ArticlePDF Available

Land Policies, Land-based Development Programs and the Question of Minority Rights in Eastern Sri Lanka

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Land has been one of the major concerning factors in escalating disputes and conflicts between ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, including the violation of minority rights. This paper examines the impact of land policies and land-based development programs on the rights of ethnic minorities in eastern Sri Lanka by analyzing selected major policies and projects. The analysis is interpretive and descriptive in nature. Secondary literature was the primary source for the analysis. The results found that the majority of land policies and programs were designed and implemented in favor of the ethnic majority-the Sinhalese-and violated the land-based rights of ethnic minorities, thereby leading to many problems and challenges. Findings further revealed that not only were these policies and projects intended to reduce the ethnic balance of the minorities in the region, but they also resulted in territorial political claims among the ethnic minorities in the region.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Journal of Sustainable Development; Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
ISSN 1913-9063 E-ISSN 1913-9071
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
223
Land Policies, Land-based Development Programs and the Question
of Minority Rights in Eastern Sri Lanka
Mohammad Agus Yusoff1, Athambawa Sarjoon1, 2 , Azmi Awang3 & Izham Hakim Hamdi4
1 School of History, Politics and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti
Kabangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi 43600, Selangor, Malaysia
2 Department of Political Science, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
3 Road Transport Department Malaysia, Malaysia
4 PhD Student, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia
Correspondence: Mohammad Agus Yusoff, School of History, Politics and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Social
Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kabangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi 43600, Selangor, Malaysia. Email:
agus_@ukm.my
Received: July 2, 2015 Accepted: August 3, 2015 Online Published: September 27, 2015
doi:10.5539/jsd.v8n8p223 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/jsd.v8n8p223
Abstract
Land has been one of the major concerning factors in escalating disputes and conflicts between ethnic groups in
Sri Lanka, including the violation of minority rights. This paper examines the impact of land policies and
land-based development programs on the rights of ethnic minorities in eastern Sri Lanka by analyzing selected
major policies and projects. The analysis is interpretive and descriptive in nature. Secondary literature was the
primary source for the analysis. The results found that the majority of land policies and programs were designed
and implemented in favor of the ethnic majority - the Sinhalese - and violated the land-based rights of ethnic
minorities, thereby leading to many problems and challenges. Findings further revealed that not only were these
policies and projects intended to reduce the ethnic balance of the minorities in the region, but they also resulted
in territorial political claims among the ethnic minorities in the region.
Keywords: land policies, land settlement programs, minority rights, Eastern Sri Lanka
1. Introduction
The human’s wellbeing, progress, and peaceful life are related to the soil, sunshine, river system, forest, and
natural resources of their native land. However, land is a highly politicized and ethnicized issue that has been
widely perceived as being central to the breaking up of ethnic relations and intensified ethno-political conflict in
Sri Lanka since independence. This includes not only land policies, but also a number of state-sponsored land
distribution (colonization) schemes that were implemented in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, which attempted to
move the Sinhalese into Tamil and Muslim dominant areas in the north-eastern region. This negatively impacted
the traditional territory of Tamil-speakers and became a driving force in aggravating tensions and conflict
between the ethnic-majorities and ethnic-minorities in the region. Over the course of time, land has become one
of the major root causes of ethnic conflict and ethnic politics in Sri Lanka. The continuous population transfer
into lands in the north-eastern region predominated by Tamil-speakers through a number of state-aided policies
and projects has compelled the Tamils and Muslims to intensify their advocacy for territorial-based political
claims and bargaining in national politics. Based on this backdrop, this paper attempts to examine the impact of
land policies and land-based settlement projects implemented by successive governments on the socio-economic
and political life of Tamil-speaking minorities, especially those living in eastern Sri Lanka. The main objective
of this study is to review the main features of these land policies and land-based settlement projects of successive
governments, and examine their impact on the rights and interests of ethnic minorities in the eastern province of
Sri Lanka. The analysis adopted in this paper is interpretive and descriptive in nature and secondary data was
mainly used for the establishment of arguments for and against. The analysis was conducted through critically
reviewing a number of land policies and land settlement projects and their impact.
2. Nature of Land Policies and Land Settlement Programs in Sri Lanka: A historical Note
The land policies of the successive Sri Lankan governments have resulted in minority ethnic groups in Sri Lanka
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
224
having to face a number of issues. Land policies in Sri Lanka are governed by several factors. Both colonization
and land settlement schemes planned through these land policies gained momentum and took a dramatic turn
after independence. Rupasinge (2002:14-15) has identified the objectives and characteristics of land policies in
Sri Lanka as follows:
a) The need to satisfy the land hunger of the Sinhalese peasantry,
b) A policy to stop the forward expansion of the Tamil and Muslim population,
c) A policy to change the demographic pattern of the Eastern province through delimitation of boundaries
and the carving out of electoral divisions favorable to the Sinhalese, (and later)
d) The pursuit of geo-military security interests where Sinhalese settlements were encouraged to create a
security zone in such places as Weli Oya (in Trincomalee).
Historically, in Sri Lanka, land ownership dramatically underwent changes during the British colonial period
(1796-1948). During this period, the colonial rulers granted land to those who served well in their administration.
Through this system of colonial patronage, land was bestowed on minorities, especially the Tamils and the
Muslims who were trusted by the colonial rulers and had therefore gained good name amongst the rulers. This
policy led to large land holdings being distributed amongst the clients of the colonial system. However, after
independence, through the ‘Grow More Food’ campaigns of the Sri Lankan government ‘grown lands’ were
allotted mainly to Sinhalese, but as Rupasinghe (2002) indicates, Tamils and Muslims have also benefited. On
this basis, a number of irrigation-based land settlement projects were initiated by successive post-independence
governments, in order to provide land and livelihood opportunities for landless people across the country.
However, these settlements later resulted in land being viewed as a root cause of conflict between ethnic groups,
leading to civil war. Through these projects, on one hand, minorities living in the north-eastern region began to
lose their lands due to the state seizure of their lands; on the other hand, the demographic set-up in the region
became changed over the course of time. Subsequently, these projects ultimately threatened ethnic relations and
caused the emergence of territorial-based political demands, eventually leading to violent ethnic conflict in Sri
Lanka on a great scale.
Land settlement and colonization in the dry zone began in the earliest part of the twentieth century during the
colonial period. Colonization in administrative terms derived from the British can be defined as to settle down
local people in a new area of agriculture. Government expenditure on irrigation had dwindled by 1905, but the
revitalization of the dry zone then became a matter of particular urgency for Sinhalese nationalist politicians.
This revitalization was particularly important to the Low-Country Sinhalese elites, for whom it was a means of
appealing to the Kandyan Sinhalese, the people identified as suffering most from landlessness. Therefore, when a
land commission in 1927 declared that the government must hold ‘Grown land’ in trust for all people and
allocate it for their benefit, the State Council under Don Stephen Senanayake’s leadership planned colonization
schemes in the dry zone encouraging landless Sinhalese peasants to become independent peasant proprietors.
