Eastern Concerns

How much amoxil to give cat http://ctmpc.blogspot.com/
June 29, 2007


The new flag for the Eastern Province, introduced
by the government, displays three animals: a lion
symbolizing the Ampara district, an eagle for
Trincomalee and a fish for Batticaloa. Batticaloa
has long called itself the land of the “singing”
fish, but why an eagle was chosen for Trincomalee
is unclear. The use of the Sinhala lion to
represent the Muslim dominated Ampara district is
terrifying: erasing the Muslim presence in the
east, it is a potent symbol of the reality on the
ground- the Muslims do not count in the larger
context of our ethnic conflict.

The east is the testing ground for the success of
any resolution to the conflict. All of our
communities need to feel a sense of well being
and belonging for peace and stability to prevail.
But recent actions of the government and forces
aligned to it are increasing the sense of
insecurity felt by different communities. The use
of the lion for Ampara district suggests that
this is a continuation of the post-independence
Sinhalisation of the Eastern Province that has
found new and brutal fervour under the
administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

We speak here with alarm and with concern of
specific acts by state agencies that continue the
dispossession of the Muslim people through land
acquisition and demarcation by the state. The
Muslims of the Pottuvil region, who are already
in a insecure position have in recent times felt
the brunt of the heavy hand of state sponsored
programmes. These programmes have created anxiety
and fear in the community. The Pottuvil region is
multi cultural and multi ethnic, with an ethnic
break down of 78.11% Muslims, 19.79% Tamils and
2.11% Sinhala. Traditionally, the different
communities had co-existed peacefully with 90% of
the population engaged in agriculture and the
rest 10% in other forms of employment.

We give here four incidents or acts that have a
direct bearing on the welfare of the people of
the region:

1. The gazette notice dated 1454/26 of July 2006,
declares that 1531 hectares of land of the
Lahugala district secretariat of the Ampara
District will be declared a National Park, which
will be referred to, hereafter as the
“Lahugala-Kithulana National Park”. Since the
borders of the Pottuvil and Lahugala Divisions
are still under dispute (ref. Alfred Silva
commission) Pottuvil Muslims feel that through
this move the government is trying to take over
land along the Lahugala Pottuvil main road that
the Muslims have had access to and had been the
means of livelihood for most of the people there.

2. On the 25 of the September, 2006, a letter
signed by the Chair of the Lahugala Pradeshiya
Sabha, to the Ministry of Public Administration,
with copies to the President and the Minister of
Labour Mr. Merwyn Silva, requested the annexation
of the three gramasevaka divisions, Sarvodaya
puram, Sinna Ulle, and Pasarichennai, (Periya
Ulle) with the Lahugala Division, citing
discriminatory practices of the officers against
minority Sinhala and Tamil villagers. The ethnic
break down for these three gramasevaka divisions
shows an overwhelming Muslim majority: (91.5%
Muslim, 4.7% Sinhala, 3.8% Tamil). So the motive
for moving a Muslim majority area into a larger
Sinhala unit in this instance is easily apparent.

3. In December 2005, official inquiries were made
about identifying all the places of Buddhist
worship and Dagabas in the Ampara district. A
letter dated and signed by the G.A. of Ampara
addressing the Pradeshiya Lekam makes this
request. In Pottuvil alone they have indicated 07
places as sites of Buddhist heritage
(Sangamankanthai, Kirimetiaaru, Pottuvil town,
Muhuthumahaviharai, Eatham, Thaharampolla,

4. It has also been brought to our notice that a
thousand acres surrounding the Shasthiravelli STF
camp in the Pottuvil region was previously under
consideration as a High Security Zone, which had
led to annexation of land that has traditionally
been used by the people of the region. Now it has
been declared as Shasthiravelli Temple land.
There was a protest by the people of Pottuvil
demanding access to this area in April 2007.

