Feature Article

SLA occupation of Madu, triggers fears of renewed Sinhalicisation

[TamilNet, Sunday, 27 April 2008, 17:42 GMT]
The Madu Road junction located on Mannaar-Madawachchi Road, which branches off the main route to Madu shrine, situated in the middle of traditional Tamil area, became the center of a Sinhala settlement in the 1970s. The Sri Lanka Government had the agenda of transforming the area into a full-fledged Sinhala colony, by using the lands of a cashew farm between the Madu Shrine and the junction. However, the settlement was later abandoned, fearing repercussions following large-scale massacre and arson committed by the Sri Lanka Army in December 1984 after a landmine blast. The spectre of a Sinhalicised Madu area has now become a dangerous new reality with SLA's occupation of Madu shrine.

Irrigation settlements aiming demographic shift from densely populated wet zone, largely from the Western province, towards dry-zone areas were initiated under the British rule before the island of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) gained independence in 1948. Although the Irrigation Ordinance was introduced in 1857, paving way for irrigation settlements after the abolition of Rajakariya system (the feudal system of land tenure based on service for King), major irrigation settlement schemes were launched after the 1931 Donoughmore Constitution that gave a measure of self-government to Ceylonese. The Land Development Ordinance of 1935 provided the framework for these schemes.

Irrigation settlements were initiated first in Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Ampaa'rai. As Minister of Agriculture and Lands, D.S Senanayake, established "colonization schemes" with the intention of settling Sinhalese in the traditional homeland of Tamil speaking people and intruding into the geographical contiguity of the Tamil homeland of North and East, which then had a coastal stretch reaching up to Colombo on the western coast also.

Madu Road, the location of Sinhala settlement in Madu region
Madu Road, the location of Sinhala settlement in Madu region
In 1957, irrigation settlements were established in the dry zone Mannaar district. Periyamadu, Periya Pa'ndivirichchaan, Chinnap Pa'ndivirichchaan and Thampanai (Vauniyaa district in Mannaar border) were the first irrigation settlements in the Madu region. Viyaayadikku'lam (1960), Veali Maruthamadukku'lam (1960), Kooraay (1968), Mu'l'likku'lam (1968), Akaththimu'rippu (1976) and Adampanku'lam (1976) followed later.

Chinnap Pa'ndivirichchan is located 2.5 km south of Madu. Periya Pa'ndivirichchaan is situated 3 km east of Madu Shrine. Thampanai, in Vavuniya district, is located 3 km east of Pa'ndivirichchaan. Most of the settlers were from the islets of Jaffna, Vangkaalai, and Parappaangka'ndal. Following the 1958 anti-Tamil pogroms, a group of Tamil refugee families from Mihintale in Anuradhapura district were settled in Chinnap Pa'ndivirichchaan. Most of them who settled in Thampanai, were from Neduntheevu islet in Jaffna.

Each family unit was provided 5 acres of land: 3 acres of paddy cultivation land (low land) that came under the irrigation schemes, and 2 acres (high land) provided for housing and home cultivation.

146 family units were settled in Periya Pa'ndivirichchaan, 55 in Chinnap Pa'ndivirichchaan and 250 in Thampanai, according to the statistics provided by former Colonisation Officers (CO) in Mannaar and Vavuniyaa.

Except four Sinhala families in Periya Pa'ndivirichchaan, the settlers were Tamils. However, few Sinhala families engaged in small businesses such as running tea shops, bakeries, garages and some railway employees began to settle near the Madu Road Junction and near the Murunkan bazaar in early 1960s. A Sinhala primary school was established in Madu Road Junction. Later, the school was upgraded as Maha Vidyalaya. A Buddhist temple was also built close to the school. The Madu Road Junction, with a railway station, would become a busy area during the festival period of the Madu Shrine with a temporary police station, health services, water supplies and many petty shops.

In 1970s, a cashew plantation comprising 40 acres between Chinna Pa'ndivirichchaan and Madu Road Junction along the main road leading to Madu Shrine from Madu Junction, was established under the Sri Lankan state-owned Cashew Plantation Coorporation. More Sinhala families were brought to the farm to do plantation work.

The hidden motive behind the Madu Road Junction establishment was Sinhalicisation. Madu Road Junction slowly evolved into a Sinhala-Budhist symbol. Today, under Sri Lanka Army occupation, the Buddhist temple has been renovated into a large Vihara.

It is noteworthy to mention here that it was not far from the cashew plantation located at the 6th Mile Post, from Madu Road to Madu, the Tigers also had a hide-out for operations in the 1970s, further deep into the jungle at a place called Ka'n'naaddi. It was here that Inspector Bastiampillai, the notorious Sri Lankan Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officer, was counter-ambushed by the Tamil Tigers in 1978.

Following the anti-Tamil pogrom in 1983, Tamil militancy surfaced in all the districts of NorthEast. Mannaar faced the first brunts of large-scale massacres and arsons by the Sri Lanka Army as responses to militancy. Mannaar city was burnt by them on August 11, 1984, following a landmine attack on SLA soldiers at Iluppaikkadavai.

On 04 December 1984, a Sri Lanka Army truck, which was on its way to Tha'l'laadi camp, was targeted by a landmine. The vehicle narrowly escaped from the attack and the SLA launched mortar attack from Tha'l'laadi camp towards the civilian settlements, and the SLA soldiers went on a rampage, opened fire at several locations from Mannaar to Isaimaalaith-thaazhvu, massacring more than 200 Tamil civilians. SLA troopers stopped a bus from Vavuniyaa between Madu Road Junction and Isaimaalaith-thaazhvu, ordered the passengers to get off the bus, and opened fire on them.

Employees at Murungkan post office were ordered to queue outside and shot to death by the SLA. Following the episode, Sinhalese settlers, except those from Ko'ndaachchi cashew farm in Musali division, fearing repercussions moved out of entire Mannaar district. The Sinhala school and the Buddhist Vihara were destroyed by the local people. The Madu cashew farm was abandoned. Since then, there were no attempts to bring Sinhala settlers into Mannaar district.

The geographical contiguity of Tamil Catholics along the western coast of Sri Lanka from Mannaar to Colombo has been already Sinhalacised in the Chilaapam (Chilaw) - Colombo sector through carefully planned social engineering. The contiguity of Tamil speaking Muslims also fragmented in the same way along the western coast. This was very similar to de-linking the contiguity of the Northern and Eastern provinces along the eastern coast.

By the occupation of Madu Shrine, the symbol of Tamil Catholicism in Sri Lanka, what is feared now is possible Sinhalicisation and ethnic cleansing in the Madu region. The fears are based on several precedences in the North and East as such of the case of the Ma'nalaa'ru region.

Madu is already a declared forest sanctuary. There could be no technical problem in declaring it a peace zone. But, the government of Sri Lanka is not prepared to do it as it has other intentions. The arrogance of the government and the army commander in responding to the peace zone calls has to be understood in the context of the antecedents of several decades.

Madu Road, the location of Sinhala settlement in Madu region
Madu Road, the location of Sinhala settlement in Madu region


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