The Land Development Ordinance of 1935 created further mechanisms for this colonization. The stated
objectives of this colonization were to relieve unemployment in the wet zone, to increase food production, and to
establish prosperous settlement in the dry zone (Peebles, 1990:37). Later on, this ordinance became the basis or
source of all land-based development and settlement projects implemented in the country. Using this and
successive policies, the Sri Lankan post-independent governments implemented a number of land-based
development and colonization projects with a number of objectives. One of the regions that received more
attention from the rulers, policy-makers, and nationalists in terms of land-based settlement and development was
the eastern province. These government projects have impacted the entire life of ethnic minorities in this region
in many ways. The following section extensively reviews the major projects and their influence on minorities.
3. Land-colonization in the Eastern Region of Sri Lanka
The land policies and land-based settlement programs initially targeted the eastern region of the country. The
northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka have traditionally been Tamil-speaker (Tamils and Muslims)
predominated regions. Ethnically too, this group differs from the majority group of the country, the Sinhalese.
Since there had been independent Tamil-kingdoms in the north-eastern region, Tamils had identified the region
as the ‘traditional homeland’ of Tamil-speakers. The homeland concept was an influential one in ethnic politics
even before independence in Sri Lanka. Tamil politicians were claiming and advocating territorial autonomy in
the north-eastern region even before independence. However, this idea received huge criticism from the majority
Sinhalese. Therefore, when political power was transferred to them from the colonial rulers, their concern mainly
focused on undermining the territorial autonomy discourse of the Tamils. They used land policies and land
settlement programs in order to sabotage these autonomy discourses and advocacies.
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
225
The British colonial government inaugurated the development of the irrigation tanks in the eastern districts in
1881. However, these developments only facilitated the agriculture of the local population and did not create any
demographic changes in the region. Conversely, the land settlement programs and irrigation-based development
projects implemented by the post-independent governments through land policies were targeted not only at
seizing the lands owned by Tamil-speakers, but also at settling more Sinhalese in the region. Consequently, soon
after independence from the British colonial powers in 1948, the Sinhala population in the eastern province
tripled in size while the size of the Tamil and the Muslim population reduced or remained roughly the same.
Post-independence government-sponsored colonization schemes intended to settle more Sinhalese in eastern
provinces in conjunction with the construction of irrigation-based development projects can be traced back to as
early as the late 1940s. The schemes commenced with the Kanthalai colonization scheme in the south-eastern
part of the Trincomalee district in 1948, during the Premiership of D.S Senanayake, the father of the nation. This
was followed by the Gal Oya settlement scheme in the south-west of the Batticaloa district in 1949, the Allai
scheme in 1953, and the Padaviya colonization scheme in 1958. This continued in 1960s with the construction of
Morawewa scheme, followed by the Weli Oya settlements — later re-christened as the Mahaweli ‘L scheme —
in 1983. Under the auspices of the above various irrigation-based land settlement and development schemes,
Sinhalese peasants were encouraged from the 1950s through the 1980s to move into many parts of the eastern
province by providing them with irrigable agricultural lands and basic amenities. According to International
Crisis Group [ICG] (2012:23), by the late 1960s, the government had alienated more than 300,000 acres of land
to 67,000 allotters in these major colonization schemes. The settlement of so many Sinhalese in the districts of
the eastern province which were, at independence, almost entirely Tamil-speaking, was politically explosive and
emerged as one of the major grievances expressed by the Tamil and Muslim public, their political leaders, and
the Tamil militant groups, including the major militant group fighting for the liberation of Tamils in north-eastern
Sri Lanka - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eealam (LTTE).
3.1 Kanthalai, Allai and Moraweva Schemes in the Trincomalee District and Their Impact
The land settlement and development policies and projects of successive post-independent governments in Sri
Lanka have been a major factor in altering the demography of the eastern province in favor of the Sinhalese. The
so-called land settlement and colonization schemes were boosted by the political elites of the central government
in order to settle more Sinhalese in eastern Sri Lanka as a strategic way to weaken the ethnic balance of
minorities and sabotage their territorial-based autonomy claims. An analysis of the historical background of these
projects and their impact clearly justifies this argument. Colonization schemes in the eastern province started in
Kanthalai in the Trincomalee district, followed by Allai and Moraweva in the same district. There is a tank in
Kanthalai (also named as Gangathala Vapi which was built by King Aggrabodhi the II (606-618) and
rehabilitated and developed by King Parakramabahu the Great) that originally was used to irrigate the paddy
fields belonging to the Thamplakamam and Kinniya farmers, who were mostly the Tamil-speaking Muslims and
Tamils. The government started a land settlement project in 1948 intended to settle more landless people
targeting the water tank. The magnitude of impact of this colonization project can be seen from the fact that in
the early 1900’s, the entire present Kanthalai Divisional Secretariat (DS) division formed the only one Village
Headman’s (presently the Grama Niladari (GN) officer’s) division, in the then Thampalakamam Divisional
Revenue Officer’s (DRO) division (later Assistant Government Agent (AGA) division) (Note 1). However, after
the establishment of the Kanthalai colonization project, in order to facilitate the colonization scheme, the one and
only GN officer’s division was made into an AGA division with 23 GN officer’s divisions. In the beginning of
the 1990s, the UTHR(J) (1993) estimated that about 40,000 of the 86,000 Sinhalese population in the district
migrated there as a result of the Kanthalai colonization scheme.
The Allai colonization scheme began by constructing an anicut across the Verugal river, a tributary of the
Mahaweli Ganga. The entire region receiving irrigation water from this scheme was called the Koddiyar AGA’s
division at that time. Koddiyar was also called Koddiyarpuram in Tamil. Tamils and Muslims had lived in this area
peacefully from ancient times. There are now three DS divisions located here. One is presently called the Muthur
DS division. The second is called the Seruvila DS division, and the third is the Verugal DS division, located
at Ichchilampattai. Several new Sinhalese villages have sprung up, swallowing many ancient Tamil villages
consequent to the Allai irrigation scheme. The DS division of Seruvila is located at Serunuvara, which was
originally called Arippu. It has been identified that 99% of the Sinhalese living in this division are outsiders
colonized by the government through this Allai colonization scheme (See: UTHR(J) 1993).
Mowawewa is another irrigation based colonization scheme that was started in 1961 in the Trincomalee district.
Morawewa is the Sinhalese translation of the Tamil word Mudalikulam (Mudali tank), and is located 24
kilometres west of the Trincomalee town. This tank became the centre of a colonisation scheme in the 1960s and
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
226
included Tamils also as beneficiaries. A new AGA’s division was created in 1976 for Morawewa, bypassing the
priority list originally sent by the Government Agent (GA), Trincomalee. According to the 2012 census, the
Morawewa DS division has a population of 7,968 in its 10 GN officer divisions. The Sinhalese constitute 72.3%
of the division’s total population, and a considerable percentage of them are outsiders settled through this
project.
The major impact of the above land settlement and colonization programs was the demographic change of the
district, especially the reduction of minority populations. As noted earlier, these programs’ objective was to settle
more Sinhalese in the region through providing state lands with necessary amenities. It is worth noting here that
the Sinhalese population of 4.40% in the Trincomalee district in 1921 is increased to 26.97% in 2012. Table-1
clearly illustrates how the district’s population in terms of ethnic groups has changed within this 90-years period.
The ethnic group most affected in this district by these land-based colonization projects is the Tamils, who
initially held a majority with 54.47% of the district’s population in 1921, but now has lost nearly 22% of their
population strength. Over the course of time, in order to politically and administratively facilitate these
settlements, a new constituency called Seruwela was formed during the 1970s dividing the
Tamil-Muslim-majority Muttur constituency, and more new AGA divisions were also created for a small number
of Sinhalese families (mostly the settlers) with the waste allocation of land.
