New Sinhala families settled in Nelukkulam

[TamilNet, Saturday, 16 August 2003, 10:46 GMT]
Even as thousands of internally displaced Tamil people are languishing in refugee camps, prevented by the Sri Lanka Army from resettling in their own homes, Sri Lankan government officials with the support of the SLA are actively engaged in recruiting new Sinhala families from the South to settle in lands abandoned by earlier Sinhala occupants in the traditional Tamil village of Nelukkulam in the Manalaru region in the Mullaitivu district, sources said.

Nelukkulam is one of the traditional Tamil villages in the Manalaru region in the Mullaitivu district. Tamil families in the village were forced to flee in 1980, abandoning their lands and homes. The then Sri Lankan government brought down about 400 Sinhalese families from the South and settled them in this village on the lands that belonged to Tamils.

This State-aided colonization took place when Major. General Janaka Perera, then a Brigadier, was in charge of the region for the SLA. Though accused of being involved in mass abductions and murder of innocent civilians while serving in Jaffna, he was promoted to the rank of Major General, and was later appointed as Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Australia, where he is still serving.

The name of the village was then changed from Nelukkulam to "Janakapura" to honour the 'services' of Brigadier Janaka Perera. Due to continued attacks by the LTTE on Manalaru, the Sinhala settlers later fled to other areas, sources said.

Following the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, about 20 displaced Sinhala families returned to Nelukkulam. Some weeks later, another batch of about 100 displaced Sinhala families returned. However, about 300 displaced Sinhala families refused to return to Nelukkulam and are living in the South permanently, sources said.

Hence the SLA authorities, with the assistance of Sinhalese government officials, are now surreptitiously engaged in allocating lands abandoned by Sinhala colonists to new Sinhala families in the South.

A TamilNet correspondent visited the Manalaru area with a delegation of the Association of War Affected Women. The Sinhala settlers admit that they are occupying lands traditionally occupied by Tamils in the past. Some of the new Sinhala settlers say they are prepared to live with the displaced Tamil families amicably if they returned to resettle in their own lands.

A Sinhala school is functioning in Nelukkulam (Janakapura). But it was a Tamil school when Tamils lived in the village.

A majority of the Sinhala settlers feels that Sinhala politicians and government officials have given them lands in order to get a parliamentary seat for Sinhalese in the general election from the Vanni electoral district, the sources said.

New Sinhala Settlements in Nelukulam

A newly settled family seen in front of their hut.

A house that belonged to a Tamil family destroyed during ethnic violence in 1980.

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