17th August 1997


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Sri Lanka's land problem

Malinga Herman Gunaratne, author of Sovereign State gave evidence before the Sinhala Commission recently. The Sunday Times publishes extracts of his evidence:

The Sinhala Commission is indeed timely, it may possibly be the last chance to redress the grievances of the majority of the people of this Country. The grave danger facing not only the Sinhala people but the Tamils, Muslims and the other communities by what is euphemistically called the Political Package is going to be irretrievable and will make Sri Lanka a battlefield for centuries to come.

The reason for the above statement will be clearly understood only if one takes the time to study the population densities of Sri Lanka. Given below are the population statistics as at the 1984 census.

From the above you will clearly see that the land mass in the South can no longer absorb the rapidly increasing population. (eighty) 80% of the Country's population live in the South.

Our population is around 19 million, out of that 60% is below 30 years of age and 40% of this 60% is below 30 and over 20 years. They are yet to get married, yet to build houses, yet to find employment and land. How and where can they find land in the South?

The population density in the South is even higher, because the entire land mass is not available for habitation. This is because the tea, rubber and coconut plantations of the country are in the South. Most of them are manned by Tamil workers whose trade unions vehemently oppose any settlement by outsiders. The forest reserves, river reservations, wildlife sanctuaries (Yala, Wilpattu, Udawalawe, Wasgomuwa etc.) are all in the South. Though that land is included in the man/land census it is not, repeat, not, available for settlement. The Sinharaja, Kikiliyamana Peak wilderness, are all forest reserves not available for human habitation.

If the un-inhabitable land is excluded from the man/land ratio census in the South, the picture emerging is not only serious but dangerous in the extreme.

When the pressure becomes unbearable, when living becomes a problem, the Sinhala people have to spill over into the North and East. This will result in border wars, border clashes. Both sides will arm themselves to fight for land. Clandestine arms can come in from India and also to the South from forces inimical to India. The wars can go on for decades till one side is either subdued or eliminated.

This will not take long to happen, it is a matter of time. The Sinhala people will have only 2 choices (1) migrate to other lands or fight for a plot of land in the North and East.

The Mahaweli diversion scheme irrigates almost 500,000 acres in the Northern and Eastern districts. None of this land will be available for settlement by the Sinhalese. However the taxes and repayment of the loans for the Mahaweli will all have to be borne by the majority of the Sinhala people. So the majority communities pay the taxes and repays the loans, the separatists enjoy the full benefits.

Which Government/political party in its right senses will permit this. No amount of highflown words will conceal the real situation?

Even worse is the attempt being made to completely fool the Sinhala people.

Not one inch of land from the plantations will either be sold or available for settlement by the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim and other communities living in the South. With the increasing poplation and the non-existent land mass only the very rich will be able to obtain/buy land.

What then will happen to the poorer members of our society? Are they not entitled to a piece of land to build a home, a plot for cultivation. The only land available is in the North and East. The Provincial Governments will never allow those outside the North and East to settle down in those areas.

The Sinhala people are not being fooled or deceived by Prabhakaran or the separatists, but by their own leaders.

The LTTE has forced the Sri Lanka Government to take this desperate step to dismember the country. Will they who now know, that more the violence they unleash the more they are likely to get what they want, stop at this. Will we not be opening the flood gates of war for centuries and generations to come.

Suppose there is landlessness and starvation in the South due to non- availability of land, will the people in the South permit waters collected in Kotmale, Victoria, Randenigala, Rantembe, Rathkinda, Moragaha Kanda, Maduru Oya to flow into the North and the East. Will they not damage the dams and the waterways. Will electricity be permitted to go North.

When this happens Sri Lanka would create an international situation. The Northern and Eastern Governments will internationalize this issue and the whole world will denounce the Sinhala people. Their plight would be forgotten. In this situation India will be compelled to support Tamil Nadu and Tamil Nadu will find the temptation to support the Sri Lankan Tamils irressitible.