Table 1. The changing ethnic balance in population of Trincomalee District (1921-2012)
Census
Ye ar
Tamils (a) Muslims (b) Sinhalese Others Total
No % No % No % No %
1921 18,580 54.47 12,846 37.66 1,501 4.40 1,185 3.47 34,112
1946 33,795 44.51 23,219 30.58 11,606 15.29 7,306 9.62 75,926
1953 37,517 44.71 28,616 34.10 15,296 18.28 2,488 2.96 83,917
1963 54,452 39.30 40,775 29.43 39,925 28.82 3,401 2.45 138,553
1971 71,749 38.11 59,924 31.83 54,744 29.08 1,828 0.97 188,245
1981 93,132 36.39 75,039 29.32 85,503 33.41 2,274 0.89 255,948
2012 122,080 32.20 152,854 40.27 101,991 26.97 1,257 0.33 378,182
(a) Sri Lanka Tamils and Indian Tamils (b) Sri Lankan Moors and Malays
Source: Department of Census and Statistics 2007 & 2012.
3.2 Gal Oya and Other Irrigation-Based Land Settlement Projects and Their Impact in the Amparai District
One of the districts in the eastern province severely affected by the land settlement and colonization projects is
Amparai. Before the district was formed in 1961, the Muslims and the Tamils had been living with a long history
of predominance in this region. However, the successive land settlement and colonization projects based on the
Gal Oya and Mahaweli irrigation-based projects, not only allowed thousands of acres of lands owned by
Muslims and by Tamils to be seized by government authorities in order to settle more Sinhalese, but also led to
the progressive increase of Sinhalese among the district’s population.
The Gal Oya irrigation-based development project was a major project initiated by the post-independent
government in Sri Lanka. This project was initiated in 1949 by the then UNP government under the leadership of
D.S Senanayaka, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, when the present day Amparai district was a part of the
Batticaloa district. Through the project, an area of more than 120,000 acres of irrigable land was developed and
allotted to settlers between 1949 and 1952 (Peebles, 1990:37). According to Hasbullah et al. (2005:35-37), under
this colonization scheme, allotters were selected overwhelmingly from the Sinhalese rather than from the
Muslims and the Tamils who formed a majority in the region at that time; the consequences of this has lopsided
the ethnic balance of the Amparai district.
When the Gal Oya scheme was inaugurated, D.S. Senanayake promised that the new lands that were cultivatable
under the scheme would be distributed on a 50:50 basis between the local citizens and the colonists selected
from the outside (Ibrahim 2001; Mohideen 2013). Since Muslims constituted about 70% of the region’s
population at that time, Muslim politicians welcomed the project and worked for the success of the project.
However, contrary to the promises made, Muslims and Tamils were only settled in six villages out of the 44 new
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
227
settlement villages formed under this project. Studies reveal that furthermore, these six villages have suffered a
lot due to the shortage of water during the dry season, which compelled some settlers to leave the settlement later
(Mohideen, 2013:82; Hasbullah et al., 2005: 33-37). As Mohideen (2008) criticizes, the opening of the Gal Oya
scheme was a great boon to the Sinhala people, but Muslims viewed it as a device to deprive them of living and
owning lands in the district. This was the stance of the Tamils too. According to the minorities’ version of this
history, the colonists settled under this project were selected overwhelmingly among the Sinhalese rather than
from the Muslims and Tamils, who were the majority in the region at that time. As a result, both the Muslims and
the Tamils were faced with severe land shortage in the Amparai district, while the ethnic balance of the district
was also disrupted. Table-2 illustrates the changing dynamics of the population in the Amparai district within a
fifty years period. Furthermore, through this process, land was also allocated favoring the Sinhalese through
limiting the boundaries of local political and administrative units, thereby violating the rightful share of ethnic
minorities. Table-3 clearly reveals this fact.
Table 2. The changing ethnic balance in the population of Amparai district (1963-2012)
Census
Ye ar
SL Muslims Sinhalese SL Tamils Others Total no.
No % No % No % No %
1963 97,621 46.11 61,996 29.28 49,185 23.23 2,930 1.38 211,732
1973 126,365 46.35 82,280 30.18 23,456 8.40 3,441 1.26 272,605
1981 161,568 41.45 146,943 37.78 77,826 20.20 2.633 0.67 388,970
2012 282,484 43.59 251,018 38.73 112,750 17.40 1,805 0.28 648,057
Source: Department of Census and Statistics 2007; 2012 & 2014.
It is worth noting here that Muslims comprise about 43.6% of the Amparai district’s population, but only about
17.2% of the total district’s land has been allocated to the Muslim-majority DS divisions in the district. Similarly,
the Tamils make up 17.4% of the district’s population, but only 9.2% of the district’s land is allocated to the
Tamil-majority DS divisions in the district. On the other hand, about three quarters of the lands in the district
belong to the DS divisions that almost entirely consist of Sinhalese populations, i.e., about 73.6% of the total
district’s land is allocated to the Sinhalese-majority DS divisions, even though the Sinhalese constitute only
38.7% of the district’s population.
Table 3. Land distribution based on ethnic group-dominated DS divisions in the Amparai district (2012)
DS divisions
predominated by
ethnic groups
Share in district population
(2012)
Allocated land for DS divisions
predominated by ethnic groups
Amount % Amount (KM2)%
Muslims 281,702 43.6 7,59.4 17.2
Sinhalese 252,458 38.7 3,248.5 73.6
Tamils 112,457 17.4 407.1 9.2
Others 2,785 0.3 - -
Total 649,402 100 4,415 100
Source: District Secretariat, Amparai 2013.
The Gal Oya project has also involved the creation of state-owned plantations in the region in order to cultivate
new cash crops, particularly sugar cane. Sinhalese settlers were the primary beneficiaries of the sugar cane
production, which was sold at a state-guaranteed price. At the same time, the sugar cane cultivation reduced
water supplies for less lucrative paddy production by the Tamil and the Muslim farmers (Thangarajah, 2003:25).
As IGC (2008:5) reports, due to the layout of existing settlements and land use, the bulk of Sinhalese farmers
over the years were able to settle down in the western part of existing Tamil and Muslim communities’ living
areas and thus became closer to water sources. These Sinhalese have generally received more and more
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
228
consistent water facilities, and this has become a frequent complaint amongst the Tamil and Muslim farmers of
the district. Later, the Tamils and the Muslims were allowed to develop their livelihood activities in their
traditionally owned lands, however, they were compelled to limit their settlements in the coastal belt. This
created a number of land-based issues for the Tamil-speakers living in the coastal belt of the Amparai district. To
quote a recent example, the land shortage faced by the Muslims resulted in them challenging the process of
resettlements and development, especially after the 2004 Asian tsunami devastation that killed about 11,000
people - mostly Muslims and Tamils - and destroyed almost all the basic amenities in the coastal belt of the
Amparai district.
4. Mahaweli Project and Its Impact on Ethnic Minorities in Eastern Sri Lanka
Another major irrigation-based land settlement program that has caused ethnic tension and intensified the ethnic
conflict in Sri Lanka was the Accelerated Mahaweli development program — the biggest river basin
development program conceived in Sri Lanka — implemented by the United National Party (UNP) government
from 1978 onwards. Soon after the sweeping victory of the 1977 general election under the leadership of J.R.
