Tamil Diplomat Vanni Correspondent
There is a tension prevailing in Mulliyawalai which is identified as the cultural centre of vanni.
“ our area is also becoming another Wilpathu. Nobody is stopping it.” this is a lamentation of local resident.
What is the meaning of this ? Natural forest lands like Wilpathu which are state properties, are being illegally destroyed and establishing settlements and farms each of several acre extent without any permission from authorities of Forest Department, Environment Development Department or land Department .
Who is doing This? Who is in the background to this?
Area people say the same Minister who was backing the destruction of Wilpathu Forest and creating settlements there.
This made the Mulliyawalai people to say, “ Our area is also becoming another wilpathu. Nobody is stopping it.” people told.
This destruction of forest is being carried out from the eastern border of Kumarapuram, lying on the path from Mulliyawalai to Kumulamunai. ‘Vanniyanmedu’ which had been until now spoken linked to historical events and on the other side of katpurapulveli, which is hither to, the border village to Mulliyawalai, is being destroyed at a very fast pace.
So far, forests had been destroyed to a distance of 1 ½ km from the above said road, encompassing about 600 Acre. Areas cleared of forest had been distributed to individuals. Fences had been erected and thatched houses built. Some are building permanent structures. Some have taken bigger slices of 25 Acre or 30 Acre in extent and had started to plant permanent crops like Coconut Tress, plantain tree, and mango trees. Wells and buildings are being built with high speed.
While all these are happening within the destroyed forests, further destruction is continuing. The area people are suspecting that this forest destruction had reached the borders of uppumaweli and Thangapuram villages which are on the far side of the “Vanniyanmedu”. The area people are highly concerned about the officers who were informed of this destruction and requests made to stop this had not taken any action.
This forest clearing was not started today or yesterday. It was continuously done from day one of the resettlement. The Google map showing this is given below
Why can’t this be prevented?
It is usual for government officers to take action whenever forests are cleared illegally or encroaching lands, contravening laws regarding lands. But in this case, the officials of Mullaitheevu District secretariat and Karaithuraipattu Divisional secretariat say that they are unable to take any action.
They empirically say that if they oppose or inform these illegal encroachments to appropriate places, they will get immediate transfers. They pointed out with fear that during the 6 years after the war 5 Divisional secretaries of the Karaithuraipattu Divisional Secretariat were transferred for opposing this illegal encroachment. After transferring 6 Divisional secretaries one behind the other, a 7th “ yes boss” Divisional Secretary was posted.
The officials of the Mullaitivu District Secretariat and Karaithuraipattu Divisional Secretariat tried to inspect and prevent the forest clearing. But even before they got down from their vehicles, the youths engaged in forest clearing came with cameras, video cameras and started videoing the officials like the intelligence unit men. This photographing is turning into an officer – threatening culture.
Hence the officials are neither able to prevent the forest clearing nor report overtly about it.
Don’t Muslim have any place to live?
Later, when Muslims were resettled in Karaithuraipattu Divisional Secretary’s Division, 1032 Families were in possession of the deeds for their lands and they resettled in the areas of Hijirapuram, Neeravipiddi, Thanniyootu, mulliyawalai and Vannan Kulam within Karaithurai pattu DS area.
When resettlement was undertaken, in Karaithuraipattu area, only 1455 Families registered themselves as landless and a land kachcheri was held for them and permission had been granted to allocate lands to 902 Families out of the 1455 Families which applied for land.
Apart from this, within the same DS area, 448 Families had registered themselves as landless. Action is being taken to give lands to them also.
Hence if the number of Families who had applied for land is totaled, it will show (1032+ 1455+ 448 = 2938) that 2938 Muslim Families had resettled into Karaithuraipattu DS area.
But in a statistical report, relevant to resettlement, put out by the Karaithuraipattu Divisional Secretariat it had been stated that only 2158 Families had resettled.
If we subtract the 2158 Families which were shown in this resettlement report from the 2938 Muslim Families which had applied for land, housing schemes and Samoorthy aid , which were granted to them, we will get a balance 777 Families. From where did these families appeared ?
