A mammoth gathering of protestors in Mullaitivu on Tuesday (28) chanted slogans to halt colonization under the Mahaweli System L in the Northern Province being carried out with State patronage.
The Northern Provincial Council has been agitating that land powers under the 13th Amendment be granted to it.
However, it was evident from the mammoth protest, plans have also been mooted to divert the longest river in the island to spearhead State-backed colonization in the province.
From the time the Mahaweli Project was initiated, the Mahaweli remains a great blessing to farmers in areas where it flows.
However, the Mullaitivu agitation highlighted that System L of the Mahaweli Project, covering Vavuniya, Mannar and Mullaitivu districts has been worked out to spearhead colonization with outsiders from the Northern Province and not with the sincere interest of providing water for the Northern farmer.
It was last Monday (27), when Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians led by Leader of the Opposition and TNA, R. Sampanthan attended the Presidential Task Force meeting and elaborated on how the Mahaweli System L has been worked out to carry out colonization in the Northern Province.
Welcoming flow of Mahaweli River
TNA Leader Sampanthan welcoming the flow of the Mahaweli River to the Northern Province, pointed out that it should be beneficial to farmers in the Province and the flow of the river shouldn’t pave the way to spoil efforts taken to strengthen peace and reconciliation between the North and the South.
Sampanthan also told President Maithripala Sirisena that there were a large number of people in the areas coming under the Mahaweli Project’s System L without their own land for cultivation. Any State-sponsored colonization would not only harm the people in need of land for cultivation and for a living, it would also lead to a change in the demography of the Northern Province.
Sampanthan also pointed out to President Sirisena that State-sponsored colonization of outsiders began in the early eighties and the Malalaru area which is known as Weli Oya in Sinhala in the Mullaitivu District commenced even before plans were worked out to divert the Mahaweli River to the Northern Province.
Sampanthan also pointed out to the President that when the people in the North and the East were up in arms against lands being in the possession of the Security Forces, even nine years after the end of the North and East war, State-sponsored colonization would aggravate the situation further harming the efforts taken to stabilize peace and reconciliation.
The TNA Leader also outlined to the President about the vast areas of private land still in the possession of the Armed Forces in Keppapilavu in the Mullaitivu District.
When it has been pointed out how State-sponsored colonization has been designed in the North, with the diversion of the Mahaweli River to the region, coastal areas in the Mullaitivu region have also been encroached by outsiders, harming the fishing rights of fishermen of Mullaitivu.
A week ago Mullaitivu’s Nayaru and Kokkilai coastal areas experienced a violent situation where several fishing huts, nets and boats of local fishermen were set on fire by those who were believed to have encroached the area.
The Mullaitivu protestors also pointed out about the recent activities of the Archaeological Department digging for historical evidence on ancient settlements in the traditional Tamil areas in the Wanni region.
The protestors were of the opinion that instead of digging the past, efforts must be taken to explore how best the post-war humanitarian issues should be handled, without hurting the people directly affected by war.
As far as the diversion of Mahaweli River to the Northern Province is concerned, economically beneficial part of the diversion among the people in the North and the country at large should be taken into consideration with a broader outlook, instead of creating vicious racial sentiments with the flow of the country’s blessed river.
Sharing of river waters and unlawful settlements have led to crisis situations in various countries around the world.
Therefore, when the war-torn Northern and Eastern provinces still remain sensitive to several unresolved post-war issues, new problems over land and water in the two provinces will only widen the gap between the North and the South instead of coming out of the bloody past.
At a time when the North and the East are limping back to getting rid of the scars of the three decades of war, giving room for senseless racial sentiments, even through blessed natural resources will only make the country’s economic prosperity a pipe dream!
Instead of looking at citizens of the North and the East differently, the Government must be more accommodative towards their traditional identities to create a right path towards overall peace and reconciliation in the country.