Jeyawardena, the UNP government introduced a program of economic liberalism and a series of development
projects, including the Accelerated Mahaweli Program, to relieve economic pressure (Peebles, 1990:41). The
objectives of the Mahaweli Development Scheme were related to regulating and harnessing the waters of the
Mahaweli river for land settlement, power generation, agricultural activities, and food production and thereby the
provision of employment (Mahaweli Authority, 2014). As late as May 1982, Mahaweli project officials claimed
that reduced unemployment in dry zone settlements would eradicate ethnic tension. However, as Peeble (1990:41)
notes, they were unduly optimistic, as earlier colonization schemes had divided the Sinhalese majority and the
Tamil minority long before the Mahaweli project was designed.
The Mahaweli development project was initially proposed in 1968 under the United National Front (UNF)
government as a thirty-year project. However, the new UNP government that came to power in 1977 reported
that it would implement the entire thirty-year development plan in six years under the theme of ‘Accelerated
Mahaweli Project.’ This claim was motivated by the over-whelming public support received in the 1977 general
election, continuous propaganda barrages, and the government’s success in attracting massive foreign aid. It is
worth noting here that even though the project was propagated as having a development motive — to facilitate
more job opportunities with substantial economic development — the project ultimately aimed at disturbing
ethnic relations between the Tamils and the Sinhalese through especially focusing on projects and programs for
the Sinhalese. Eventually, under this project, four major dams were built and an estimated 390,000 acres of new
land were settled by 140,000 families, most of them in the eastern province in the Mahaweli and adjacent
Maduru Oya (river) basins (Peebles, 1990:43). A noteworthy fact is that from the era of independence onwards,
no major irrigation-based project has been implemented in the Tamil-speakers predominated areas in the
north-eastern region that has benefited them. For example, successive governments, especially the Jeyawardene
government accelerated the Mahaweli project with the intention of appealing to its Sinhalese constituencies.
Furthermore, beyond providing direct economic benefits to Sinhalese constituencies, the Jeyawardene
government linked the accelerated Mahaweli program to the restoration of the ancient Sinhalese civilization (For
more detail see: Jeyawardene, 1982). In addition to sponsoring irrigation projects under the Mahaweli project,
the government also encouraged private groups to focus on developing more Sinhalese settlements in many parts
of the north-eastern region during the period of the Mahaweli project.
One important aspect of the accelerated Mahaweli project with regard to minorities was the expansion of an
irrigation project to the Eastern province [called Zone L & M], which has severely impacted the Tamils’
discourse of a ‘traditional homeland’ in the north-eastern region. In the initial Mahaweli project, there was no
plan to direct the Mahaweli river to the eastern province. However, the UNP government turned it towards the
eastern province. It should also be noted that the expansion of the Mahaweli irrigation project into the Manal Aru
(Weli Oya) region in the northern reaches of the Trincomalee district in the eastern province in the 1980s was
particularly controversial. While it was designated as the ‘Mahaweli-L scheme’ that came under the jurisdiction
of the Mahaweli Authority, the areas were always too remote to receive actual water from the Mahaweli river.
Instead, as Fonseka & Jegatheeswaran (2013:55) argue, the administrative powers of the Mahaweli authority
were used to legitimize a largely military-led project to settle a Sinhalese community that could act as a buffer to
the expansion of LTTE control in this area. Settling Sinhalese at the border of the eastern and the northern
provinces was also designed to undermine Tamil nationalists’ claim of ‘a contiguous north-eastern Tamil
homeland.’ The Tamil nationalists have maintained that this was an attempt at bifurcating the north from the east
with a string of Sinhalese settlements. In order to further undermine the Tamils’ ‘homeland’ demand and to
legitimize the Sinhalese settlements in these areas, the central government has declared these areas as a separate
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
229
Divisional Secretariat (DS) division empowered with substantial fund allocations.
As Peebles (1990:32) rightly mentions, the colonization of the dry zone has intensified Sri Lanka’s ethnic
conflict because it evoked Sinhalese ethnic myths that idealized the prosperity and simple piety of the ancient
Sinhalese while exaggerating the hostility of the Tamils, whom the Sinhalese believed threatened the very
existence of Buddhism and who eventually drove the Sinhalese from the dry zone. Tamils, on the other hand, by
claiming a territory called the ‘Tamil homeland’ in the north-eastern part on the basis of their own ethnic myths,
have heightened the Sinhalese fear and made it impossible for the government to deal with the issue rationally,
thus leading to the Tamils choosing a violent way of achieving their homeland. Consequently, the colonization
project has become a nonnegotiable subject for people on both sides and has intensified Sri Lanka’s violence and
civil war over the course of time.
As the Sinhalese settled and established armed villages, thousands of Tamil families were forcibly displaced by
the army from their traditional villages in these areas due to the civil war. Among those forced out were hundreds
of Tamils of Indian origin who had settled down and worked on Tamil-owned farms in these areas after fleeing
the 1977 organized riots in the south and central highlands of the country. The process of militarized settlement
in the Weli Oya region was halted by the war, but now appears to have been revived in order to repopulate and
expand the previously established Sinhalese areas. From the perception of the minorities, the movement of
Sinhalese settlers into these areas is part of the central government policy of Sinhalization in the region, and not
the result of entrepreneurial activities of local commanders and businessmen (Manimaran, 2013).
After the end of civil war in May 2009, the central government with the assistance of military authorities
attempted to settle the displaced families with more new Sinhalese settlers in this region. Politicians promised
the returners who were displaced due to the civil war that additional lands would be made available in the north
as the reservoirs and lands were abandoned by the Tamils during the war. The decision to transfer formal
administrative control over the Weli Oya area to the Mahaweli authorities meant that Tamil district and
divisional level officials would lose the control they had over the land in those areas where Tamils remained the
majority. Furthermore, as ICG (2012) identified, there are also plans to regularize the questionable status of land
titles and permits held by many of the Sinhalese settlers from the 1980s and 1990s, and legalize their semi-legal
settlements. Many Tamils criticize not only these Sinhalese settlements but also the government’s October 2011
decision to shift the Weli Oya division from the Sinhala majority district of Anuradhapura to Mullaitivu, making
it the first Sinhala-majority division in a virtually all Tamil district (Note 2).
Table 4. Population change of eastern province - ethnic group basis (1921-2012)
Census
Ye ar
Tamils (a) Muslims (b) Sinhalese Others Total no.
No % No % No % No %
1921 103,245 53.54 75,992 39.41 8,744 4.53 4,840 2.51
192,821
1946 136,059 48.75 109,024 39.06 23,456 8.40 10,573 3.79
279,112
1953 167,898 47.37 135,322 38.18 46,470 13.11 4,720 1.33
354,410
1963 246,059 45.03 184,434 33.75 108,636 19.88 7,345 1.34
546,474
1971 315,566 43.98 247,178 34.45 148,572 20.70 6,255 0.87
717,571
1981 410,156 42.06 315,436 32.34 243,701 24.99 5,988 0.61
975,251
2012 617,295 39.79 569,738 36.72 359,136 23.15 5,212 0.34
1,551,381
(a) Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils (b) Sri Lankan Moors and Malays
Source: Department of Census and Statistics 2007 & 2012.
