25th July 1999
By Frederica Jansz
The Sri Lanka Ports Authority and major importers are locked in a row over the increase in bulk handling vessel charges from next week.
But businessmen said the increases — 100 percent for cement and between 300 to 700 percent for wheat and pellets — were excessive and arbitrary and would have a direct impact on the consumer or the cost of living.
But SLPA Vice Chairman M I M Rafeek told The Sunday Times importers were crying over this increase so much because their profit margins would go down.
He said the SLPA had appointed a committee to look into the complaints by the businessmen but the committee had found that the increases were reasonable and would not affect the consumer directly.
Ceylon Grain Elevators General Manager Chin How Cheong said the sudden hundred percent increase was unfair, arbitrary and would affect the consumer. He said that instead of acting in such a manner, the SLPA should have had a dialogue with companies which were giving them lots of business.
Other importers said the increases would be counter-productive and send negative signals, especially to foreign investors.
In a letter to Ports Minister M H M Ashraff, the Mahaweli Marine Cement Co Ltd, Puttalam Cement Co Ltd, Prima Ceylon Ltd and Ceylon Grain Elevators Ltd have strongly objected the increases.
They said no company could absorb such increases and if the new rates were implemented, it would render their operations in Sri Lanka uneconomical, unless they in turn substantially increase the prices of their product.
Mr. Rafeek , however, rejected any claims of a direct impact on the consumer and said that if the finances of these organizations were studied it would be clear that they had left plenty of margin for such tariff increases.
The four companies which have written to Minister Ashraff say that their combined output through the ports in Sri Lanka amounts to 2,200,000 tons a year, helping the SLPA earn more than Rs. 329,000,000 . "We feel that this attempt to extract further sums of money from us is unreasonable and detrimental to the long term interests of the country," they said.
Importers say current rates at the Port are already in excess of other regional ports like Singapore Dammam and Salalah.
A group of fourteen Pakistan Christians who are fleeing alleged persecution in their country are stranded here after the UNHCR here refused to recognise their claim for political asylum abroad.
The Pakistanis who had been here from December last year pending their case to be determined by the UNHCR were told that they did not meet the criteria to qualify for political asylum abroad.
Solomon Robinson, the leader of the group told The Sunday Times they would appeal to the UNHCR to reconsider their appeal and help them go to another country.
Mr. Robinson said they led a group of Christians in a Pakistan village in the wake of alleged persecution by extremist groups there. He said many Christian houses in the village were burnt or destroyed.
Crying hoarse over 'Teargas Thursday'
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti Our Lobby Correspondent
The famous legal suit popularly known as the "Janagosha Case" in the early nineties, firmly set out the principles regarding the public's right to protest as a freedom of expression. But if one is to expect the conduct of political tribes ever to reflect the judiciary's high thinking, one would have to wait till the cows came home.
Those were days in the Opposition for the ruling PA. Then getting beaten up, having meetings viciously broken up were daily occurrences, when they piously took to the streets at the drop of a hat challenging the authoritarian rule of the UNP. Then they were champions of media freedom and defenders of social justice.
But naturally opposition and ruling party politics differ. In this so called democracy everyone knows, pledges are actually meant to be broken and lofty ideals and catch phrases are merely dangling carrots before a politically gullible public.
Hence it wasn't surprising when Presidential Security personnel, and the police decided to run amok in the city on "Teargas Thursday"disrupting a UNP-organized protest seeking the abolition of the executive presidency- a monster created by the UNP and defended by a wafer thin majority holding PA government.
But the anticipated fire was missing when the UNP trooped in to Parliament on Tuesday in the aftermath of previous Thursday's attack.
The day began on an ominously quiet note with law professor G.L. Peiris moving 18 resolutions under the advanced accounts and quoting a barrage of statistics to labour the point that our economy was actually swelling. But the debate soon became a 'double taxation' exercise when opposition speakers led by Ranil Wickremesinghe bowled bouncers and googlies to an enraged government caught off guard.