While only 1000 families were displaced from the whole of Mullaitheevu district in a 1990, How could they had multiplied 3 folds, only within Karaithuraipattu DS area in just 15 years interval ?
If such a large number of families need lands during resettlement, a question is avoidably will arise as to whether they did not have any land prior to 1990?
Illegal activities to grab lands in Mulliyawalai
Last year, people staged big protest on the road from Mulliyawalai to Odduchudddan . An attempt was made to destroy large areas of thousands of acre of Teak, planted by the Tigers and the reserve forest along the said road and give lands (approximately 855 acre) to Muslims. This sudden de-foresting took place with the aid fake letters and approval from irresponsible officers. People spontaneously rose up laid themselves across the forest clearing Machineries all night and fought back. After that only the Army came to the deforesting spot, informed the matter to Colombo and stopped the deforesting.
But forest Department had given permission to deforest 177 acre of virgin forest, a few kilometers from the above spot where deforestation was prevented.
Are the registered particulars of these Muslims true?
The procedure adopted in registering Muslims of Mullaitheevu District, at District Secretariat, Divisional Secretariats and Grama Officers, is in itself a unique one. when either Tamils or Sinhalese go from one place to live permanently in another place, very strict procedures will be adhered by Government officials. For example, if a Tamil family wants to go from Puttalam and settle permanently in Mullaitheevu District, the Grama Officer of the area where they lived had to certify that they do not have lands or assets there and the number of the family members and occupations. This will be certified by Divisional Secretary of the area where they lived and then the Puttalam will certify it. The Family from Puttalam will be allowed to resettle in Mullaitheevu District and get registered in the state registrations only if they submit the document certified by Puttalam District Secretary to the Mullaitheevu District Secretariat. This is the general procedure in force in Sri Lanka
But there is no permission to adhere to these procedures as far as the Muslims are concerned. It will be enough if the Muslims hand over an application form signed by the Secretariat for Northern Displaced Muslims (SNDM) created by Minister Rishad Badi-Ud-deen, to whatever area they want to settle. Their particulars in this application form had to be registered in that particular area. That is the norm. No official could ask for any clarification. In these application forms only the particulars including the name of the head of the family and address will be stated. Additional in formations like names of the members of the family, occupation and details of lands and assets could be filled up by the applicants themselves.
Hence there are all possibilities for the details submitted by the applicant to be erroneous.
Development society president who wished to be anonymous said as follows :
“Altogether 704 Muslim families are resettled in our area. But, actually, only 135 families stay here. Others will come here by hired buses from Puttallam for samurthy and other reliefs. But the housing scheme for them had been completed. Houses remain closed in lands where no family lives. But those of our people who are suffering alone, after living in the middle of the war and losing all the other family members, are not given houses. Lone persons cannot be given houses they say”. This is how the Registrations of Muslims are taking place.
Why should Vanniyan med not destructed.
Pandaravanniyan has a very close connection with the people of Vanni and the ancient history of people of Mulliyawallai. Mulliyawallai is noted as place where Vanniyars had much dominance. Various historical evidence like Kumarapuram, Thannimurrippu, Kurunthoor hill, and Vattappallai Amman illustrate this ancientness. Vannianmedu is also having a connection with a historical battlefield. Pandaravannian’s army was said to be stationed in this forest area and one of the Vanniyar’s Commanders , Kulasekaran had made fortifications on Vanniyarmedu and stayed there. Kulasekaran arrested Commander Henry Berg, who advanced from Mullaitheevu right in this forest. He bound and carried Henry Berg and rolled him at the feet of Pandaravannian and asked permission to kill him. But, Panadaravannian order him to be pardoned and sent away. Kulasekaran was highly angered.
It is recorded in the historical tradition Vanni that Kulasekaran said to Pandaravannian , “You will suffer the repercussion from this soon .” and left with his retinue and settled in Kokulai area. It is notable that Pandaravanniyan was conquered by Henry Berg as Kulasekaran predicted.
Such a history belongs to Vanniyanmedu. This is another reason for the people of Mulliyawalai insisting that Venniyanmedu should not be destroyed.