Administrative devices said undermining Tamil areas

Place: Trincomalee | Courtesy: TamilNet
| Date: 20010213

Eechchilampattu, an agricultural region in the southern interior of the Trincomalee district, remains acutely underdeveloped because discriminatory administrative policies aimed at keeping it under the Seruvila local government body, local civil society activists said.

Mr.S.Gunanayagam, a Justice of Peace and former chairman of the Kaddaiparichchan Village Council told TamilNet that the interior roads of the region are dilapidated or unusable and that there has been no local development work here for almost a decade because the Sinhala dominated Seruvila Pradeshiya Sabha refuses to allocate any funds for Eechchilampattu. "This is a general strategy adopted by Sinhala bureaucrats to undermine several isolated Tamil administrative units in the northern and eastern parts of the island", Mr. Gunanayagam said.

In 1987, the Sri Lankan government scrapped village councils and town councils established under the British colonial administration and replaced them with Pradeshiya Sabhas (PS).

In 1992, the Assistant Government Agent's (AGA) Divisions, the administrative units into which each district was divided under the British, were made Divisional Secretaries' (DS) divisions with much enhanced powers.

Critics of the change accused the Sri Lankan government that the augmenting of administrative powers was aimed at undermining the provincial council system, established under a treaty with India in 1987 to grant limited regional autonomy to the Tamils.

Tamil politicians charge that Colombo has sought to undermine Tamil regions administratively by deliberately carving out new Divisional Secretaries' divisions in the east and in the Tamil majority areas of the island's central province and by not upgrading some Tamil AGA divisions to DS divisions.

"The creation of new DS divisions is aimed at making the Tamils a minority in these administrative units and engineering the colonization of Sinhalese and Muslims in Tamil lands" said Mr. K. Thurairajasingham, ex-Tamil United Liberation Front MP for Batticaloa.

The refusal of the government to upgrade some AGA divisions in the north and east to DS divisions is to deny the enhanced powers to the regions under their (the AGA divisions) administrative purview, according to the TULF politician.

The old AGA divisions of Madhu (Mannar district), Kandaavalai (Kilinochchi district), Oddusuddan (Mullaithivu), Eechchilampattai (Trincomalee), Kalmunai and Karaithivu (Ampara district) are yet to be upgraded as DS divisions despite protests by Tamils in the east.

In accordance with government directives in this regard, the Assistant Commissioner for Local Government for the Trincomalee district determined in 1993 that a Pradeshiya Sabha should be established for Eechchilampattai.

Mr.Gunanayagam said that on 29, September 1993, the deputy secretary for the Ministry of Interior of the Northeast Provincial Council had recommended that the Eechchilampattu AGA division should be upgrade to a DS division. "But Sinhala chauvinist bureaucrats are deliberately blocking this" he charged.

People in the Eechchilampattu region have to trek almost 50 kilometers to Trincomalee town to obtain pensions, birth and death certificates, attend to land related matters etc., from the District Secretariat because the old administrative unit has not been upgraded to a DS division.

The Eechchilampattu AGA division comprises 17 Tamil villages that are parceled into 9 Grama Sevaka (village) divisions. Its extent is 36 square miles.

The population of the division is over ten thousand. The Seruvila Pradeshiya Sabha, controlled by the Sinhalese, administers Eechchilampattu area.

Sinhala AGA divisions in the Trincomalee district with much smaller populations were upgraded to DS divisions 8-9 years ago, according to Mr. Gunanayagam.

There are ten DS divisions in Trincomalee now.

Only three of these have Tamil Divisional secretaries although 36.4 percent of the district's population is Tamil and 33.6 Sinhala. The Muslims who comprise 29 percent have one DS division (Kinniya).