State Sponsored Sinhalese Colonization Of Tamils’ Traditional Homeland

Sri Lanka

Since independence in 1948, the GoSL has tried to weaken (or outright deny) the concept of the “Tamil homeland” by engaging in processes of demographic change and repression through the three strategies that advance Sinhalization: land acquisition, militarization, and Buddhisization. Using these methods, the GoSL also seeks to strengthen a Sri Lankan identity, rooted in Sinhala-Buddhism (with a foremost place for Sinhala-Buddhists), including by assimilating Tamils and minority groups into this monolithic identity.

The post-war “development” scene in the North-East consists of military intervention in the socio-economic lives of Tamil survivor communities through militarization. This militarization is a particularly potent form of the Sinhalization process, and the pervasive military presence in the North-East has facilitated the appropriation of Tamil lands for military-run enterprises, including farms, hotels, and resorts under the pretext of national security. Internally displaced Tamils who tried to return to their land or village have had to live under emergency rule by cooperating with the military, police, and the local administration in order to access wages, land, housing, and identity cards

The Tamil homeland has been subjected to decades of Sinhalisation but since the end of the armed conflict, there has been a rise in the establishment of Buddhist temples and Sinhala settlements through the appropriation of Tamil land. The government has used its departments such as the archaeological and land survey departments to alter the demographics of the North-East.


The Gal Oya Project and Sinhalese Settlement Strategy in the North-East In the 1940s and 1950s, under Sri Lanka’s then-Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake, the Gal Oya Left Bank Irrigation System became the first large-scale irrigation scheme to set the blueprint for future development. The Gal Oya project involved building a dam in the southeast of the island to channel  water toward the dry region and settle colonists from the wet zones to cultivate the newly irrigated land. The GoSL determined that in order to provide the needed labor to operationalize the scheme, it would need to settle at least 50,000 families in newly cleared land with housing and irrigation within five years. Accordingly, some 250,000 Sinhalese persons were settled in the Eastern region of the Tamil homeland, in areas that the Government misrepresented as uninhabited The Gal Oya Left Bank Irrigation System was completed between 1948 and 1952, with an estimated 70% of new Sinhalese settlement occurring by 1957. These settlement projects violently displaced Tamils  and Muslims to the lower region of the Gal Oya basin to make way for incoming settlers. There were also incidents where the military forced Tamils out and subsequently burned their homes for this

The real aim of the Sri Lankan government is to use Sinhala settlers sometimes as a buffer, and sometimes as a cutting edge, in its war of aggression against the Tamil nation. The additional longer term purpose of these ‘colonization schemes’ is to change the demography of the Tamil homeland and in this way, make the Tamils a manageable minority in their own land.

The Sri Lanka government has systematically armed these settlers – some of them ex-convicts – and often uses them to attack Tamil villagers in the surrounding areas… It seeks to exploit the Sinhala poor by arming them in such settlements, and using them as expendable pawns in its war of aggression against the Tamil nation. We appeal to the Sinhala poor not to become pawns in the ‘colonization schemes’ which have been carefully designed by Sinhala chauvinistic forces to sow the seeds of discord and create everlasting enmity between the Tamil people and the Sinhala people.”


The Mahaweli Project’s attempts to acquire and convert Tamil-owned pasture lands for agricultural uses has precipitated violent clashes between the original Tamil inhabitants and new Sinhalese settlers. Settlers in the Mahaweli System B region, for example, have frequently aimed violent attacks at Tamil farmers and their cattle while seeking to expand their farming operations. For example, between November 2015 and March 2016, approximately 100 Tamil-owned cows in the System B region were either shot or strangled during settler attacks. On Christmas Eve of 2020, the Tamil National People’s Front reported that Sinhalese settlers slaughtered more Tamil-owned cattle in Maathavanai on Christmas Eve.

