The Sunday Leader

Returning Lands To Tamil People A Moral Responsibility – Sunil Watagala

by Camelia Nathaniel

JVP Western Provincial Councillor Attorney-at-Law Sunil Watagala said that the JVP is not a racially partial party and do not intend to spread racial disharmony. In an interview with The Sunday Leader he said that seven years after the conclusion of the war, the Tamil people are still destitute and said that both governments have only made use of them to win votes and cheated them. According to Watagala, releasing the lands that are rightfully the Tamils is not a favour that the government is doing them but it is the moral responsibility. He said that releasing the lands to the Tamil people does not mean that the military should be removed from the North. But he said that the camps established on private lands can be relocated in order to release the lands to them. However he said that the government has no intention of resolving this issue and is capitalising on creating tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in order to gain petty political advantages.

Following are excerpts of the interview:-

Q: It’s been seven years since the end of the war and do you see that justice has been done for the people who were affected by the war?

A: I think the essence of the victory of war has not been grasped by either the previous government or this one. The reason for this is that the Rajapaksa regime missed that great opportunity after the war, to reconcile with the Tamil people. This government too having learnt lessons from the mistakes of the previous regime is still steering in the wrong direction. Instead of providing the Tamil people their basic rights, having suffered for nearly 30 years, both governments are trying to bring in their own political agendas. During the past regime the Tamil people were deprived of establishing their own political party and they used the military intelligence to prevent the people from forming any party. The military intelligence even prevented the JVP from carrying out their political work in the North. With the abduction of Kugan and others the international community lost faith that the previous government was committed to upholding the rights of the people of this country. Taking all this into consideration I think both governments have failed to safeguard the basic rights of the people of this country especially the North and East. These people don’t have proper schools, post offices and hospitals etc and both governments have failed to even provide these people these basic facilities. On the pretext of security the government has taken away the people’s lands and they have still failed to return these lands to them seven years after the war has ended. It is due to these reasons that the international community got the notion that Sri Lanka has failed to uphold basic human rights. The majority of the displaced are living in tin roofed huts. The government still has failed to see to the grievances of these people. They have failed to win the trust and confidence of the Tamil people and other minorities. Hence I feel that both governments failed the Tamil people.


Q: The previous government organised elaborate ceremonies to mark the war victory and this government too is doing the same. But some feel that this is being insensitive to the Tamil people and their pain and its rubbing salt in their wounds. Do you agree?

A: There is no difference between these two governments. They are just two sides of the same coin. This government too is having these extravagant ceremonies and parades and they arouse racial hatreds in the Tamil people by doing that. They have lost their loved ones and we should not be celebrating. We should be more sensitive to their feelings. We feel that this government too is following the same path and trying to rouse racial tensions and move toward the path of disharmony in order to obtain their political gains. The Tamil people don’t need that. There are a lot of shortcomings in the lives of the Tamil people and the government should first see to these needs and fulfill at least their basic needs. Instead what they are doing is trying to have these parades and rub it into the Tamil people and the subsequent result will certainly be disharmony and hatred between the two races. Even the TNA has fallen into the same groove and even they are just digging the same wound and trying to inflame racial tensions in order to safeguard their own political agendas. This is the only way that they can secure their votes.


Q: The JVP has always been seen as an extremist Sinhala party. Why have you not reached out to the Tamil people?

A:  In 2009 just after the war our party presented seven proposals. One of these proposals was to establish a truth commission. The UN had concluded that human rights violations had taken place during the war. It was then that the debate about whether Mahinda Rajapaksa was to be taken to the electric chair or not had sprung up. We said that while establishing a truth commission and addressing the human rights violation issue, the government should focus on rebuilding the lives of the Tamil people whose lives had been devastated.

This is generally the situation in any country that has gone through a war, but the failure of our governments to establish a truth commission to date, is something that cannot be condoned with. As a party we presented these proposals but the government never accepted this. Our war heroes were facing numerous allegations and this would have once and for all put a closure to all this had the government at the time taken our advice. Unfortunately they decided to ignore it. Instead what they did was focus on recovering the gold that was found mollycoddling terrorists like KP and only taking care of their needs. The government too together with KP recovered hidden gold and valuables of the Tamil people and all of them shared this stash.

KP was the deputy leader of the LTTE and to date he has not been charged and he is enjoying full security and the best of life while there are so many innocent Tamils still languishing in jails. The government is still not revealing his atrocities and just like the previous regime, this government too is protecting him. Under these circumstances there is no doubt that the Tamil people are suspicious of the Sinhalese and the government.


Q: The current government’s main excuse has been that the previous regime wasted and stole from the country and they have to now bear the financial burden as a result. But isn’t there much this government can do for the Tamil people at this point?

A:  Anura Kumara Dissanayake in parliament urged the government to at least do what is possible for the Tamil people and return their lands to them.  He pointed out that it is the responsibility of the government to make sure they get back their lands which is rightfully theirs. These people are not asking to remove the military from the North. What they want is to be given back their ancestral lands. Without these lands, where do these people go? It’s been seven years after the war ended and how long should these people’s agony continue? This is what we are asking. The government can win back the trust of the Tamil people if they just do this. What both governments have done is just trick the Tamil people by making them false promises during the elections without any intention of keeping their promises.


2 Comments for “Returning Lands To Tamil People A Moral Responsibility – Sunil Watagala”

  1. S B Lokuge

    You must be working for LTTE. The army should be there to protect the country.

  2. Just Society

    JVP “said that while establishing a truth commission and addressing the human rights violation issue, the government should focus on rebuilding the lives of the Tamil people whose lives had been devastated.”

    To do otherwise will be a pure colonial attitude – the occupier and the occupied and not that of brethren.

    Sinhala intelligentsia is gradually waking up to the reality of this colonial attitude.

    For generations to come, peoples in land must live and coexist as brothers and sisters and not as ruled and the rulers -simply because of being an ethnic majority.

    Ceylon Tamil people are a distinct society just as Sinhala people are a distinct society. In such circumstance a federal set up is the only solution for a long lasting peace once the bifurcation commenced under pseudo-independence.

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