Ultimately, Tamil-speaking communities, who formed the majority in the eastern province population, viewed
these government-sponsored projects as state-driven colonization projects that favored the Sinhalese from
outside the province and dramatically impacted the demography of the region. An analysis of the population
change in terms of ethnic groups of the province justifies this argument to a greater extent. For example, since
independence, the Sinhala population in the eastern province has sharply increased from 8.4% in 1946 to 24.9%
in 1981. There were only 23,456 Sinhalese in the eastern province in 1946, but in 1963 the region had a
Sinhalese population of 108,636, and in 1981, this figure increased to 234,701. These statistics justify the claim
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
230
that the Sinhalese population of the eastern province has rapidly increased in merely thirty-five years, as a result
of the above-mentioned land-based settlement projects implemented in the province. Conversely, the percentages
of Tamil-speaking minorities have decreased in the region. Table-4 elaborates on the changes in ethnic
composition in the eastern province.
Whatever the prevailing reality, there are contesting arguments and different viewpoints with regards to the land
settlement and land- (and irrigation) based development programs initiated and implemented in the
Tamil-speakers predominated eastern province. Minority Tamils and Muslims feel that the government has
favored empowering the Sinhalese community and has attempted to increase the Sinhalese population in the
region through these projects. According to them, land development/settlement and massive irrigation projects
are designed to improve the economic conditions of the Sinhalese, and steps have not been taken by Sinhalese
dominated governments to improve the economic and social conditions of the Tamils and the Muslims living in
the region. Furthermore, these concentrated settlements of Sinhalese in the eastern province have resulted in
more political leverage for Sinhalese living in some districts (See: Manogaran, 1987:95-97).
There is an abiding concern among Tamil-speaking minorities that the government is continuing its attempts to
provide more lands for the Sinhalese and is attempting to decrease the Tamil-speaking population in the region,
even in the post-war context. Many initiatives taken by the central government in the districts of the eastern
province provide evidence in support of these worries. Many Sinhalese villages, especially newly established
settlements, have been upgraded to the status of separate Divisional Secretariat (DS) (the major administrative
unit under district), by merging some villages of Tamil-speaking communities. There were occasions where
many Sinhalese majority villages were merged with Tamil and Muslim majority DS divisions, which had
tremendous impact on ethnic composition within the division and the district, as well as affecting electoral
politics. Furthermore, there was an attempt a few years ago to establish a new district by carving out a DS
division from the Mullaitivu, Anuradapura, and Trincomalee districts, which was intended to act as a buffer
between the northern and the eastern provinces. Fonseka & Raheem (2010:54) viewed this as a possible attempt
to break the territorial contiguity of the concept of the ‘Tamil Homeland.’ Additionally, the Tamils have viewed
these policies as an attempt to change the ethnic composition of the areas where they traditionally have
predominated. As discussed earlier, these colonization projects have made substantial changes in population
distribution and raise some issues of general interest in the area of ethnic conflict. Table-1, Table-2, and Table-3
clearly justify this argument.
However, for the Sinhala community, the granting of land to Sinhalese is seen as a positive process aimed at
distributing land to the landless. There is also a perception among the Sinhalese that they are not ‘stealing’ land
from the minorities but are actually and merely re-claiming land that they abandoned centuries ago, especially
given the historical sites and references in the north-east historic narratives (Fonseka & Raheem, 2010:26).
Furthermore, some claim that the process of land settlements in the north-eastern region is to establish
inter-racial equity (See: Marga, 1985). Sinhala nationalists further point out that individual and
politician-sponsored settlement projects for Tamils and Muslims are evidence of colonization by minorities.
There are some points to be noted with regards to the seizure of Tamil-speakers’ lands and the settlement of more
Sinhalese in the eastern region. Land settlement schemes in the name of protecting the peasantry and increasing
paddy/food production were not just another development activity. Rather, the schemes encompassed a whole
range of objectives. They were a means of redressing past grievances and correcting colonial injustice. As these
schemes were expected to improve and protect the life of the vast majority of the population, they were a
principal foundation of the post-colonial state. Furthermore, these land policies in turn were essential for the
consolidation of the centralized state. The policies consolidated the relationship between the ruling class that
controlled the centralized state and the rural Sinhalese who formed the majority. Land policies, reforms, and land
settlement projects were focused on this objective.
It is also worth noting here that the land policies and land settlement projects have induced the emergence of
territorial-based political claims (territorial autonomy, self-rule and separate state) in Sri Lankan ethnic conflict.
Every land settlement in the dry zone of the eastern province has been a major source of grievance among
Tamil-speaking minorities, contributing to the demands of territorial autonomy among the Muslims, and a
separate state among the Tamils. A systemic review of the minorities’ demands in the discourse of this ethnic
conflict reveals that stopping land seizures and land settlements in the eastern region, and granting more
autonomy in land affairs to the northern and eastern provincial councils were the major two claims of minorities
(See: Hasbullah et al., 2005; Uyangoda, 2009; Fonseka & Raheem, 2010; Sarjoon, 2011; Fonseka &
Jegatheeswaran, 2013). Furthermore, land settlements and development projects were one of the main causes of
the civil war. As Korf & Tudor Silva (2003:2) indicate, even though there have been numerous fallouts of the
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
231
war elsewhere in Sri Lanka, the dry zone has been the main theatre of war in Sri Lanka for the past two decades.
The geographical basis of the armed conflict in the north-eastern region of the island is typically understood in
terms of ethnic-wise population distribution in the country. Various parts of the northern and the eastern
provinces are being tenuously held by Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE, with the former determined to
preserve the territorial integrity of the Sri Lanka nation and the latter fighting for an independent Tamil
homeland (Eelam) merging the two provinces. State-owned and state-controlled colonization programs, in
particular, have been heavily criticized and often targeted by the Tamil fighters, accusing these programs as an
effort to expand the Sinhala frontier into the so called ‘Tamil homeland.’ In fact, the separate state (homeland)
demand, to a considerable extent, has challenged the ability of the central state to control land in the northern and
the eastern provinces.
Even though the thirteenth amendment to the constitution made in 1987, intended to resolve ethnic conflict by
devolving powers to provincial councils and granting land related powers to these councils, successive central
governments controlled by the Sinhalese have shown little interest in fully granting of such powers to be
exercised by the councils in these provinces. The present context of issues related to decentralization and
power-sharing in Sri Lanka has created a situation where the resolution of ethnic conflict cannot be achieved
without reframing the centralized state and establishing territorial based autonomous units which are empowered
to control the lands within their territories, in order to accommodate ethnic and regional minorities living in
north-eastern Sri Lanka.
5. Conclusion
As examined above, the land policies and land settlement projects implemented by successive post-independence
Sri Lankan governments motivated by the need for development in the undeveloped interior regions of the island,
have contributed a number of benefits in particular to the Sinhalese, with a negative impact on the rights of
minorities, engendering the development of territory-based political claims, ethnic conflict, and violent civil war
in Sri Lanka. These policies and projects provided more lands to the landless Sinhalese peasantry and improved
their livelihood in the predominantly Tamil-speaking eastern region while strengthening their presence in the
region. Furthermore, these policies and projects have facilitated the Sinhalese politically and administratively.
