapura, Kekirwa, Mihintale living with friends and relations.

Question- What is the position of the lands in the North where they were living earlier?

Answer- They have enquired about their property before they were housed at Durriapah stadium. These lands have been taken over by the Tamils. The affected people had not opted to have disputes with the interlopers but have returned to Durriapah stadium. It is the responsibility of the authorities to provide lands for the affected.

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