Feature Article

Sterilisation being used to reduce Tamil population

[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
A major program to systematically and radically reduce the Tamil population in Sri Lanka's plantation sector is secretly but effectively being carried out with state assistance and misdirected foreign aid. The Tamils in the hills of Sri Lanka where most of its tea and rubber grow are being subjected to large scale sterilisation which contravenes customary rules and law elsewhere in the island.

The Sri Lankan government's Ministry of Plantations is directly involved in this project with assistance from the Ministry of Health. Up country intellectuals and social activists allege that the Ministry of Plantations channels substantial foreign aid earmarked for improving the quality of life in the plantations.

They also allege that an NGO called 'Plantation Trust' headed by Dr.Indrani Hettiarachi plays a key role in implementing this program among young Tamil parents in the plantation industry.

This birth control program is the latest in a series of efforts made by Sinhala majority governments to reduce the Tamil population in Sri Lanka's plantation sector.

Whilst all attention is directed to the Tamil population in the North and East of Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating situation there, an important section of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka has been conueniently forgotten. They are the Plantation Tamils who have inhabited the central parts of the island for nearly 150 years.
Sinhala leaders have been apprehensive about the political power of the large Tamil population in the tea and rubber plantations of Sri Lanka from the time the British left the island in 1948. A large number of them were disfranchised in 1949.

Later, under repatriation pacts with India and forcible evacuation programs such as Usawasama sponsored by the Sri Lankan state, significant reductions were brought about by Sinhala politicians in the Tamil population of the plantation sector.

A Tamil social activist in the hill country describes a typical scene (names and places have been deleted at his request) -

"Somewhere in the central hills in Sri Lanka, in a tea plantation shrouded in mist, some twenty five poor Tamil plantation workers in their early twenties were herded into a dirty lorry which is normally used to transport manure for the tea saplings."

"They don't seem to be aware of what is awaiting them. The only thing that clogged their minds was the Rs. 500/ the doctor mahathaya has promised them at the end of the treatment. Each had their own plan for the 500 rupee reward. Perhaps their next few meals seemed sure."

" The lorry winds through the serpentine road and stops at the make shift clinic, another dirty dilapidated building. They are asked to get off the vehicle. One by one their names called out. And there, they all were sterilised, losing one of their basic rights-to procreate, without their fullest consent."

The method of sterilisation in this instance is called LRT - Ligation and Resection of the Tube.

The Sri Lankan Govt. seems to be over concerned about the plight of the poor Tamil estate workers. The govt. preaches to them that prevention of pregnancy is good. "you can't support your family," it tells them.

In fact the Sri Lankan govt. is running a politically motivated demographic control project under the cover of Family Planning, observers say.

The result is the changing demographic pattern in the central province of Sri Lanka. The growth rate of the Tamils in the region has drastically fallen compared to the growth rate of other communities.

This in turn reflects in the estate school registers and cràche registers. A senior Tamil journalist from the hill country said " if this trend continued unchecked there won't be any nurseries for Tamil children in five or six years"

His comment is a reflection of the growing alarm among Tamil intellectuals in the plantation sector over the brazen manner in which the government and NGOs like 'Plantation Trust are carrying with this demographic engineering .

A study of the population pattern during the last five to ten years shows the trend clearly. Many a childcare centres have been closed down during these years because the number of children below five is fast decreasing.

Even a brief perusal of the figures will show that the main target campaign is one particular community - the Indian Tamils.

A recent survey in Haali-Ela, Rockkettanne estate revealed a shocking fact- that there are only 96 children below the age of 5 in that estate's primary school.

Another revealing fact is that all their mothers have gone through a hysterectomy. Ninety one percent of those who had done the surgery (LRT) is younger than 26. According to the law, sterilisation cannot be done if the person is younger than 26.

In two cases the women, one can hardly call them women, were less than 19. Moreover, those who are involved in the programmes don't adhere to the protocols such as the minimum age limit for sterilisation.

Neither do they look into other factors, that the parents have at least two off springs and the age of the last one should be not less than two.

The doctors don't brief the parents on the alternatives nor on the laws and regulations of the process, say well informed sources in the plantation sector.

Surveys done in several other estates also clearly show the drastic decline in birth rates among the Tamils in the hill country.

Journalists and intellectuals insist that NGOs like Population Services International and the Plantation Trust work hand in glove with the govt. in this neo ethnic control strategy. These NGOs have kept silent about the allegations that have been levelled against them in this connection.

Public health workers in the estates brainwash and inveigle mostly illiterate or semi literate poor Tamil workers to do family planning surgeries instead of giving them a good knowledge of the reproductive health.

They engage in this eagerly for the benefits which accrue to them on the basis of the sterilisation rates in their estates. Most of these are not fully qualified medical professionals.

Well informed sources say that these field officers are paid handsomely for recruiting people to undergo sterilisation.

Despite protests by many intellectuals and concerned people of the hill country the Sri Lankan government seems to be achieving its goal of changing the demographic complexion of the plantation sector.


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