Friday, March 26, 2010

Tamil politicians highlight Sinhalese influx into North Lanka

PK Balachandran - In the intense competition for the ethnic Tamil vote in the run up to the April 8 Sri Lankan parliamentary elections, parties touting Tamil nationalism are highlighting the “dangers” arising from the post-war influx of Sinhalese into the predominently Tamil Jaffna peninsula and the Wanni.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is the strongest of the Tamil nationalist parties, is drawing attention to the construction of permament Sri Lankan army camps in the Wanni. Suresh Premachandran, who is contesting from Jaffna district, told Express that the construction of permament camps meant the transformation of the existing camps into family stations, which in turn, would mean a great increase in the population of the Sinhalese. This fear stems from the fact that the Sri Lankan army is almost exclusively Sinhalese.

“The army has about 40,000 troops now in the Wanni.Very soon, the troops’ families will join them. Once a permanent settlement comes up, infrastructural facilities like Sinhalese schools and Buddhist temples will come up, and the ethno-cultural character of the Wanni will change,” Premachandran said.

Tamil nationalists point out that the predominantly Tamil Wanni has been substantially denuded of Tamils by the war, which had gone on for 30 years. The existing Tamil population has been impoverished by the war, especially in the last two years of it.

C.Sridharan, another TNA candidate in Jaffna, is quoted by Sudar Oli daily as saying that the army is constructing 4,000 family quarters at Kokkavil. There would soon be at least 8000 school going Sinhalese children, for whom Sinhalese schools would have to be opened, he said.

“Similar family stations will come up in Iyakkachchi, Palai and Jaffna,” he warned.


A lawyer, who did not want to be named, said that Buddhist temples (most Buddhists are Sinhalese in Sri Lanka) were mushrooming in Jaffna. He said that a Buddhist temple had come up recently near the ancient Thiruketheeswaram temple in Mantottam in Mannar district in west Wanni.

Visiting Sinhalese traders have put up temporary shops all over Jaffna. “ Very soon, these shops will be regularised and we can do nothing about it because the municipality is not under our control,” the activist said. “ Sinhalese shops have come up even around the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, when our custom does not allow it. Traditionally, shops are allowed only temporarily, during temples festivals. But who has the power to question these things?” he asked.


The Sri Lankan government’s view is that just as there are Tamils living amicably among Sinhalese in south Sri Lanka, Sinhalese should be able to live among Tamils in the north, because the country belongs to all ethnic groups. There were Sinhalese in the north before the Tamil movement became militant, it is recalled.

On the charge that army camps were mushrooming in the Wanni, Military Spokesman Maj.Gen.Prasad Samarsinghe said that these were not new camps. “And they are there to protect the Tamils from the LTTE,” he added.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had only recently told Straits Times that there still were “sleeping cadres” of the LTTE, who could be activated by interested parties both at home and abroad. There were still people in the north who believed in Tamil Eelam, he pointed out.

© Express Buzz

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