The whole cry for a separate state centres round land and those who live on it. If we permit the separatist elements to establish a homogeneous land mass in the North and East by whatever name one chooses to call it, it would be one more step to a permanent State of Eelam. The hill country will definitely follow because the hill country (Badulla, Lunugala, Moneragala, Mahiyangana) is adjoined by the Eastern Province.

Every time these stark facts are pointed out, all leaders brush them away saying that those Sinhalese who point them out are racists.

This same phenomenon prevailed in England, when the whole of the Western World was praising Hitler and finding excuses for his brutality. Churchill alone stood against Hitler. The whole establishment called him a war-monger, saying that he was trying to plunge the World into a terrible war. Whilst the Western alliances were praising Hitler, he was razing Checkoslovakia, Poland and the low countries to the ground.

At most times in histroy those in power, whoever they may be, think only of consolidating their own power.

I will not deal with the Judicial/Police and other functions because they have already been dealt with by Mr. S.L. Gunasekera.

The Government must devolve power. There is no question about that. Today power is ostensibly devolved to the Provincial Councils, Pradeshiya Sabhas etc, but where oposition administrations are holding office they are throttled by all Governments.

District Area Census of Density

(in sq. kms.) population (81) (per (1986)

* Jaffna 2,072.3 831,096 401 412

* Mannar 2,002.1 106,991 53 61

* Vavuniya ,645.2 95,920 36 61

* Mullaitivu 1,966.1 77,530 39 34

* Batticaloa 2,464.6 330,815 134 141

* Ampara 4,539.2 388,741 86 101

* Trincomalee 2,618.2 256,732 98 111

* Puttalam 2,976.9 493,447 166 183

Colombo 652.4 1,697,795 2,602 2,773

Gampaha 1,398.8 1,389,269 993 1,187

Kalutara 1,606.6 827,298 515 561

Kandy 2,157.5 1,126,544 522 620

Matale 1,988.6 357,364 180 197

N'Eliya 1,437.2 521,853 363 295

Galle 1,673.9 814,264 486 534

Matara 1,246.5 643,947 517 599

Hambantota 2,593.4 424,083 164 185

Kurunegala 4,772.8 1,212,590 254 277

Anuradhapura 7,129.2 587,680 82 94

Polonnaruwa 3,403.8 263,265 77 91

Badulla 2,818.2 642,622 228 234

Moneragala 5,586.9 279,811 50 57

Ratnapura 3,238.8 796,169 246 265

Kegalle 1,662.8 682,538 410 426

* Districts claimed as Eelam

Fr. Bala's case to be reviewed

By Noel Crusz

In the wake of 'The Sunday Times' world scoop on a confidential report by a top Canonist, latest reports from Rome indicate that the excommunication of Sri Lankan priest Fr. Tissa Balasuriya is to be reconsidered by the Catholic Church's highest judicial body and that he might be awarded compensation for the damage caused to him.

"The Pope is not above the law," said Stefan Gigacz, the Belgian Canonist who has found that the excommunication of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya was invalid, null and void.

"The Pope as a Bishop is bound by Canon law," Gigacz explains, "just as any other bishop is bound by canon law." He argues that Pope John Paul by virtue of his office enjoys supreme, full and universal power which he can always freely exercise (Canon 331). "But that does not mean that he is free to ignore the requirements laid down by Canon Law ."

The Canonist says that "there was no judicial process in Sri Lanka or the Holy See, which preceded Fr. Balasuriya's excommunication." He pointed out that Fr. Tissa Balasuriya has never ceased to complain against this failure by the Congregation of the Faith, and the Sri Lankan Bishops to accord him a judicial hearing to which he is entitled by Canon 1342-01.

Stafen Gigacz then blasts "the common misconceptions which Bishops use, to wield power." He says that "these misconceptions are shared by many Canonists and even judges of the tribunals of the Holy See."

The misconceptions were about Canon 1404, which states "the First See is judged by no one" and canon 333-03 which states that "there is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff." Many Canonists believe that these Canons preclude all appeals against the decisions and decrees of the Pope. "The historical purpose of those provisions was merely to prevent an appeal against a decision of the Pope to another non-Pontifical authority", and in no way justifies the non-judicial interpretations given to it.

