In the wake of recent controversies pertaining to lands in the Batticaloa District, Eastern Provincial Governor Senthil Thondaman said that the Government has dealt with the people who have forcibly acquired State lands in the district in accordance with the relevant legal provisions and not on the basis of their nationality or religion.
Claiming that there are attempts to evict people from the Divulpothana village in the Batticaloa District, Chief Incumbent of the Mangalarama Temple in Batticaloa, Ven. Ampitiye Sumanarathana Thera had recently called on the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) to intervene in the matter. Further, he constantly accuses the Government of preparing to evict Sinhalese who are engaged in cultivation activities in certain areas of the Batticaloa District.
Speaking to The Daily Morning on the matter yesterday (26), Thondaman said that action would always be taken against people who have encroached on State land according to the relevant legal provisions. “The country has legal provisions on how to deal with people who acquire land illegally. Most of the land in the Batticaloa District belongs to the Mahaweli Authority, so they always take action in case of land encroachment according to the relevant legal provisions.”
In response to Sumanarathana Thera’s accusations that the Government is working to evict the Sinhalese from the lands where they are engaged in farming, he said that those accusations are completely false. “Not only the Sinhalese, but also Tamils and Muslims who have acquired land illegally have been evicted from some lands in the past. It is very wrong to involve race and religion in this problem. This monk is living in an illusory world. He should first understand that the law of the land is enforced in a common manner.”
Claiming that Sumanarathana Thera constantly accuses him (Thondaman) of wanting to evict the Sinhalese from their lands, he said that it is not the Governor but the Mahaweli Authority that deals with the people who have acquired land illegally. “I am intervening in this matter only to prevent a conflict between nationalities. It is my responsibility as the Governor. Otherwise, I have no authority to intervene in land matters. He must understand that.”
When queried regarding the reports that the people of the Divulpothana village are to be evicted, Thondaman said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had clearly instructed to grant the people who lived in that area before the war, their lands, regardless of their nationality. “Government institutions have the relevant documents, so they are able to determine who the land owners are. Therefore, there will be no injustice to the original residents of that area. However, there are plans to give land from their district to people who come from districts like Ampara and Polonnaruwa and engage in cultivation activities in the Divulpothana area,” he added.
In a letter dated Monday (23), which was handed over to the HRCSL, Sumanarathana Thera had claimed that the Mahaweli Authority and the Police, at the behest of the political leadership, were forcing Sinhala families out of the Eastern Province. He had named Tamil National Alliance Batticaloa District Parliamentarian Shanakiyan Rasamanickam and Thondaman as the two main politicians involved in the alleged plans to evict the people.