Sri Lankan police officers interrogated Tamil Guardian’s Batticaloa correspondent and Batticaloa Press Club (BPC) Secretary, Selvakumar Nilanthan at his home, for highlighting the military-assisted Sinhala settlements on Tamil cattle farmers’ land in Batticaloa.
Nilanthan, who revealed that land grabs in Mylanthanaimadu and Periya Maadhavanai, Batticaloa has resulted in Tamil cattle farmers “facing grave economic problems”, was questioned for nearly two hours by four policeman on Monday (16th November). During the interrogation, he was asked to disclose the names of his colleagues who had been assigned to the story and the websites that publish his articles.
The Eravur police relentlessly questioned whether those news sites had any links with the Tamil diaspora.
The agricultural land in Mylanthanaimadu and Periya Maadhavanai belonging to Tamil locals had been distributed to recently settled Sinhala farmers for corn cultivation by a leading member of the Sinhala Buddhist group “Viyath Maga” (Path of Professionals), Anuradha Yahampath. The extreme Sinhala Buddhist-nationalist group were vital components in assisting the alleged war criminal, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s successful campaign to attain presidency. Yahampath’s move has deprived many Tamil cattle farmers the access to the grazing land and as a result, their livelihoods have been severely affected. Tamil farmers and locals have stated that they have been intimidated and threatened by the Sinhala settlers and some farmers have suggested that they are fearing for their lives for standing up for their rights to their lands.
According to Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader and MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, the grazing land was allocated by the Sri Lankan government in a cabinet decision in 2011 to 991 Tamil families. The conflicting permissions regarding the agricultural land have caused tensions, ending in the slaughtering of Tamil farmers’ cattle.
“They are slaughtering our cows. Cows are being slaughtered today and farmers will be slaughtered tomorrow. Before that, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa must find a quick solution to this problem,” requested the affected farmers.
Earlier this month, Eastern Provincial Councillor (EPC) and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front member, R. Thurairatnam made a public appeal to the Sri Lankan government to take immediate action to stop the unopposed “premeditated Sinhala occupation” and warned that failure to do so risks ethnic tensions arising in the area.