Mr. Wickremesinghe a man who has mastered the art of gentle provocation ever since his days as Leader of the House fired a round of artillery tinged with tear gas early in the morning.
" A desperate government acts wild and weird," he noted, of course not mentioning the UNP days when law and order was sinfully subverted, as he lambasted the PA for breaking up a massive UNP demonstration.
In a voice of steel, he thundered that his rights as the Leader of the Opposition were violated when his office and official residence were attacked. In the same breath, he demanded that action be taken against the Police Chief and Colombo's DIG through the parliamentary process.
"It is not a question of an individual but a VIP security unit cannot go wild, smashing up offices and clubbing people," he said. In a spicy delivery loaded with sarcasm, the mercurial Mr. Wickremesinghe accused the government of unleashing violence on the UNP and media personnel. He also defended the UNP's right to protest-"If the police was to predetermine designated areas to protest, every one would be compelled to fold their arms and wait," he noted.
" This may have been so in South Africa during Apartheid rule, not after that. To prove this point, we shall take to the streets again this Thursday" he thundered. "Are you saying that you will not seek permission and breach the law," asked the usually nonchalant minister Dharmasiri Senanayake, now facing the axe within the party ranks.
"What I am saying is despite desperate attempts, you will never go beyond the party's general secretaryship" Mr. Wickremesinghe scoffed,.
"Protesters at this peaceful demonstration were not criminals, but they were treated as such. Media personnel were hauled into buses and thrashed. The RDF and the PSD should have had no role there. They were the intruders and violators," he charged. He also posed a provocative question whether the police had shifted the high security zone from Temple Trees area to the Red Cross Junction overnight.
Furnishing graphic details of Thursday's incident, Mr. Wickremesinghe defended continuously the right to protest. He said the people were disturbed to learn that the all powerful VIP security units had gone out of control.
"What of the Gonawala Sunils and the Soththi Upalis" thundered Industries minister C.V. Gooneratne, visibly moved in the face of a barrage of accusations, ably supported by the incoherent mutterings of minister D.M. Jayaratne while others sat in silence.
Still on a demolition course Mr. Wickremesinghe fired more tear gas canisters- "When the presidential media consultant was accused of bribe taking, minister Mangala Samaraweera jumped to his defence. But when two cabinet rankers are being counter accused by the President, there's no defence. So, put your hands up"those who are not corrupt," he demanded and amidst uproarious laughter. Not a single hand went up.
Then all hell broke lose when the red kerchiefed C.V. Gooneratne wanted to know whether 'murderers of Batalanda' would also put their hands up. Soon there was utter pandemonium with wild allegations being flung at the UNP by arch PA defendants at the top of their voices.
Striving to defend his pack after a lengthy offensive was PA's E.A. Samarasinghe who was quick to accuse the UNP of unpardonable sins.
The MP opted to focus on the UNP's human rights record claiming that the people still trusted the PA. "If the UNP wanted to truly represent the people, it should protest against the rising cost of living, unemployment and the health crisis and not vilify individuals,"he argued.
When minister C.V. Gooneratne smarting under the UNP leader's wrathful attack stood up to speak, he opted to jog the UNP's memory giving graphic details of their suffering when in the opposition.
" The UNP is a curse to the nation. Killing Somapala, depriving Mrs. Bandaranaike's civic rights and repeatedly smashing our party offices are mere glimpses of the UNP's diabolical past. We were beaten up and our meetings broken up or banned. SLFPers were attacked and put behind bars without trials. Some of us still suffer from physical and psychological scars," he said, gesturing towards minister Alavi Moulana, once the recipient of a brutal UNP attack.
Concluding for the opposition was Tyronne Fernando, who fired the last round of tear gas in a House gone quiet. Mr. Fernando who also suffered a vicious teargas attack identified his attacker as I.P. Senaka from the PSD and urged the government to abandon the course of trading insults and take action against the miscreants.
The legal eagle said what was most disconcerting was the attack on media personnel.
"The duty of a VIP security unit should be to safeguard the VIP and not wage war against others or to rush where angels fear to tread," he said.