The Canonist's investigation also concluded that the "non-reply of Pope John Paul II to Fr. Balasuriya's appeal indicated that the Pope approved of the non-judicial administrative procedures."

It is here that Pope John Paul II is unknowingly trapped by Cardinal Ratzinger's hasty manoeuvres. The Pope as the Supreme Judge for the entire Catholic world has to ensure the legitimacy of all administrative acts including his own (Pastor Browns Act 123).

The tribunal of the Holy See, the Signatura must now carry out a judicial review of the process involved in Fr. Balasuriya's case. The Canonist says that on the basis of its findings, the Court could declare Ratzinger's decree of excommunication null and void, and even award Fr. Balasuriya substantial damages.

Fr. Balasuriya did attempt to launch such an appeal to the Signatura in January 1997. The Vatican Court even instructed the priest to choose his Canon lawyer.

But Gigacz is baffled at the way Cardinal Sodano (the Vatican Secretary of State) interfered and intervened. This dignitary sent a letter to the Court, reminding them of Canon 1405-01, "that a judge cannot review an act confirmed in specific form by the Roman Pontiff, without his prior mandate". There were also other pressures within Rome and Sri Lanka to stifle Fr. Balasuriya's appeal.

But when the Signatura got this letter from Cardinal Sodano, the Signatura declared itself absolutely incompetent to hear Fr. Balasuriya's appeal!

The Canonist states, "One might find it somewhat astonishing that the Cardinal Secretary of State, an executive officer, should deem it necessary to recall to the Signatura what its role is!"

Gigacz says that it is extraordinary that the Pope appears to have blocked the Signatura from carrying out a judicial review of his own administrative act, by relying on his own personal 'Non-judicial' review of this act. Thus the Canonist emphasises that 'neither the Bishops nor the Pope are above the law. Their duty is to uphold the laws of the Church'.

Pope John Paul II has made the 'Splendour of Truth' a major theme of his Pontificate. There are obligations for the Pope, the local Bishops and all Catholics to uphold Church law.

Meanwhile Fr. Balasuriya remains affected by an extra-judicial declaration, which appears to be null and invalid. There is a breach of the fundamental rights of the faithful set out in Canon 221-03.

Stefan Gigacz observes that "the Balsuriya saga has already led to serious divisions in the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka and also gravely damages the Church's reputation among the non-Catholic community and serves to weaken the Church's legitimacy as a voice for the truth. "

The Canonist goes on, "Such a serious failure by the highest authority of the Catholic Church to respect the provisions of Canon law amounts to a breach of the Pontifical duty to give example to the whole Church."

Gigacz concludes that " the declaration on the Balasuriya excommunication is merely the latest in a series of similar events by which various decrees of the Holy See have breached Canonical requirements. In these circumstances it is urgent for the Holy See to make public any other factual information, which could provide a Canonical justification for the manner of proceeding in the case of Fr. Balasuriya". "In the absence of such justification, I would argue "says Gigacz" that the Holy See and the Pontiff have an urgent duty to initiate a judicial review of the Fr. Balasuriya case."

Canonists are aware that there is nothing in Canon law to prevent damages from being awarded for illegitimate acts of the Pope himself.

The Belgian Canonist in speaking of the bogus 'Proforma of the Truth, that the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith (CDF) drew up for Fr. Balasuriya, refers to what civil lawyers regard as entrapment i.e. an attempt to manufacture evidence of an offence in a case where evidence is lacking by what in effect amounts to 'setting up a person.'

The Canonist warns that the Balasuriya excommunication points "to the seriousness of the problem - a structural failure at the level of the Holy See to respect the provisions of Canon Law."

Israel without Uncle Sam

"Israel, Palestinians keep talking at cross purposes", says the headline to a Reuter despatch. "They would, wouldn't they?" could well be the reaction of most readers. More important though is the American reaction. Mr. Dennis Ross, President Clinton's special envoy - 'troubleshooter' is what the press prefers to call him - persuaded the two parties to keep talking.

