British Settles South Indians in East

"Gomarankadawala is no ordinary place. Its position 32 miles away from Trincomalee on the road to Anuradhapura is a strategic one. Even more so, it is a historic village which had survived the vagaries of change and environment and signifies Sinhalese presence in the district despite hard times.

The village was buried in the deep jungles of Kaddukulam Pattu when the British colonial Civil servants serving at Trincomalee as Governtment Agents (later Asst.Govt.Agents) first discovered it along with several such others like Morawewa, Ethawetunawewa, Pettawa, Kivulekada, Relapanawa, Medawacchichiya, and others was hundred per cent Sinhalese.

With other such villages it stood in a line on the ancient route from Tiriyaya/Kuchchiveli to Anuradhapura. What impressed these early administrators was the attachment of these villagers, few though they were in each village, not more than four or five families in each, to their village tank which they took care of despite their poor health. It was on this account that they recommended to the colonial government to renovate these small tanks but which received no attention. So, these administrators did what they could do to help these poverty stricken people.

The plan of the British government was not to help them, not even those in the most unhealthy areas even on humanitarian considerations but to settle South Indian or Jaffna immigrants in these areas in the hope of seeing green paddy fields here as the tobacco farms of Jaffna.

These plans failed as the British government ignored the fact that those green tobacco fields were set up by the Jaffna Vellalas on the sweat of South Indian slaves who came along with them in the 18th century and of the enslaved Sinhalese `Goviyas'who were degraded in social rank to form the 'Koviya' caste; and that the Jaffna Tamils were interested only in exploiting the timber and not in development. (The Jaffna chieftains themselves told Governor McCullum in Durbar in Jaffna in 1911 that the Jaffna-man was "no pioneer" and that if he ventured out it was only to make enough money as soon as possible and return to his land)..

The clearance of these jungles was left to the government employing southern youth under the Land Development Department during the Second World War. Once the land was developed it attracted the attention of Northern politicians. This is how the charge of Sinhala colonisaton came to be raised.

As recorded by the British Civil Servants, the Jaffna settlers showed no inclination to clear jungles. As one of them, W.Ievers recorded, they had never seen a forest. Jungle clearance and land "asweddumasation" was a fotre' of the Sinhalese people, as these officials noted. The Jaffna man only settled where others labouered.

Despite all claims of Sinhalese colonization these once hundred per cent Sinhalese villages in the Trincomalee district are mixed villages now as a result of settlement of Tamils by Tamil administrators and taking possession of lands in Purana villages by Tamil officials in government offices (this happened at Gomarankadawala) and by boutique keepers when these villagers could not redeem the mortgages taken during the planting season.

The "Bayyas" as these villagers, descendants of ancient people, were called, were an innocent lot even a few decades back as the British officials found them in the mid 19th century. One British administrator complained that Tamil labourers from Jaffna "fleeced" these unsuspecting people by posing as "tank-menders."

They got the villagers to cut a few branches and place them on the beaches of tanks on which they placed a few sods of earth, which the administrator wrote, got washed away with the first fall of rain! This was repeated year after year, the villagers not learning a lesson.

That shows how innocent these people were subject to fleecing by the Jaffna Tamils and itinerant Muslim traders.

Ethnic Cleansing and Backlash The choice of this village to open another front in the undeclared war aimed at Sinhalese civilians is a clear indication that the LTTE wants to isolate the Trincomalee district for ethnic cleansing as a part of its strategy of achieving `Eelam.'

The presence of these historical Sinhalese villages in the Kaddukulam pattu of the Trincomaleee district from the days of the ancient kingdom through Vanniya administration to modern times has been a great irritant to those who claim a "Tamil -homeland" in this area.

As noted above, these villages have been progressively turned into areas with mixed population through land alienation (Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact relating to land alienation still operates in this area) and acquisition of ancient ancestral lands of the villages by Tamil officials and other money lenders.

The attack on unarmed villagers is intended to create a fear psychosis and force the Sinhalese to leave these villages which stand as testimony to the falsehood of the claim of "Tamil Traditional homelands" and state-aided Sinhalese colonization and erase that valuable evidence of continued Sinhalese occupation of the district."

 

This is a portion of an article from the Daily News, by Bandu de Silva