"Armed cars were parked close to my house and canisters were being distributed in full view of the public and the RDF went on rampage. But this cannot be what the people elected your government for," he sniped.
According to the heavily disputed audio tape which allegedly contains a conversation between presidential media advisor Sanath Gunathillake and business tycoon Lakshman Hulugalle on the controversial Channel 9 pay TV deal released to the public last Thursday, the voice (allegedly attributed to Hulugalle) claims that he was unfairly treated and his offer was whimsically rejected.
"I want this business. I have nothing against you personally. It has to be either the President or both of you together who may have decided to exclude me from this. But why leave me out?" the voice queried.
Later, in another part of the same conversation it is claimed that he (Hulugalle), was denied the deal (not specified here) despite having duly submitted all the necessary documents.
In response, the voice alleged to be Sanath Gunathillake's claims 'Madam' had a certain message to be conveyed, but first Hulugalle should stop discussing the issue and stop going behind Cabinet ministers seeking favours.
"Madam wanted me to inform you not to talk, but she would certainly help you. I am not Gamini Dissanayake or Premadasa. My style is different. I know what happened and what will happen. Sometimes I cannot help and I won't help Maharajas and the likes. But there are people I must help and I will help them said the Madam"- the tape claimed.
The story surrounding the Channel 9 pay television deal has all the drama, excitement and suspense a Jeffrey Archer novel is made of. The actors involved in the drama include the professional actor cum President's media advisor, Sanath Gunathillake. But the real drama stinks of allegations of bribes and corruption at very high levels, posing several questions on good governance.
The core of the problem arising out of the controversial deal is a charge that Mr. Gunathillake was bribed to get the licence for the TV channel. The charge was made by Mr. Gunathillake's erstwhile friend Lakshman Hulugalle who claims it was he who first came out with the Channel 9 project along with a Sri Lankan investor from Australia.
When the matter reached presidential level for approval, President Kumaratunga had, according to a disputed tape, allegedly asked Mr. Gunathillake if he was getting any financial benefit from the deal and if so how much.
Mr. Gunathillake is reported to have told the President that he had been promised some money. These allegations surfaced after the tape recording of the conversation Mr. Hulugalle had with Mr. Gunathillake and others involved in the deal was made available to the media and opposition MPs. But Mr. Gunathillake claims the tape is a fake with the voices dubbed.
It is alleged that an angry Mr. Hulugalle made the secret recording when he learnt that he had been kept out of the deal reportedly on the insistence of the President who wanted Gamini Rajanayake, supposedly a confidante of hers, brought in instead.
The allegations arising out of the deal were indeed of a serious nature. If the tape is to be believed, they infer that the President was aware that her media advisor was getting 'something' and money was in fact paid to obtain the licence.
Entwined with the Channel 9 deal was the return of the billionaire businessman Ravi Wettasinghe, the owner of the Latec bus-building company and Peace Air airline.
He is alleged to have sent millions to the coffers of the PA or to the pockets of PA politicians, apparently in a bid to get a massive bus-building contract. The middle man involved in this alleged transaction was Mr. Hulugalle. It is alleged that it was Mr. Wettasinghe's money that was used in the payment to various people.
There is hardly any audited accounts available as to how this money was spent.
Recently Ministers Mahinda Rajapakse and A. H. M. Fowzie were among those at the receiving end of accusations by the President regarding the Wettasinghe funds. Mr. Rajapakse had defended himself saying he thought the money was from party funds for the Wayamba campaign. Mr. Fowzie denied he received any funds.
However, many ministers are not taking the matter lightly. They are calling for a full probe, especially on the affairs of Mr. Gunathillake.
In Parliament, a UNP MP was restrained from playing the tape of the alleged conversation between the President's media advisor and Mr. Hulugalle. Posters have appeared on city walls, accusing both the President and her media advisor of taking bribes. The Presidential Security Division was deployed to remove these posters, according to eye-witnesses.
