2ND LEAD (Adds voice)
Sinhala occupation continues at gunpoint in East despite ‘regime change’ in Colombo
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 28 January 2015, 19:39 GMT]
A Sinhala squad claiming as ‘forest guard’ raided the huts of Tamil cattle herders in their grazing lands situated in Koa'ra'laippattu-South (Kiraan) division of Batticaloa district Tuesday around 5:00 a.m. The squad assaulted the dairy farmers, burned down their huts, robbed off their belongings at gunpoint and separated the cattle herders from the cattle numbering around 1,000. “Although Maithiripala came to power securing Tamil votes, there is no change on the ground for the Tamil dairy farmers who are undergoing untold hardship caused by the occupying Sinhala settlers, who have encroached into the grazing lands that has been ours for years and years,” Nimalan Chelliah, the president of farm owners association, told TamilNet.
The Tamil farmers say they have been using the grazing lands allocated for them for more than 3 years with the permits given to them through Sri Lanka’s state-owned dairy Milco (Pvt) Ltd
“With a hatred against Tamils, they continue attack us. Where do we go with our cattle?” Mr Nimalan questioned.
“We have been complaining to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Government Agent (GA). We also brought our issue to the level of Sri Lankan Parliament in Colombo. Nothing was achieved,” he complained.
15 Tamil cattle herders lost all their properties on Tuesday to the assault squad that carried T-56 rifles and shotguns. Three of the farmers were beaten up at gunpoint.
Later, they were taken to a Wildlife Conservation office at Mahaoya and ‘interrogated’ before they were handed over to the Sri Lankan police, who took the Tamil farmers to the courts located at Dehiattakandiya in the bordering Ampaa'rai district.
Tamil officials of the SL State-owned Milco Ltd had to intervene to get the farmers released from the courts on bail. Each farmer had to pay 500 rupees. Their belongings were not returned.
Subramaniyam Velnayagam, one of the victims, told TamilNet that they lost three C90 motorbikes, milk containers (10 litre and 40 litre containers), a solar charging equipment and other tools. “They even robbed 12 Marakkal of rice we had for cooking,“ he said. (Marakkaal is an ancient Tamil unit for corn-measure). The squad was also threatening to fire upon them. “Everyone of them was carrying a gun pointing on us,“ he said. “When they were taking us away, we asked whether they were Sri Lanka Army. They said they were forest guards,” Mr Velnayagam said.
“We told them that we were having permits obtained through Milco to use the grazing lands. But, they were not prepared to listen what we said,” he added.
Mailaththa-madu and Periya-maathava'nai are areas that have been used by Tamil farmers for more than 40 years as grazing lands.
The Sinhala occupation is taking place in the name of ‘wildlife conservation’ and ‘forest preservation’. A large number of trees have been felled to create space for settling Sinhalese. “What kind of wildlife conservation is this?,” asked a Tamil official working in the SL State-owned Milco Limited.
During the times of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Tamil farmers were able to sustain their livelihood without any threat of occupation, robbery and harassment. But, after 2007, the area has been subjected to an accelerated Sinhala occupation, he further said.
The cattle herders are from Chiththaa'ndi and Maavadi-vempu in Batticaloa.
P. Theyvendran, S. Arulanantham, S. Thiruppathy, N. Ramachandran, T. Kamalraj, S. Velnayagam, S. Kalikuddy, S. Selvanaygam, T. Sivathasan, K. Kanthalingam, K. Vadivel and S. Arulshan were 12 of the 15 affected cattle herders, according to Nimlan Chelliah, the president of dairy farm owners association.
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