Systematic Designation of Tamil Lands as Special Areas Projects titled A, B-RB, I, J, K, L, and M under the Mahaweli Development Programme either fully or partially fall inside the Tamil homeland. Project L (the Welioya Integrated Development Project), which is already complete, illustrates how the Mahaweli scheme has been used to effect Sinhalization throughout the North-East in lands previously inhabited or owned by Tamils. Project L is located where Mullaitivu District joins Trincomalee District, an important juncture that links the North and East Province To one another. Thus, when it transferred Sinhalese people into the area, the Mahaweli Authority not only displaced local Tamil residents, but also divided the Tamil homeland. Reports suggest the Sinhalese population of Welioya has grown to more than 4,800 families, with more expansion planned. Mullaitivu District, which was mainly Tamil prior to being designated as a special area, now hosts the second-highest concentration of Sinhalese in the Northern Province. Projects I, J, K, and L have no obvious connection to the Mahaweli River or its tributaries, and the government has not offered any explanation of those Projects’ connection to any major river, as required under the Mahaweli indeed, many development-related goals cited pursued by the Mahaweli Authority for these projects could have instead been undertaken by the Northern Provincial Council, which would have empowered local Tamil authorities to develop the areas. Notably, unlike the Provincial Councils in the areas covered by Projects I, J, K, and L, the Mahaweli Authority has demonstrated its intent and its power to accelerate Sinhala migration into the areas.

The Presidential Task Force reflects a larger trend within President Rajapaska’s administration of appointing retired military officials and accused war criminals to positions of power. The steady and accelerating empowerment of Sinhalese military leaders, including at least 28 serving or former military and intelligence personnel implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity,suggests the GoSL’slack of commitment to human rights, peace, and justice, particularly for Tamilsin the North-East.

State-Sponsored History and Memorialization “They’ve built army camps where our kin are buried, walking on their graves.” (Kilinochchi) “They’ve destroyed all our monuments. We want them rebuilt.” (Kilinochchi) ”
They’ve erased us and are celebrating.” (Amparai

The British and the Tamils were tricked by the Sinhalese leaders at the time of Independence. Many promises were given before Independence that minorities would not be discriminated against and they would be treated with fraternal feelings.

But within one year of Independence one million Tamils were deprived of their franchise. Tamils are the majority in the North and East of Sri Lanka. But our individuality is at stake. Steps are being taken internally to grab our traditional homelands to introduce Buddhism forcibly into areas where no indigenous Buddhists are living, with Military help, to have Tamils Resources plundered, to colonize settlements with Sinhala Colonists who have been brought from elsewhere into Tamil speaking areas, and to have the demography of the area changed and to destroy war memorials.

It was to protect Tamils from such genocidal acts on the part of the successive governments that Tamil youths took up to arms. But due to the geopolitics of Big Powers, they were routed in 2009 together with over a lakh of innocents in Mullivaikal.

Justice to those, whose dear ones disappeared, eludes them even today. But those who committed, aided, and abetted brutal criminal acts against our people are being given important Government positions and diplomatic postings.[To alleged war criminals who conducted the genocidal war from 2006-2009]

Virginia Leary on State Colonisation of Traditional Tamil Areas – Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka – Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981

“…Tamils have objected to State colonization schemes which import large numbers of Sinhalese into traditional Tamil areas. The Tamil concern about colonization is related to insecurity about their physical safety and to fears that Tamils will become a minority in their traditional homelands. The government maintains that since Sri Lanka is a single country citizens may freely move into any part of the country and that it is necessary to transplant some populations to more productive areas. The Tamils answer that they are not opposed to individual migration but only to large scale government colonization schemes which change the ethnic composition of an area…

The government should give renewed attention to Tamil concern over government sponsored colonization schemes which bring large numbers of Sinhalese into Tamil areas and thus change the ethnic composition in such areas. This is particularly important in view of the insecurity of Tamils due to communal violence against them in areas where they live as a minority…”

The people in the Mullaitivu district are harassed from different fronts – On the one side the Security-Forces are still in control of these people’s habitable lands as well as farmlands. Then the Mahaveli Development Authorities are acquiring their lands and reallocating these to somebody else and rendering these original inhabitants landless. also  the Archaeological Department acquiring their traditional temples and sites of worship and denying them their right of worship in places which were held by them for several generations.

All these actions which are accelerated in recent times are not in any way going to help for good governance, national reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.

  1. The Tamil language was the language of the earliest inhabitants of this Island
  2. Mahavamsa is not a historical document.
  3. The LTTE took up arms because of repression and discrimination by the Sri Lankan government and after all peaceful agitation failed. And to protect the Tamils from State Terrorism.
  4. 147,000 Tamil civilians were killed in Mullivaikal at the close of the War
  5. Armed Forces have taken over Civil functions and the North is kept under Army Rule,

Kumarathasan Rasingam – Secretary, Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org.

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