As the controversy snowballs, there has been a deafening silence from the President's office. Mr. Gunathillake himself has studiously avoided answering questions. A feeble attempt by the media minister, his credibility with the media now in shreds, to explain the issue has had no effect.
This week, unable to remain any longer, Mr. Gunathillake, the President's hand picked media advisor, issued a prepared statement on the matter. The Sunday Times publishes the statement, without comment.
"The public is exposed to a great deal of rumours attaching my (good) name to various 'deals' I am supposed to have committed using my official position.
Please allow me to stress here that I am not bound to respond to any aspersions cast by the rumour-mills that act in the garb of national newspapers. I believe that it does not behove of me to attempt to reply the incessant array of deliberate lies reported in these scurrilous news-sheets which would be like barking in response to howling dogs. However, the general readership will remember that I have urgently responded to any complaints or erroneous reports regarding me, that have appeared in the National Press. I am certain that any and all media personnel, who practice their profession without any bias and with dignity and honour and in a non-partisan manner, will vouch to the veracity of this fact.
I am certain that this clarification will also satisfy those who erroneously accuse me of not responding to these scurrilous rumours sooner.
Be that as it may, it is apparent that this baseless allegation that was initiated through one of the mud-slinging scurrilous news-sheets is now being utilised maliciously by some bankrupt political "leaders" of the opposition to achieve their political aims and also to embarrass the government. In such a situation, in addition to the legal action initiated by me, I deem it my duty to reveal the true facts regarding this matter.
I came to know of this rumour, in mid-April this year. Then I queried Mr. Hulugalle first, and later Mr. Wettasinghe. In fact, it is the first-time in my life that I have spoken to Mr. Wettasinghe, when I initiated my queries regarding this matter.
In response to my query Mr. Hulugalle said that though he did receive money from Mr. Wettasinghe that it is a personal transaction only concerning both of them. I then questioned whether he has used my name in connection with this transaction. Mr. Hulugalle swore that he has never mentioned my name at all in this connection. I questioned him thus on April 28th last.
This allegation against me, first appeared in the said news-sheet in the second week of May 1999. In that they had connected my name to a transaction between Mr. Ravi Wettasinghe and Mr. Hulugalle. Part of the money claimed to have been received by Mr. Hulugalle from Mr. Wettasinghe, was alleged to have been given to me.
No sooner this story was published, I informed the facts to the Inspector General of Police in writing, requesting him to initiate an inquiry. Acting on his instructions the CID launched an investigation immediately .
I made a statement to the CID regarding the character defamation caused to me through this utterly false propaganda. Mr. Wettasinghe has also lodged a complaint with the CID pertaining to the defrauded monies. Later in the course of investigations regarding this matter, Mr. Hulugalle had been taken into custody. Subsequently, he was released on bail by the courts.
In pursuance of the investigations on the complaint made by Mr. Wettasinghe, the CID has obtained statements from a number of persons including me. The investigation is continuing. It appeared that Mr. Hulugalle is annoyed on learning that the statement I made to the CID to prove my innocence will lead to reveal the alleged fraud perpetrated by him.
As the Media Adviser to H E the President I work closely with media institutions. I came to know that various parties have shown interest in commencing radio and TV broadcasting services.
Subsequently I came to know that one of those groups included a number of people known to me. They have obtained a license for operating a radio/TV station in the name of a company called Television and Radio Network (TRN). I extended my best wishes to these persons and encouraged them.
Up to that time all the Radio and TV services in the country were either state-owned or belonged to those who have obtained undue privileges from the UNP and were operating these media in an extremely partisan manner. I explained this to the TRN team and impressed upon them the necessity of maintaining a free and independent service.
I inquired into the allegations made by the news-sheets and also by certain UNP MPs in Parliament.
There is no licence issued to the much talked of Channel-9. A licence had been issued to Television and Radio Network on May 30, 1996.
According to the Hansard of 07.07.1999, the Member of the Opposition had spoken of a discussion that had alleged to have occurred in September, 1997 regarding a corrupt monetary transaction (a bribe).