On the other hand, these initiatives have alienated the minorities and have made objective changes to population
distribution in the region as well as in the whole country. All these calculated attempts and their impact have
resulted in the emergence of claims and advocacy for more decentralized powers, territorial autonomy, and a
separate state along with the breakdown of majority-minority ethnic relations and mutual interethnic
understanding, and the eventual increase of violence and civil war in the region. As discussed earlier, land
policies and land settlement programs have negatively influenced the lives and livelihoods of minorities in the
eastern region, and also contributed towards the violation of their rights, which in turn has become a source of
ethnic conflict and civil war in the country. Therefore, as a developing country that has experienced the severe
negative impact of land policies and land settlement programs, Sri Lanka needs to resolve the land issues faced
by its ethnic minorities in the eastern province as a condition to build lasting peace and sustainable development
in the post-war environment.
References
Department of Census and Statistics. (2007). Special enumeration-Eastern province 2007. Colombo: Department
of Census and Statistics.
Department of Census and Statistics. (2012). Census of population and housing-2012. Colombo: Department of
Census and Statistics.
Department of Census and Statistics. (2014). Census of population and housing-2012 (New)- Final report.
Colombo: Department of Census and Statistics. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from
http://www.statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/CPH2012Visualization/htdocs/index.php?usecase=indicator&action
=Map&indId=10
District Secretariat, Amparai. (2013). Annual performance report and budget 2012. Amparai: District Secretariat.
Fonseka, B., & Jegatheeswara, D. (2013). Politics, policies and land acquisition and related issues in the north
and the east of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Center for Policy Alternative.
Fonseka, B., & Raheem, M. (2010). Land in the eastern province: politics, policy and conflict. Colombo: Center
for Policy Alternative.
Hasbullah, S. H., Balasundarampillai, P., & Tudor Silva, K. (2005). Addressing root causes of the conflict: land
problems in the north-east Sri Lanka. Colombo: Foundation for Co-Existence.
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
232
Ibrahim, I. L. M. (2001). Kalmunai coastal district. Sammanthurai: Author’s Publication.
International Crisis Group (ICG). (2008). Sri Lanka’s eastern province: land, development, conflict. London:
ICG.
International Crisis Group (ICG). (2012). Sri Lanka’s north I: the denial of minority rights. London: ICG.
Jeyawardena, S. (1982). History of Maduru Oya. Dehiwala. Colombo: Sri Lanka: Cultural Publications Co.
Jinapala, K., Somarathne, P. G., Ariyaratne, B. R., & Merrey, D. J. (2012). Improving the sustainability of
impacts of agricultural water management interventions in changing context. The case study for Sri Lanka.
Colombo: International Water Management Institute.
Karunanayake, M. M., & Abhayaratne, M. D. C. (2002). Redefining regional development in Sri Lanka: realities
and challenges. CMU. Journal, 1(3), 303-319.
Korf, B., & Tudor Silva, K. (2003). Poverty, ethnicity, and conflict in Sri Lanka. Retrieved November 6, 2014,
from http://www.chronicpoverty.org/uploads/publication_files/CP_2003_KorfSilva.pdf
Mahaweli Authority. (2014). Master plan. Colombo: Mahaweli Authority. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from
http://mahaweli.gov.lk/en/mp.html
Manimaran, S. Civil activists, Interviewed on 18.08.2013. Jaffna.
Manogaran, C. (1987). Ethnic conflict and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Marga. (1985). Inter-racial equity and national unity in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Marga Institute.
Mohideen, M. I. M. (2008). Sinhalisation of East: a reply to Minister Champika Ranawaka. Retrieved December
18, 2014, from http://www.island.lk/2007/12/27/features5.html
Mohideen, M. I. M. (2013). Eastern Muslims must unite politically. Colombo: Al-Ceylan Muslim
Documentation Center.
Peebles, P. (1990). Colonization and ethnic conflict in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The Journal of Asian Studies,
49(1), 30-55. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2058432
Rupasinghe, K. (2002). Enhancing human security in the Eastern province. Colombo: Center for Policy
Alternative.
Sarjoon, A. (2011). Changing dynamics of minority rights discourse in Sri Lanka’s eastern province: a study of
the Muslim demand for autonomy. (Unpublished Master Thesis). University of Colombo. Colombo, Sri
Lanka.
Thangarajah, Y. (2003). Ethnicization of the devolution debate and the militarization of civil society in Sri Lanka.
In M. Mayer, D. Rajasingham-Senanayake, & Y. Tangarajah (Eds.), Building local capacities for peace:
rethinking conflict and development in Sri Lanka (pp.15-36). New Delhi: Macmillan India.
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) Sri Lanka (UTHR(J). (1993). Colonization and demographic
changes in the Trincomalee district and its effects on Tamil speaking people (Report 11). Jaffna: UTHR(J).
Retrieved May 11, 2015, from http://www.uthr.org/Reports/Report11/appendix2.htm
Uyangoda, J. (2009). Sri Lanka: recent shift in the minority rights debate. In R. Manchanda (Ed.), Living on the
margins: minorities in South Asia (pp. 99-120). Katmandu: EUROASIA-NET Partners.
Yusoff, M. A., Sarjoon, A. Asrinaldi, & Mohd Zain, Z. (2015). Decentralized administration and minority
accommodation in Sri Lanka: analyzing the status, issues, challenges and prospects. Mediterranean Journal
of Social Sciences, 6(4S1), 533-542. http://dx.doi.org/10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n4s1p533
Notes
Note 1. The AGA division was the local level administration division under the district. A district was divided
into many AGA divisions. This level of administrative unit was formed in the 1950s and functioned until 1990.
The AGA divisions were transformed into Divisional Secretariat (DS) division in 1990 empowered with more
de-concentrated powers through Transfer of Powers (Divisional Secretaries') Act, No- 58 of 1992. For more
information see: Jinapala etal (2012) & Yusoff etal (2015).
Note 2. Initially, the territory of Weli Oya District Secretariat was as part of Trincomalee district under the
control of district secretary. In the cause of civil war, it was attached with the Anurathapura district. However, at
the end of civil war, the division is attached with the district of Mullaitivu as the one and only Sinhalese majority
www.ccsenet.org/jsd Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 8, No. 8; 2015
233
district. For further details on this regard, see, ICG (2008); Fonseka & Raheem (2010); IGC (2012); Fonseka &
Jegatheeswara (2013).
Copyrights
Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s), with first publication rights granted to the journal.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
... Starting from the Kantale irrigation-based settlement scheme in 1948 in the Trincomalee district, the land settlement project continued to other parts of the region; Gal Oya settlement project started in 1949 covering the Southern part of the Batticaloa district (presently the Amparai district) and Alle and Morawewa in the Trincomalee district and Mahaweli-E scheme in the border of Batticaloa district from 1950 up to 1980s (See: Hasbullah et al., 2005;Fonseka & Raheem, 2010;Yusoff et al., 2015b). Under the auspices of the above-noted various irrigation-based land settlement and development schemes, Sinhalese peasants were encouraged from the 1950s through the 1980s to move into many parts of the Eastern province by providing them with irrigable agricultural lands and basic amenities. ...