It is unclear whether all these four concurrent
developments have progressed any further. For
instance it is not clear if the request for the
three gramasevaka divisions, Sarvodaya puram,
Sinna Ulle, and Pasarichennai, (Periya Ulle) to
be annexed to the Lahugala Division will go
forward. The Divisional Secretary of the Pottuvil
District in a letter to the G.A. Ampara gave a
detailed response, denying all charges of
discrimination. He further noted that fishermen
who came from other parts of the country indulged
in unlawful occupation of state land and
transgressed existing rules governing the buffer
zone of the coastal areas and had been demanding
permits for their illegal activities which were
not acceded to by his office. As far as we know
the matter has not progressed beyond this point
but there are clear signs that there is growing
pressure to push this issue further.

These acts of acquisition or potential
annexation, taken in isolation, might seem purely
bureaucratic or in the interests of military
security. The policies can in fact be justified
as being driven by important principles such as
the conservation of nature, the right to equality
for all ethnic communities and fair governance,
the preservation of Sri Lanka’s ancient history
and national security. While these principles
should be recognized and not dismissed, it is
important to recognize the context in which these
policies are being implemented and the agenda of
those pushing these policies. If one approaches
it from the perspective of history, the history
of the minority communities, these acts emerge as
part of a history where state-aided programmes
have brought about demographic changes in the
east. In this instance, these acts appear to be
aimed at dispossessing the Muslim majority
population of their land.

Pottuvil is politically an isolated division but
it has featured prominently in the demographic
and administrative battle for the East. Situated
on the edge of Ampara district with a majority
Muslim population, it has been used as the entry
point for Sinhalisation of the east. Muslims
politicians often neglect this division, leaving
it to the consideration of one or the other of
the two ruling parties (UNP or SLFP). It is
sandwiched between two Sinhala areas, Panama and
Lahugala. Lahugala and Panama are two
non-contiguous areas brought together as one DS
division-Lahugala DS. When the Ampara district
was created, a large Sinhala population was added
on giving the district one of the oddest looking
boundaries – a coastal belt linked to a truncated
inland area, making crystal clear the ethnic
agenda of the central government to avoid the
emergence of a clearly Muslim-majority district.
Like in other areas of the East and the North
where new Sinhala names have proclaimed the
expansion of the Sinhala colonization programme,
Ampara too has undergone symbolic and demographic
changes owing to state aided colonization

Ampara remains the play thing of ambitious
politicians. The M.P for Ampara, who was formerly
the Deputy Minister in charge of Mahaweli
Development is back in power as Minister for
Planning and Implementation and is in an
influential position to steer the course of
events in this unfolding story of annexation. He
has, in fact, written a letter to the District
Secretary of Pottuvil on 20th April, 2007,
requesting/demanding that the thousand acres
surrounding the Shasthiravelli STF camp be
allocated to the Shasthiravelli temple.

The developments cited above follow other recent
changes in land demarcation. In December 2005,
the boundaries of the Pottuvil region were
redrawn (which are still in dispute), where some
of the land belonging to people from Pottuvil was
brought under Panama Pattu, causing great
difficulties to them, where language and
transport were concerned. Furthermore, and more
importantly, grazing land that was traditionally
used by the Pottuvil people was brought under
Panama Pattu, leading to loss of access to this
land and the subsequent decline in the 40,
000-cattle-strong livestock economy of the
district. The redrawing of the boundaries of the
Pottuvil region discriminates in many ways
against the Muslim majority population The people
of Pottuvil had already been dispossessed, by the
enactment of the buffer zone in the region
following the tsunami. The redrawing of the
boundaries exacerbates the situation of shortage
of land for the people in the region. . They were
not consulted in any of the actions; they had no
say in what affected them most. The annexation of
land by the state, land that has been
traditionally used by the people of the region,
as grazing land and for seasonal cultivation
spells great loss to the economy and the welfare
of the people. Steps need to be taken to protect
forest cover and to ensure that the land is used
in a sustainable manner; but this should be done
by taking into account the needs and rights of
the local people. Arugam Bay in the Pottuvil
region, is one of the biggest tourist
attractions, not only of the east, but of the
entire country and is a piece of prize real
estate coveted by politicians and big business
alike. In the wake of the tsunami and its
destruction, the state instituted land-protection
programmes including a buffer zone, which were
perceived as serving the interests of big
business from outside at the expense of those of
the people of the area.