This UNP Member has attempted to demonstrate that I have discussed to obtain a bribe 16 months after the issue of the said licence.
I most strongly state that this is completely false. I strongly reiterate here that I have not participated in this discussion claimed to have been held at Mr. Gamini Rajanayake's residence in September, 1997. Therefore, there cannot exist a cassette recording of a discussion that never took place. However, it won't surprise those who are aware of Mr. Hulugalle's past, if he comes up with not just a mere audio cassette but even worst things, based on discussions I may have had at various instances by utilising modern technologies.
It is indeed an unfortunate twist of fate that many people like myself who dedicate ourselves in the cause of the country, people and the media have to associate ourselves with such callous personalities in the course of our duties.
I believe that it is clear now that I am not at all connected to this so-called Channel-9 or TRN service. Following my complaint, the CID, I understand had come to know of an instance where Mr. Lakshman Hulugalle had obtained some money fraudulently from one Mr. Ravi Wettasinghe. Mr. Hulugalle and the author of the scurrilous news-sheet had dragged the story of the Channel-9 which has no relevance whatsoever to this matter to assassinate my character alleging that different money transactions took place. I feel that these elements who attempted to manufacture lies with ulterior motives are now in a real fix .
TRN has obtained their Broadcast licence through normal channels open to any others. I have not asked for nor received one cent for it. These above facts reveal how these unscrupulous elements are churning out a vast amount of falsehoods to sling mud at the government in the guise of throwing them at me. These acts prostitute the free and independent media and are to the detriment of the human rights and the freedom established by this government through great dedication and tireless efforts.
I wish to place before all free and just minded people, the dangerous trend aptly demonstrated in some media which will lead once again to the violation of those noble human freedoms re-established by the present government through tireless effort and great dedication. The prostitution of the media with the sole objective of fabricating lies, utter lies and more lies in order to sully the good image of the President, the government and its officials is a calculated campaign indulged in by those who know that they cannot win the people's support to return to power."
Tear-gasful beginning to PA's end
It is indeed refreshing to resume my weekly observations in the pages of The Sunday Times and cross verbal swords with my unseen friend, Paakshikaya, especially when his government is embroiled in so many controversies and seems destined for disaster.
I know that this column is overdue by a fortnight and I owe an explanation to my readers. Initially I was unable to fulfill my obligations due to personal reasons but when the editor requested that I fill the void last week I could not do so for I was still recovering from the organized attack on the UNP's protest campaign by Paakshikaya's government mafia.
Now, Paakshikaya might say that it was no major incident after all and that the UNP of all parties has no right to be critical of such events when worse incidents have occurred during its rule.
That is the argument of a humbug, Paakshikaya. Yes, worse things did happen during the previous UNP regime but that was the reason why we were voted out and you were ushered into power by the people.
The, gullible Sri Lankans that they are, presumed that you would be different and that you would not resort to such tactics.
But what did you do on Thursday, the 15th of July, my friend? You made a mockery of your promises of democracy by assaulting UNPers, in the most despicable manner by disrupting what was a peaceful protest and turning it into a nightmare filled with tear gas, with the kind courtesy of the Presidential Security Division.
Yours is a government which has a woman president and a woman prime minister. But you have also earned the distinction of being the government that paraded a woman naked on the streets during the Wayamba election campaign.
Now, you have also become the government which assaulted two former woman ministers — Renuka Herath and Sunethra Ranasinghe- in broad daylight when they were protesting peacefully. Well, well, Paakshikaya if there is an international award for achieving equality of the sexes, I dare say your government will win it quite easily!
But let me tell you, Paakshikaya, what you have done to the UNP. After what happened on that literally tearful Thursday, our party has received a new lease of life. Old timers are reminiscing about the early and middle seventies when J. R. Jayewardene led a similar Satyagraha campaign against the United Front regime of Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the same Town Hall area.
Last week we saw history repeating itself in some way when JR's nephew led a Satyagraha against Ms. Bandaranaike's daughter and we are now confident that what happened to Ms. Bandaranaike at the subsequent elections would happen to her daughter as well!