... Specific ways in which the central government authorities appears to be involved in land issues in the Eastern province were: taking over land for security purposes or under various ministries; and supporting, assisting or sponsoring families from the Sinhalese community of the other districts or provinces to settle in the province. In fact, as Yusoff et al. (2015b) argue, the land policies and land settlement projects have further induced the emergence of territorial-based political claims (territorial autonomy, self-rule and separate state) in Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Every land settlement in the dry zone of the Eastern province has been a major source of grievances among Tamil-speaking minorities, contributing to the demands of territorial autonomy among the Muslims, and a separate state among the Tamils. ...
Article
Full-text available
Regional politics play a decisive role in national politics when region poses ethnic groups in competing manner. Sri Lanka's Eastern province has been a contested region in terms of ethnic and territorial integration as well as the integration of majority and minorities from the independence of the country, during civil war, and in the post-civil war era. This study explores the ethnic groups' competition for political control and autonomy, as well as its impact in Eastern Sri Lanka. This study has employed both qualitative and quantitative data, collected mainly through secondary sources such as literary books, book chapters, journal articles, newspaper cuttings, and government documents, which are analyzed and presented through interpretive and descriptive manners. The study has found that the Eastern province has been a contested choice for the ethnic majority to extend their ethnic domination, and to implement ethno-centric development-cum settlement policies and programs, all of which are ultimately induced to change the ethnic composition of the region and pushed ethnic minorities to mobilize and demand for more decentralized power and autonomy in the region. The thirty-year prolonged civil war made the region not only a war-torn, but also let to undermining regional democratic principles, including minorities' rights for autonomy. The study also reveals that the new emerging postwar political context at the provincial and national levels continues to undermine the minorities' hopes for autonomy in the region. Nevertheless, the region has emerged as 'role-model' for ethnic cohesive politics.
... The passage of the Citizenship Act of 1948, which disfranchised thousands of Indian Muslims, served a severe blow to the business activities of the Indian Muslims. Due to the colonization and nationalization policies of the post-independence governments, Muslims-particularly those in the eastern province-lost thousands of acres of agricultural lands that reduced the Muslim ownership of agricultural lands (see [24,25]). In particular, measures such as the ceiling on house and property ownership, the takeover of export and import trade, and the expansion of the cooperative system in local trade broke the backbone of the Muslim bourgeoisies [19,26]. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper aims to examine the overall impact of anti-halal and anti-slaughtering campaigns in the context of postwar Sri Lanka. The reemergence of majoritarian ethno-religious anti-minority nationalist forces and their intensified anti-minority hatred and violence have made it challenging for ethno-religious minorities in Sri Lanka to engage in religious norms and duties. This is especially true for the Muslim community. Numerous Islamic fundamentals have been criticized and opposed. Muslims have had to endure threats and acts of violence. These campaigns and violent oppositions, imposed by the Buddhist-nationalist forces, have caused concern for Muslims performing their obligatory religious duties and norms. In Sri Lanka, the Muslim community has been allowed to produce halal food and slaughter animals for human consumption and religious rituals for a long period without disturbance. Unfortunately, retaliation and hatred in the post-civil war era in the country have threatened these rights. Thus, it has become imperative to investigate the motivating factors of the anti-halal and anti-animal slaughtering campaigns and violence, as well as their related impact, which is lacking in the existing literature on ethno-religious politics in the context of Sri Lanka. This study found that the anti-halal and anti-animal slaughtering campaigns and oppositions that have been intensified by the Buddhist nationalist forces were part of anti-Muslim sentiments intended to sabotage the economic pride of Muslims and undermine their religious renaissance. The study also found that these campaigns have been facilitated by the state and that continuous facilitation of the anti-Muslim sentiments and campaigns, including the anti-halal and anti-animal slaughter campaigns, would challenge the country's economic prosperity and the rebuilding of ethno-religious harmony.
... However, the United People Freedom Alliance ( Note 3. For more details on the land-related issues facing by the people of the coastal area of Amparai district, see: Yusoff et al., 2015a;Sarjoon et al., 2015;Fonseka & Raheem, 2010;Mohideen, 2008& Hasbullah et al, 2005. ...
Article
Full-text available
Decentralizing administrative powers to locally established administrative units has been the key goal of many governments in developing counties intended to boost socio-economic development at regional level. Sri Lanka has also introduced many decentralization initiatives with development motives. New administrative districts were formed in Sri Lanka with development as part of their motive, but, no new district has been formed in the last 30 years while demands have prevailed in many corners of the country. The demand calling for the establishment of the Kalmunai administrative district has been a prolonged and politically influencing demand for the last 15 years in Sri Lanka’s political-development discourse. This study attempts to examine the development impacts of establishing the Kalmunai administrative district that has been advocated by the people living in the coastal belt of the Amparai district (referred as ‘south eastern region’), a region which has been lacking in terms of development due to the severe impacts of thirty-year civil war as well as the 2004 Asian Tsunami devastation in Sri Lanka. The findings of the study reveal that the establishment of the proposed Kalmunai district will eventually contribute to multi-dimensional development in the region in the long run, however, a conducive institutional environment needs to be built in and around the district administrative machinery in order to ensure equity and justice in service delivery and resource allocation among different ethnic groups in the district which would be the pre-condition for the sustainability of any kind of development impact in the region.
Article
Full-text available
Even though the civil war in Sri Lanka officially ended in 2009, the hardship created by war is long-lasting and will take years to reconcile. This research is about the impact of war politics on women of Tamil community in the Ampara district of Sri Lanka during the period of armed conflict. The findings of this study reveal that the girls of the Tamil community were forcefully recruited to join the Tamil militant groups. Hence, parents found the only way to rescue their children and to assure their existence was to arrange teenage marriages. Most of those marriages were not legally registered. This paved the way for the male partners to abandon their spouses, often with children. The women whose children were forcefully recruited to militant forces and whose life was lost in the battle filed were given the dignity of ‘Veera Thai’ (Heroine Mother) with an allowance as gratitude for bearing such a war hero. However, it was revealed the title itself had resulted in many types of hardships. The government also deliberately denied any public assistance to those families. The study has found that the women in the numerically weakest groups during war time, irrespective of age difference, had undergone many and varied hardship. The study further has identified that the hardship experienced by these women continued even in the post-civil war context. Therefore, the study urges that these types of hardship faced by women in the post-war context need to be handled with political sensitivity to the equity and justice for women.
Conference Paper
Decentralization promotes and strengthens the quality of local administration in plural communal context. However, decentralized district administration in post-independence Sri Lanka has been challenging, primarily due to a number of issues related to the accommodation of rights and interests of minorities. The persistent sidetracking of minorities' concerns in district administration has pushed them to claim and advocate for separate decentralized institutional arrangements. One such issue is the call to form a separate administrative district (referred to as "Kalmunai administrative district") in the coastal belt of the existing Amparai district. While exploring the factors that motivated the concept of a new administrative district, this study examined the potential impact of the formation of a Kalmunai administrative district. This research employed qualitative and quantitative data collected through different sources, which are presented through interpretive and descriptive arguments. The findings reveal that the conceptualization and advocacy of the Kalmunai administrative district are outcomes of several interconnected factors that undermined the rights and interests of ethnolinguistic minorities in decentralized district administration. These factors include the administrative domination of the ethnic majority, violation of the official language policy, and discrimination and marginalization of ethnic minorities in the district administration affairs. However, this study suggests that the establishment of the proposed administrative district would not only improve the quality of public service delivery and accommodate linguistic concerns of minorities in the district administration but would also enhance the socioeconomic development in the region, if the district administration is carefully organized and managed.