The acts of annexation are accompanied by other
symbolic representations of appropriation,
symbolic of conquest and hegemony. Buddhism in
Sri Lanka, which in its fundamentals is a
religion of peace and tolerance, is an integral
part of state hegemony and is often experienced
by minority communities as state aggression.
Conquest of land is symbolized by what is
perceived as Sinhala Budhisisation. In this
respect, the erection of the statue of the Buddha
among minority dominant areas has always spelt
trouble, exacerbating ethnic tensions and in some
instances, leading to outright confrontation.

Much of the time, the erection of a statue is not
done by local Buddhists but by groups or agencies
associated with the state. For instance, Ulle, a
majority Muslim area in the Pottuvil region and a
tourist hot spot, has been at the heart of the
controversy of seemingly competing interests from
the time of the tsunami. Two days after the
tsunami in the midst of the disruption, dire
loss, and anguish felt by the people all around,
a statue of the Buddha on a podium was erected
under cover of night, leading to acrimony and
unnecessary conflict. In this climate, we cannot
but be alarmed at the Buddhisisation,
topographically, on the part of the state and see
it as a sign of a Sinhala-Buddhist domination.

There are other disturbing accounts accompanying
our narration. On March 21 2007 Order trimoxazole , the JHU and the
breakaway LTTE group TMVP, led by Karuna
discussed issues collaboration regarding the
protection of the cultural heritage of the
eastern province. At the meeting, the JHU also
raised issues of conservation in the East. This
meeting was a part of a wider JHU strategy to
take to another level the protection of Buddhist
cultural and religious sites and to champion
environmental issues. The JHU politician Champaka
Ranawaka is the Minister for Environment and
Natural Resources. Thus the JHU is in a powerful
position to push forward its campaign. Reports of
the meeting contained references to “evil
elements” that were seeking to destroy cultural
monuments. In the context of the JHU’s
anti-minority rhetoric this ‘evil’ can mean only
one thing. Subsequently, we have had people of
the region report to us that members of the
Karuna faction had been threatening the people of
the area with eviction orders from the “sacred
Buddhist lands” they were “occupying.” This has
created considerable panic among the people, who
have been exposed to a number of strategies to
progressively dispossess them of their land.
Also, TMVP, like its parent organization, the
LTTE, has been attempting to establish its
dominance over the Muslim community in the east,
and is mimicking the LTTE’s policies of violence
against Muslims targeting and appropriating their
lands. Like the LTTE, whose ideology and
practices it finds impossible to break away from,
the Karuna faction too, is deeply mired in
ethnicising the conflict in the east, increasing
the sense of insecurity felt by the Muslims of
the region. The collaboration between Sinhala
Buddhist forces and TMVP itself might be short
lived, but it emerges from the ultra-nationalists
positions of extremism from both the Sinhala and
Tamil communities, who insist that Muslims are
interlopers and aliens on their homeland. Such
actions if not condemned and eradicated from
their very inception, can intensify fears of
ethnic cleansing and exacerbate ethnic
hostilities beyond repair.

