| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Returning IDPs in Kokulai, Mullaitivu, being robbed of land’ by Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole.
( November 27, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) It upset me very much to read that the land of farmers in Mullaitivu were being robbed of their land – farming land. I know through farmers in my Kiliniochchi family and through farmers in Thunaivi area – how dear their farming land is to them and how farm work takes precedence over all else. Professor Hoole writes about farmland taken over by the Government ‘Nonetheless, dismal levels of abject poverty – driven by caste, marginalisation and war – are characteristic of Menik Farm returnees to the Vanni. Water is scarce due to deteriorated culverts and polluted wells. Their tools are lost or rusted. But poverty is the hardest to bear. Yet, the thrill of being home kept them going.
That is, till early February 2012, when Namal Rajapaksa paid a pop-visit to the returned villagers of Kokulai. The belief that he was coming to assist them with their most urgent needs increased the excitement in the air. Peter and his friends perked up with hope. A new dawn indeed, it seemed. As they expected, Namal spoke to the people with a sense of great gravity, pity, and commiseration. He toured the lands of Kokulai, as they believed, to better understand their sorrows. He left that day with promises, raising much expectation in Peter and the poor returnees.
Whether Namal’s intentions were later led astray, or they had never been honourable in the first place, is difficult to know. Nonetheless, the next day the local AGA received a call from his office informing him that 20 acres of land, belonging to around 30 families, would be given to an East Asian company for the extraction of ilmenite. Before the families themselves knew of the transaction, strangers arrived and started setting up walls and fences around their property! Peter told me of the surprise that filled the villagers when strangers took over their land. Concerned, they approached the AGA with their deeds in hand. Now these are not government permits which can be revoked by the government; what they possess are deeds proving their ownership to this property for generations, yet the AGA claimed his hands were tied. How was he to stand up to the forces arrayed against these families? After the experience of the chief justice, would there be any judge who could be trusted to hear pleas on this dispute in a fearless manner?’
I could feel the pain that these farmers would have felt when their lands were taken over for lesser purpose than farming. Vanni was the strength of the Tamil Tigers due to Tamil farmers in that area and their real sense of belonging. To the extent Tamil Tigers ‘ruled’ by demoting these farmers – they lost that real power of the Land. Neither legal title nor occupation for other purposes would be able to balance this real power of the land and the feeling of natural freedom it generates. I have felt it in Kilinochchi; I have felt it in Arali and I have felt it in Thunaivi – through folks whose income as per my knowledge is in the lowest range in Sri Lanka. It’s their ‘Karma-Bhoomi’ (Karma=work; Bhoomi=Earth).
Mullaitheevu area to me is sacred due also to Vattrapalai Kannaki Amman temple. Kannaki Amman burnt down the city of Mathurai because the king made a wrong judgment and killed Kannaki’s husband. I believe that anyone who prays to Kannaki Amman with belief would have the power to contribute to annihilation of Injustice. Kannaki Amman is revered and/or feared by even Indian Tamil politicians. Kannaki Amman is worshipped as Goddess Pathini by Sinhala Buddhists. Manimekalai – the step daughter of Kannaki who became a Buddhist nun – is believed to have come to Sri Lanka’s North – Naina Theevu – where Manimekalai is believed to have obtained the Amutha Suraby – the vessel that is always filled with food. All these forces would naturally unite to punish those who are unjust to believers of Kannaki Amman in Mullaiteevu. Hence any act that would damage the feelings of these Children of Mullaitheevu – would naturally result in accumulation of punishment for injustice for the perpetrators. How and when that would surface – we do not know. But surface It will – in Its own time at places where rulers unjustly kill honorable civilians – as both the Sri Lankan Government as well as the LTTE did in Vanni. Hence the President’s son, if he influenced the above occupation, might want to make amends before it is too late for himself and his family. Ultimately it is not the votes that count. What counts is the feeling through which others connect to them. The outer forms of government are temporary. As Jesus said only the Kingdom of Heaven is the real and everlasting Kingdom.