Law & Justice Are At Stake At Mylathmadu & Mathavanai In East

By Thangamuthu Jayasingam –

Prof. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Mylathamadu – Mathavanai area, has an issue of grazing land in the right bank of Maduru Oya which had been practiced for decades. Unfortunately the area was not formally developed when the left back was developed in 1982. 40 years later when the right bank takes a step to develop these lands many Sinhala farmers invaded and caused damage to the cattle and life of the farmers in this area. In fact the Governor at that time Ms Yahanpath also could be cited as added to the conflict as she had been reiterating that there were populations of Sinhala in these areas and was only interest in them. Many following thee conflicts do not understand it as a whole; a portion of the Maduru Oya scheme is in the Divulapothana Gs division of Mahaoya DS division in Ampara. Alost 4000 acres are cultivated in this area since 2012 (EIA report of Maduru Oya 2017). However 50,000 acres of are ain the Batticaloa district had not been allowed to cultivate by the Mahaweli authorities, further many cattle had been arrested  and/or farmers prosecuted in at different times claiming that the cattle went into the Divulapothana fields filing action in Dehiattekandiya. 

Action was filed in Court of appeal (CA/36/ 2021) ended in July 2022 with the Mahaweli Authority undertaking   that the intruders would be evacuated from these areas. Yes, they did to an extent. But hundreds of farmers  invaded around three months ago. Mahaweli had  filed action on 14 persons two weeks ago in the Magistrates court of Eravur and did nothing on the others. It is also true of all those who were party to the CA case 36/2021,  are bound by the decision. A separate case filed against all the administration officers of the district and Mahaweli was dismissed in the High Court of Batticaloa (B/528/20) quoting the CA case as being similar and binding thus the HC order was not necessary. Ultimately it ended up as ‘operation success patient dead’ as more intruders have entered these areas since July 2023 and caused disharmony and destruction  to the site and the community thereof. 

The cattle farmers began a sit in protest 33 day ago in Sithandy asking for the evacuation of all the intruders and to make way for their cattle to the grazing lands of about  300-400 thousand numbers, exactly what was granted or pledged at the Court of appeal long ago. This was submitted as a document to his excellency the President on 7th and was also communicated on 8th where he assured for a high level meeting soon. He kept his word and had a meeting on Sunday 15th and ordered for the evacuation of the intruders making way for the cattle farmers and also provides for land to these in need in their respective locations. We had been informed that various authorities Attorney general, IGP, DSs, Mahaweli authority etc were given specific tasks. Mahaweli Authority was assigned to develop pastures for the Cattle in the disturbed areas. Unfortunately the invaders/intruders accelerated their action in the occupies lands in the next two days. Further yesterday, 17th, escorted and facilitated by the Former Governor for the East Ms Yahampath and Buddhist Monk known as Ampitiye Suman Thero. it is reported that they had taken and placed a Buddhist statue to a place called Pillyarvattai area of pillayar) in the Eravurpattu DS division as seen in photos 1 and 2.

This not only violates the court order of Court of appeal and the directives of the President but also paves way for conflict among religious and ethnic groups.

These may usually be charged under criminal procedure act, civil procedure act and also under PTA

We have to await the return of the President to see what action he proposes/recommends for these violations.

Considering the gravity of the events it is so disturbing the authorities whether it be the Police at Karadian aru, Mahaweli authority, Forest department, Wildlife department, relevant District and divisional secretaries  had taken no action to date to resolve this event and area also slow to even report such action. What we frequently see is petty offences being taken to court f highlighted out of scale, and the larger being ignored. I cannot but state a quote  what I had read before, ‘Law if like a cobweb where the small insects are caught while the larger ones break through’. 

It further emphasizes  the need for a stronger provincial council with all powers and also with reduced power of the governor if the country needs to remain as one with national minorities of the country having equal rights, at least in the relevant provinces. The events noted are indicators known in history which had led to separation over time which must  be avoided. Though the constitution provides for equality which is not understood by some, for their own benefits. It is important that Justice provides time for them to learn the law and experience it for the larger interest of the country. Also it creates a sense of responsibility on all the citizens of the country  towards  the protection of equality  and pluralism that is  very much entrenched  in the constitution.

*T Jayasingam – Attorney at law, an Emeritus Professor and Former Vice Chancellor of Eastern University, and Chairman of Public Service Commission. He holds a Ph D (ecology) working on grazing pastures of Wales.