Article
Full-text available
The Muslim community living in the “South-Eastern Region” of Sri Lanka has long been urging the government authorities to establish a separate Kalmunai administrative district carved out of the coastal belt of the present Amparai district, as an institutional mechanism to improve public service delivery and development administration functions in the region. However, the establishment of the Kalmunai administrative district has continually been challenged, receiving criticism and oppositions from different sources, including from the Muslim community and its politicians. This study analyzes the perspectives of Muslim community and its politics towards the demand for the Kalmunai administrative district and its impacts on the political advocacy and methods to achieving it. This study has found that there are different and contradictory perspectives on the matter of the Kalmunai administrative district among the Muslim political parties and in different segments of the community. It is also discovered that the public understanding on the subject of the proposed district is very minimal. The establishment of the proposed Kalmunai administrative district has frequently failed on many crucial occasions mainly due to the lack of consensus among the Muslims leaders regarding the contested subjects of the proposed district. Additionally, this study has observed that the Muslim leaders have conceptualized the proposed Kalmunai district purely based on ethnicity only and have failed to justify it on public and rational grounds. The study has further found that the establishment of the proposed Kalmunai administrative district and its purported positive impacts would strongly depend on making the demand for the proposed district a more secular and public one.
Article
Full-text available
One of the major objectives of decentralization is to facilitate the administrative machinery of a government to deliver public services efficiently and effectively to all segment of public, including the minority groups living within a state. In a multi-ethnic country, the decentralized administration with specific provisions and institutional arrangements can help to promote and protect the rights and privileges of minorities. However, in Sri Lanka, decentralization has been a contested topic of debate in terms of minority accommodation. This study attempts to access the constitutional and institutional arrangement of ethnic minority accommodation in decentralized administration, the status of their practice, and the related issues in Sri Lanka. The finding reveals that even though Sri Lanka has adopted decentralized administrative system at different levels, but it has failed to accommodate the rights and interests of ethno-linguistic minorities within the system. The study identifies the non-implementation of the constitutional provisions on minority language (Tamil) in administrative affairs as one of the key factors motivated to the minority grievances in decentralized administration in Sri Lanka. It is further identified that the lack of commitment to follow and implement the constitutional provisions and the acts of ethnic discrimination and marginalization in administrative affairs have compelled the minorities to claim and advocate for more institutional and policy reforms in decentralization discourse in Sri Lanka. DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n4s1p533
Article
Full-text available
This paper investigates the nexus among poverty, ethnicity and conflict in Sri Lanka. The ethnicised conflict in Sri Lanka is embedded in and is an expression of existing social, political, economic and cultural structures. The civil war is thus not a temporary crisis, but a long-enduring feature. Rural societies in the war -affected areas are characterised by 'distressed livelihoods' or 'livelihoods at risk': They face multiple vulnerabilities caused by unfavourable state policies, environmental hazards, market-related risks and conflict-related uncertainties which enhance the threshold of vulnerability. Households thus have to adapt to gradual deteriorating economic trends and to cope with sudden political shocks in the form of violence. In many instances, transitory poverty caused by disruptions of the war (displacement) has declined into chronic poverty. Ethnicity plays a key role in how people perceive vulnerability and how people make use of ethnicity for livelihood strategies. Paternalistic vertical support networks which sustain ethnic exclusion gain more importance in such livelihood strategies, thus undermining inter -ethnic exchange patterns. This perpetuates a trend towards increased ethnic separation and thus contributes to exacerbate the conflict. It undermines inter-ethnic social capital and constructs a biased perception of 'the ethnic other'. The key question that this paper poses, is thus how development policy can attack poverty under such circumstances and, at the same time, support conflict transformation towards more inclusive local-level institutions that cross et hnic boundaries.
Article
INTRODUCTION The on-going debate on devolution and power sharing in Sri Lanka has also brought into focus the need to overcome regional imbalances in development. While regional development has been of central importance in the agenda of post-independence governments there has not been an overall vision for the purpose. As a consequence while significant gains have been achieved in the quality of life and income level of the Sri Lankan population (per capita GNP rose from US$ 273 in 1980 to 841 in 2000 poverty continues to assail large numbers of the urban and rural population. Marked regional inequalities exist between the 'core' and the 'periphery'. There are also inter and intra regional differences within the periphery itself. It is also evident that the approach to regional development has been largely reactive (responding to specific issues and problems) and not proactive (planning to realize the potential of regions). The shift in government policy to make the private sector the engine of growth has also implications for regional development. This shift in policy is exemplified by the recently instituted Regional Economic Advancement Programme (REAP) that has replaced the District Integrated Rural Development Programmes (Karunanayake and Abhayaratna, 2002). The IRDPs had a commitment to target the poorer groups as well as the poorer areas. This may not be so with the private sector that is propelled by the profit motive. Hence a basic issue would be the manner in which REAP could respond to alleviate human and income poverty of the poorest segments of the rural population. It is also evident that the direct involvement of the private sector in promoting regional economic growth also envisages the government taking up the role of facilitator from that of implementor. There are also other issues that have a bearing on regional development. Consequent to the open economic policy pursued by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) since the late 1970s there has been increasing exposure to the forces of globalization leading also to the glocalization of regional 'space' and 'place'. Further complexities have been added by the move towards trade associations within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Hence, the resilience of regions in the face of these developments has to be taken note of regional development.
Article
Sri lanka's inability to contain ethnic violence as it escalated from sporadic terrorism to mob violence to civil war in recent years has disheartened observers who had looked to the nation as a success story of social and political development. In retrospect, Sri Lanka lacked effective local institutions to integrate the society, and the Sinhalese elite relied on welfare and preferential policies for the Sinhalese majority to maintain power. These alienated the minorities and resulted in Tamil demands for a separate state. This article documents one of the more intractable areas in which ethnic conflict has arisen, land “colonization.” Both major parties competed for the votes of the Sinhalese, but the creation of agricultural settlements in the undeveloped interior of the island, or colonization, is associated primarily with the United National Party (UNP). During the UNP government of recently retired President Junius Richard Jayewardene (1977–88), both the level of violence and the pace of colonization in the Dry Zone between the Sinhalese and Tamil majority areas increased.
Special enumeration-Eastern province
Department of Census and Statistics. (2007). Special enumeration-Eastern province 2007. Colombo: Department of Census and Statistics.
Census of population and housing-2012
Department of Census and Statistics. (2012). Census of population and housing-2012. Colombo: Department of Census and Statistics.
Annual performance report and budget 2012
  • District Secretariat
  • Amparai
District Secretariat, Amparai. (2013). Annual performance report and budget 2012. Amparai: District Secretariat.
Politics, policies and land acquisition and related issues in the north and the east of Sri Lanka
  • B Fonseka
  • D Jegatheeswara
Fonseka, B., & Jegatheeswara, D. (2013). Politics, policies and land acquisition and related issues in the north and the east of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Center for Policy Alternative.
Land in the eastern province: politics, policy and conflict
  • B Fonseka
  • M Raheem
Fonseka, B., & Raheem, M. (2010). Land in the eastern province: politics, policy and conflict. Colombo: Center for Policy Alternative.