Land grabs rampant in North and East: Exclusive interview with C.V. Vigneswaran

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“The land grab against the Tamil people in the North and East for the last 70 years has become a menace today.  This has reached a dangerous point, not only our land but also our existence and identity are become questionable. The occupation is taking place with the consensus of many, including soldiers, departments and Buddhist monks,” said C. V. Vigneswaran, former Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council and Jaffna district Member of Parliament.

He made this remark in an exclusive interview given to the “Thayaga Kalam” program of London Live Tamil Radio “Uyirodai”.  The details of his interview are as follows:

Question: Last week, you organized the release of a documentary called ‘Thai Nilam’, which exposes the land grabbing of the Tamil people.  In what way is it important today?

Answer: Documentaries can play an important role in bringing the sufferings, tragedies, and human rights violations of the people to the outside world and opening the doors of the international community’s conscience by revealing the truth.  The land grab against the Tamil people in the North and East for the last 70 years has become a menace today. This has reached a dangerous point, not only our land but also our existence and identity are become questionable.   The land grab is taking place with the consensus of many, including soldiers, departments and Buddhist monks.  Even many local Tamil people don’t have a proper understanding of this. That’s why we had arranged this documentary film release amid so much difficulty.  The film is made to international standards in a highly credible manner.

I hope this documentary will make an impact among policymakers, politicians and human rights activists. Many public even phoned to say that they were unaware that something like this was happening. This documentary has been specially made focusing on the Mullaitivu district. Large scale land grabbing activities are also taking place in Mannar, Kilinochchi and other districts in the North East. We are going to study these and gather factual information, statistics etc. and bring out such documentaries. People accept what they see with their eyes than just in the news. That is why this documentary is so important.

As well as the Government cannot wax the lid off when certain things are shown exclusively. They will only say that these are all lies. People will not believe that. The impact is already being felt. The Dematagoda Crime Prevention Police called to the station for my television discussion in the Sinhala language, which aired long ago. Let’s see.

Question: Many foreign experts were participating in this event. They also came as spectators. What is their view on land grabbing in Sri Lanka?

Answer: They have acknowledged that this is a reprehensible human rights violation and have compared Sri Lanka to Israel, which has one of the worst human rights abuses in Palestine. They said that both the countries are ethnocratic regimes. Their brief message is that the Tamil people must continue to fight against this occupation in various ways, both internationally and locally, and that these struggles will surely pay off. It is important to note that an internationally renowned Israeli professor has stated that a racist government exists in Sri Lanka. The claim that an Israeli citizen compares Israel and Sri Lanka to an ethnic state reinforces the genocidal issue we have been claiming so far.

A few politicians among us can talk about how it is genocide. They raised their voices to see if we could prove it. But today, internationally, it is said that what is happening in Sri Lanka is ethnic rule. So, I hope those who are lame on behalf of the Government will wake up to what is happening to the Tamils now.

Question: Do you think this situation could have been comparatively avoided if the provincial councils had been able to exercise their land powers?

Answer: Definitely!  I controlled many land grabs during my tenure as Chief Minister.  And land grabbers will be reluctant to confiscate our lands if they know we have certain powers.  The government and government acolytes are engaged in land grabbing, leaving the provincial council inactive.  I know that even the Supreme Court has supported it.  I am aware of the recent judgment that the Central Government can carry out its functions if the province fails.  I know that the Supreme Court has allowed to take advantage of the error or mistake of the centre.  Details have not yet reached me.  But this claim is true.

Question: Have you sent reports to an international forum such as Geneva with adequate documentation on land grabbing, the existence of the Tamil people and therefore being questioned?

Answer: Definitely!  We have done this in the past.  We have handed over documentary details to many important personalities on their arrival in Sri Lanka.  We are constantly engaged in this activity.  I had recently communicated many information to the Commissioner of Human Rights by letter.  It is evident that an attitude is developing internationally that we can know the truth if we seek them.  Many personalities say this openly. Unfortunately, some Tamil politicians act as foot soldiers of the government and try to cover up the truth.

Question: The President had said in New York that he would invite diaspora Tamil organizations for talks.  What is your view on this?

Answer: I would welcome this call if it was made with the sincere intention of sharing power with the Tamil people and leading this country towards prosperity.  But I suspect that the government may have made this announcement with a hypocritical intention of recovering from the economic crisis in the country.  He needs the money of the people in the diaspora.  My view is that there is no intention to give justice and rights to Tamils in the country.

I think he is taking advantage of the contradictions and differences within the diaspora Tamil organizations and intensifying contradictions among them.  Will he talk to  Tamils in diaspora and find a solution to what he can’t talk to us in the country?  Those who engage in political negotiations with the government, both domestically and abroad, must impose a condition.  The government must accept that the unitary system won’t help to solve the problems of the Tamil people.  The exchange of views is based on the condition that the solution is to be beyond unitary rule. 

Question: The regime has changed in Tamil Nadu.  Stalin, who has become the Chief Minister, has been expressing support for the Eelam Tamils.  Do you have any plans to negotiate with him?

Answer: Of course, I will make this effort once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided.  

Question: Two Trincomalee based religious leaders have launched an effort to unite the Tamil National Parties.  What is your position on this?

Answer: I continue to emphasize the need for the Tamil National Parties to work together.  Accordingly, I have been engaged in discussions with many party leaders.  I expect civil society representatives would be more proactive than political parties or leaders in taking this initiative.  Religious leaders must take this initiative.  I will support this.

In the P2P all the parties came together under the direction of the religious leaders.  Similarly, when common problems arise for the Tamil people, it is to be expected that the parties will unite under the auspices of these religious leaders.  But the current situation is that those who claim to be the only 24 Carat party will not come to join us.  I expect maybe they join us if the quality of gold goes down.

Question: It is said that next year will be decisive for Geneva.  How are you going to prepare yourself to face it?  What is your strategy for that?

Answer: We are exploring this.  We are carrying out some projects.  Our Tamil People’s National Alliance leaders are already in talks with party leaders like TELO and PLOTE.  We are in the process of exchanging views on what should be put forward in Geneva. We expected Mr. Mavai Senathirajah would join us. But he didn’t. we are confident that he will come and cooperate.  If we do not co-operate together, the situation of the Tamil people in Geneva will be worrisome.

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