Now, Paakshikaya, let me also say this: I don't mind being chased by a couple of thugs specially when I know that it is going to cause your government so much embarrassment. But what I didn't like was the treatment you meted out to the media on that day.
You must realize my friend that the media today is not what it was in the 'good old days' of the seventies. Those were the days when the only radio station was run by the government and when there were less than five national newspapers run by a few elite families.
There was, of course, no television. By pulling a few strings here and sending a discreet message there one could manoeuvre the media and shape public opinion without the public ever sensing it.
Those days, my friend are gone forever. Now, there are a half dozen television stations, more than a dozen newspapers and an equally proliferating number of radio stations of which only very few are state-controlled. So, even if you twist the truth in the media that you control, there is more than an even chance that the public will get to know the truth via the alternative media.
This is a home truth we did not realize during the last days of our previous regime but we have learnt our lesson now. Your party, Paakshikaya seems oblivious to this and is behaving as if it owns each and every media establishment in the country.
Then, don't forget that your ascendancy to power in 1994 was largely a creation of the media. It is a fact that with the death of R. Premadasa, the UNP was in turmoil that year. But don't forget that the SLFP too had its share of problems with the defection of Anura Bandaranaike. And, at that time Chandrika Kumaratunga was an unknown quantity to most of the voters and her only credential was being the daughter of two former prime ministers.
In such a context it was the media which transformed her into a virtual 'Vihara Maha Devi' almost overnight when her performance until then did not merit such a metamorphosis. It was the media which portrayed her as the nation's only hope for salvation and again our gullible masses believed that.
And hardly five years later it is the same media — even the same media personalities — which you now want to browbeat into submission, not realising that an antagonised media could do to Ranil Wickremesinghe what they did to Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994. And, indeed to elevate Mr. Wickremesinghe in the eyes of the people would be so much easier because he has a proven track record where as your leader had none at that time.
But instead you resort to twisting the truth, Paakshikaya. Here I must say that your affable Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera never ceases to surprise me.
There he is brazenly talking of a 'media mafia' and suggesting innocently that UNP thugs assaulted the police.
Surely, Paakshikaya, I think it is time that someone told him that if he has nothing to say he should say nothing instead of opening his mouth and putting both feet firmly in it. Is he asking us to then believe that the Thursday mayhem was all the handiwork of UNP thugs? Surely, if a handful of UNP thugs can overpower almost half of the city's police force, isn't it time for the Inspector General of Police to resign?
And, in return for all his efforts as defence counsel for the government, all what he got was being burnt in effigy- not by us but by media personnel though I must say the effigy that was burnt was distinctly an improvement on the genuine article.
But then, it is rather unfair to be critical of the good minister for defending the government, isn't it? After all, he must be a busy man these days for he has to play the role of defence counsel not only for this incident but also for the Channel 9 controversy which is now threatening to engulf the highest levels of your government!
But tell me, Paakshikaya, just what did you expect by stopping our protest campaign? Did you expect the UNP to meekly surrender to your strong-arm tactics? If so, we have already demonstrated our resolve to continue fighting with the protest we staged on Thursday the twenty second.
If you saw the crowds that gathered on that day you would surely have realised that public sentiment had definitely changed and that the people no longer viewed the UNP as a lethargic and inactive opposition. Well, whom can we thank for that? Is it the President, Mangala Samaraweera or the Presidential Security Division? Whoever it is, say 'thank you' on our behalf, will you, Paakshikaya?
If memory serves me right, Paakshikaya, you took pride in condemning what happened at Wayamba and even claimed credit for ensuring fair polls in the elections that followed.
If those are your lofty ideals tell us what your position is regarding the events of Thursday, the 15th of July? Will you take the same high moral ground as you did regarding the Wayamba incidents?
Whatever it is, Paakshikaya it is now clear that what happened that Thursday was the beginning of a new era of public confidence for the UNP.
But I am also sure that it marked the beginning of the end for your government. I would wager you a Mangala Samaraweera effigy on that!