The massacre of ten Muslim labourers in Radal
Kullam (Radella) on September 17 2006, has made
the Muslim community even more vulnerable in the
face of increasing threats to their security and
livelihood. Apart from the massacre itself, what
followed in its trail has sparked wide spread
controversy, in particular the manner in which
the government and forces allied to the
government covertly tried to cover up the
incident. While the local Muslim community
claimed that the STF was responsible either
directly or in complicity with local Sinhala Home
Guards, the state and its allies sought to blame
the LTTE. Those determined to blame the LTTE went
to the extent of virtually taking hostage the
sole survivor of the massacre, by diverting the
ambulance from a hospital in Kalmunai to Ampara;
by forcing the survivor to give an interview to
MP A.L.M. Athaualla and by preventing the
victim’s family from meeting him in the first few
days. The state media on the other hand reported
that the Muslims were blaming the STF because the
STF had taken an active role in curbing illegal
felling. Local Muslims, however have a different
version. They placed the cause for the massacre
on a series of conflicts over land, including one
incident that happened just a day before the
incident. This particular conflict arose over the
attempt to use an area of the burial grounds,
specifically demarcated for Muslims, to bury a
Sinhalese person and STF intervention on behalf
of the Sinhalese community. Local Muslims feel
that the massacre was a warning to the Muslim
Community; they should not vie for control of the

The issue of land grabbing and dispossession in
the East is a complex and acrimonious issue, with
political actors and ethnic communities
exchanging charges that the opposing communities
are using multiple methods to secure more
territory. Forcible annexation and violence, land
sales, poverty and a host of other factors have
altered and continue to alter the ethnic
geography of the east. An additional issue is the
ethnicisation of bureaucracy and administration
with administrative divisions marking ethnic
boundaries. The issue of land is tied to this
ethnicisation of state bureaucracy, with Central
Government, line ministries, GAs, land officers
and GNs all forming a part of the struggle for
securing and maintaining control of the land.
This is the corollary of the ethnicisation of
politics and the ethnic conflict itself. Thus,
policies that show, for whatever reason, ethnic
biases are viewed with suspicion. It is important
to study and understand local situations and
histories in addressing the fears and well being
of different communities.. For instance, since
its establishment the Ampara District has never
had a GA from Sri Lanka’s minority communities.
Local communities be they Muslim, Tamil or
Sinhala often become the pawns of powerful blocs,
testing the limits of age-old coexistence. Where
the Muslim community of the east is concerned,
the threats they face do not come from
neighbouring Sinhala communities but from the

As we have noted above, the progressive
dispossession of the Pottuvil people, through
decree and by state sponsored forces, put the
Muslim population in the region as a whole under
great stress. There is an acute shortage of land
in the region and the Muslim population feels the
economic down slide accompanying these acts of
appropriations. The continuing trend of land
grabbing is alarming. Land is the corner stone of
any solution to the conflict in the east. It is a
crucial factor in the resolution of the ethnic
conflict in terms of power sharing. The state and
other interested parties must act with the utmost
caution in any policy implementation that might
affect any particular community unjustly or serve
to deepen ethnic disharmony. The issues we have
highlighted above deal with the Muslims in
Pottuvil but this a larger problem common to
other communities in the East. Even as we write,
we have reports of the gazette notification of
the declaration of large areas of land in
Trincomalee, in the Sampur division, being taken
over as High Security Zones. This needs to be
looked into in careful detail as well.

The entire country is turning into a
battleground, in the war between the State and
the LTTE. The recent expulsions, of Tamils from
Colombo, remind us of past acts of pogroms and
ethnic cleansing: July 1983 and October 1990, the
eviction of Muslims of the north by the LTTE, the
slaughter of Sinhala peasants in the east by the
LTTE. In this context we also need to be
concerned about other less spectacular and yet as
significant and insidious moves by the state
against ethnic minorities, increasing the fears
and insecurities of the marginalized. The Muslims
of the east feel beleaguered by the increasing
violence and uncertainty surrounding them. They
are over powered by state actions over which they
have absolutely no control. This state of affairs
needs to change immediately.

Peace and security for all the people in the east
will be the ultimate test of any programme of
power sharing. It is the primary responsibility
of the state and other political and civil
organizations to address the fears of the
minority communities in the east, as an urgent
issue, whether they be Muslim, Tamil or Sinhala,
and work toward putting an end to the terror that
is stalking the region. We request civil
activists and concerned persons to explore this
matter further in order to arrive at a just and
equitable alternative to state aggression against
minority communities.


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