Sinhalese displaced from Jaffna and Tamils displaced from the rest of the island

(October 11, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity, Ajith Perakum JayasingheLanka, irrespective whether it is Jaffna or Hambanthota is a multi-ethnic multi-religious country since times known.

A minority Sinhalese community lived in Jaffna before the escalation of hostilities in 1980s. Famous stories say they ran the bakery business there. Several university dons, namely Sucharitha Gamlath and Sunil Ariyarathna taught in the Sinhala Department of Jaffna University before 1983.

The fond memories of multi ethnic Tamil dominated Jaffna shattered with escalation of war. Tamil Tigers resorted to military strategies that attributed to ethnic cleansing. But, a Jaffna which was meant to be out of bound for Sinhalese and Muslims soon became a hub for tens of thousands of militarized Sinhalese young men that guarded the city with suspicious watchful eyes penetrating the Jaffna Tamils.

Now the war is over although conflict drags on at different levels. An apparently organized Sinhala group of around 200 families led by yet to be disclosed elements has emerged in Jaffna seeking land to resettle in what they call either the birthplace or the former residential town of theirs. They say their claim is rational although they had no proof for land ownership there.

Jaffna peninsula is a crowded area where a large extent  of land is still under Army high security zones. It is not easy to grant the demands of these Sinhalese families, although their claims can be justifiable.

Many thousands of Tamils also lived similarly in many areas in Sinhala dominated south and they too were displaced mainly as a result of 1983 July ethnic violence against Tamils. They either resettled or began to repeatedly displace elsewhere. What can the government do if all these people come back and ask for land in the places where they lived before they were dislocated by the circumstances of history?

For instance, Anuradhapura is a city a sizable Tamil population lived.  Only a few remained there after 1983 violence and the Tamil Tiger attack in the city in 1985. Some land the Tamils owned were grabbed by others and sometimes government used them in development projects.

What if the Tamils that lived in Anuradhapura return there and seek refuge in the city railway station pleading resettlement. Is the government ready to accept the returning Tamils in the same vein the Sinhalese are admitted and provided security at Jaffna railway station.

If the government redress the Sinhala people displaced from Jaffna it will rationalize the claims of the Tamils for similar treatment. But, the problem here is if this kind of development will create any positive impact in regard of reconciliation.

Won't the Sinhalese if they would be resettled in Jaffna face hostilities from the jealous Tamils who think the Sinhalese are responsible for their plight? Are Tamils' mindset broad enough to admit them as brethren?

In such context, are Sinhalese in south ready to admit the Tamils also in similar vein, if they return to pre-1983 context?

Status quo can be a better solution for some problems although it causes injustice in some senses.

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  1. The article needs some correction. The Tamils were displaced from 1958 onwards and not after the infamous Black July of 1983. The Tamils of Anuradhapura were displaced with the proclamation of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura. They were not given alternative lands in the New Town . Most of the Tamils owned lands in the Old Town of Anuradhapura. The rest of the views expressed in the article are quite correct and has to be given due consideration by those concerned.

  2. First Sri Lanka should find a proper solution to this conflicts through analyzing the root causes of war.

    Militarizing Northeast,or changing the demographic traits of historic Sri Lanka means there is no proper or mutually acceptable solution is given for this conflict.Fear and untrustworthiness about Tamil people is existing in the mind of SL government thats why so much of spending to keep north east as militarized zones.

    we can never get a peace if we have fear,untrustworthiness about each other.Peace is something should come from our heart,not from controlling people with military.


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