When 11 people were killed at Kiri Ibbanwewa by a claymore mine on May 31they didn't receive one thousandth of the publicity that the Chemmani Graves received. This was the 128th massacre of Sinhalese after July 1983. Three days later, thousands of Sinhala Catholic fisher-folk had to flee Kokilai after an LTTE attack.
Organisations and individuals who screamed that the raising of the national flag at the CWC headquarters, was a violation of human rights and democratic freedom did not say one word against these attacks.
It is time that Sri Lankans opened their eyes and took a look at these incidents of ethnic cleansing in the north and east, Nuwara Eliya and Colombo north. The murder of Sinhalese and Muslims in the North/East is clearly for the seizure of land. The popular notion is that Tamil racism raised its head after July 1983. Others say it is a reprisal to attacks by security forces in Kokkadicholai and other places. If it was reprisal attacks, in July 1983, 471 persons were killed, and of them 311 were Tamils. Whereas after July 1983 more than 3500 Sinhalese have died because of terrorist attacks. This makes it a ratio of 1:10. There were no reprisals against Tamils after 1983, but attacks by Tamil terrorists continued. This is because the objective of Tamil racists has exceeded pure revenge. What they are aiming at is to seize land and establish Tamil areas, free of other communities.
The history of this movement goes back much further than 1983. In 1910 the British decided to appoint one representative to the Legislature from among eminent persons. The Tamils, fearing that a Sinhalese would be picked, met in Jaffna and sent the following memorandum to the Governor: The Tamils have lived in Ceylon for over 2000 years. The north and east throughout history has been a Tamil kingdom and this region should be made a separate electoral area. What this meant was that the north and east should be reserved exclusively for the Tamils. (Memorial of the Tamils of Jaffna to Earl Crewe April 13-1910 PPCHC pp. 50-51). It was S.J.V. Chelvanayakam who made this demand a political objective. On July 15, 1955 he said in Trincomalee that the Sinhala government was setting out to colonise lands traditionally owned by Tamils in areas such as Padaviya, Kanthalai and Gal-oya. These fertile lands, he said, had belonged to the Tamils for 3000 years. Sinhala kings never had the courage to capture these lands, but now the Sinhala government is attempting to do so. (Tamils of Ceylon, July 17th, 1955).
From 1956 onwards Chelvanayagam's followers, Vanniasingham, and Amirthalingam were getting rid of the Sinhalese from these regions. Prabhakaran has now taken over. Because of the present policies of Tamil colonisation of Colombo, Kandy and the plantations there is bound to be a major land problem in the future.
A few years ago the government tried to settle Sinhalese displaced by earth slips on non-productive state lands. But Mr. Thondaman objected. He raised similar objections in the case of resettling those who were displaced due to the Kotmale reservoir. A few months ago, there was opposition again when Sinhala villagers were to be given lands from Raigamyaya Estate in Ingiriya in the Kalutara district. Mr. Thondaman also holds sway in Moneragala, and Deniyaya.
What will the future be when all these areas are ethnically cleansed. The total land area of Sri Lanka is a little over 63,500 sq. kms. According to a random survey in 1994 Tamils(16% of the population) lay claim to 40 percent of the land. When one also takes into consideration marshy areas waterways, and reservoirs there will be only 36,000 sq. kms. of land for development. The proportion of land seized by the Tamils could rise even higher.
It is also interesting to look at the population densities. In 1981 in Jaffna district the density per sq km was 401, today it is 240 per sq km. In Mannar, Vavuniya, Mulaitivu it is 53, 36 and 39 respectively. In Colombo the density per sq km in 1981 was 2602; today it is 3834. In Gampaha it has risen from 993 to 1483 per sq km. What we see here is an escalation of Tamil colonisation of Colombo and Gampaha since 1987.
But when it was decided to acquire 45 sq km from the land abandoned by Jaffna residents for the Palaly base there were cries of protests from Tamil parties. Even the President declared it was a conspiracy against the Tamils. Before all this explodes into communal conflicts it is imperative to introduce land reforms, free of communal bias.
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