"Security" is the main question right now. The terrorist outrage in the heart of Jerusalem, the capital and holy city, hardened Jewish opinion and forced Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's ideologically assorted, not-too stable coalition to take a tough line. The stark fact though is that this "terrorism" is the deadly weapon of both Palestinian and Jewish groups, each pleading in the wildly free Israeli press that its murderous action was no more than a retaliation. And so the chain-reaction.

Who dunnit? A pointless question really, and yet an impartial observer may point to some of the ultra-conservative religious groups and their patently provocative decision to establish new settlements in the Arab quarter of east Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has always been a powder-keg with too many parties presenting equally strong claims to the holy city. It is when the internal situation gets far too dangerous a threat to security in this oil-rich region and the 1993 "land for peace" Oslo Accords that the sole superpower (Russia is no more an active player) decides to intervene.

Despite a relative oversupply of oil in the past decade, John Deutsch, the C.I.A. director, warned the U.S Senate in September that "the political reality is a global dependence on Middle Eastern oil for the foreseeable future".

Predictably Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed President Yasser Arafat's "Palestinian Authority" (P.A) for the violence. "They are fomenting many of these demonstrations and they are not preventing them," accused the Israeli leader.

The truth is that a new generation of Palestinians conscious of the failure of P.L.O, despite its lordlier title "Palestine Authority" of "President" Arafat, feel that the hard-line Netanyahu regime has deceived the Palestinian leadership. He has nothing more than "bantustans" to use a term once freely used in the debate on South Africa.

"Their offer to the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, is to allow autonomous cantons in the West Bank piece- by- piece. These would form an invertebrate archipelago of Bantustans separated by Jewish settlements and surrounded by the vestiges of Israel's military occupation," wrote David Gardner, the British area expert.

In doing so, the new Netanyahu administration has arrogantly ignored the pledges made by his labour predecessors, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the de facto Labour party leader and foreign Minister, Shimon Peres.

It was no Palestinian militant that assassinated the hero of the "Six Day War a scintillating victory, but a young Jewish extremist, a member of a "secret" organisation that may be described as Jewish fundamentalist.

It is a new generation of Palestinians that has now decided to seize the leadership of the 50-year struggle for a Palestinian state. Trapped in this new, emerging situation is President Yasser Arafat. "The Palestinian people will have to endure and be patient with the suffering caused by closure and starvation."

This appeal followed new Israeli sanctions, many bound to cause severe economic hardships. Accompanying these punitive measures was an order that sealed off the West Bank and Gaza. Over 70,000 Palestinians are now jobless.

Western diplomats, quite concerned about these Israeli actions, have responded well to Mr. Arafat's recent statement on the increasingly tense situation. "We have said hundreds of time that we reject terror and are fighting it. But in order to successfully fight terror, the atmosphere must be clean, so that the population can see progress in negotiations and in their standard of living.

But the Israelis have counter-charges on the question of violence, and Israeli - PLO cooperation. The Palestinian Authority cannot control or contain the extremists, not just HAMAS the most active and successful, but other new radical youth groups for whom the so-called P.A. is "self-government" without authority.

An Israeli explanation of what really has gone wrong, presuming that both sides were acting in good faith, was offered by Prime Minister Netanyahu's chief spokesman David Bar-Illan: "We are not imposing sanctions to punish the Palestinians but because the security establishment said it was easier to keep the terrorists out this way."

Historically, Jordan and the monarchy were the trusted friends of Britain and the Western alliance. And so the recent talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan and his prime minister Abdel Salam Majali in Jerusalem should be taken as a successful Western move doubtless approved, if not initiated by the U.S. State Department.

Equally interesting was the meeting in Cairo of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.

It was after all an Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who made the great breakthrough. Land for peace was the basic principle although the land the Egyptians received had been occupied by the I.D.F. the Israeli army, in an earlier war!

Jordan goes to the polls on Nov.4 to elect members to an 80 seat assembly. Students of the Middle-East will keep an eye on this campaign and watch how effective the Islamic Action Front (IAF) and its boycott campaign proves. Throughout the Arab world, secular parties and the Army face a serious challenge from a resurgent Islam.

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