Henanigala Veddahs in peaceful protest
By Sapumal Jayasena
On the Full Moon Poya Day in July (8), we saw a protest which was different from the usual protests in Sri Lanka. It was held in Henanigala, Maduru Oya. The vast majority of the protesters were elderly and middle-aged men. A few young men and women were also seen. All the males were bare-bodied and had long hair and beards. They looked quite poor. Their faces did not express the usual wrath of angry mobs. Instead, they reflected defeat and dejection. It was a protest without banners, placards, and slogans.
They gathered there with fear in their eyes. They had come because they had no alternative. They wanted to make themselves heard and raise their voice against injustice. The protest was held near the Indigenous People's Heritage Centre of Henanigala.
The protesters were Veddahs (indigenous people) who have lived in Sri Lanka for nearly 50,000 years.
The Police did not seem to be too interested in the protest, but luckily a group of journalists were there to cover it. The leader of the Veddahs, Henanigala Hilawarige Gunabandila Aththo voiced his concerns. A few other young Veddah men also joined him.
Families of Dambana origin
The land on which 104 Veddah families of Dambana origin lived went under water when the Maduru Oya Reservoir was built as part of the Mahaweli Development Project. They were resettled in Henanigala on half an acre of land. Henanigala is in close proximity to Dambana and the Maduru Oya Reservoir.
"We first joined the Dambana Veddah Group. At that time, we were free to do what we wanted in the jungle. We harvested honey from beehives and sold it. We hunted animals for food but not for sale because we were acutely aware of the fact that there wasn't an endless supply of animals in the jungle. We have heard about the killing of hundreds of elephants. It is a crime."
"Jungle fires destroy trees and animals. Even the beehives are burnt. Therefore, we never set fire to the jungle."
"The Mahaweli Development Project put us in trouble. We lost our natural habitat. We were relocated to a 52-acre plot of land, which is similar to a model village. Earlier, in the 1980s, there were only 104 families, but now it has grown to 645 families. We have no land to live on."
Wattle and daub huts
"We were given only half an acre of land. We built our wattle and daub huts. We thatched our roofs with 'Iluk'. At the moment, we are not allowed to even cut a stick from the Maduru Oya National Park. Therefore, we build small houses with cement blocks and make the roof with tin sheets. Those houses are inhabitable during the afternoon because the heat is unbearable."
"We do not hunt now. We are not even allowed to fish in the Maduru Oya Reservoir. Fishermen migrate from areas such as Negombo and Chilaw and fish here. We would like to have a fishing pier of our own."
"Our people are not traditional farmers. They don't like farming. Therefore, their paddy fields were mortgaged and are now owned by others. None of us have paddy fields now."
"Now, we work as casual labourers in neighbouring villages and are paid daily wages which are quite low. We don't have work everyday. Therefore, we don't have proper food or clothing."
"Young men migrate to Colombo and work in construction sites as labourers. They later return as married men. Girls work in garment factories and adjust to urban culture. Our Veddah culture is being destroyed little by little. Only the older generation knows the Veddah language properly. I fear that the Veddah language will be forgotten in 10 to 15 years' time."
"The ethnic groups who are presently fighting for their rights do not have a history as long as ours. The majority community has swallowed us. We have been made destitute on our own lands."
Secretary of the Henanigala Pradeshiya Sabha, S.C. Kumari and the Officer-in-Charge of the Henanigala Entrance of the Maduru Oya National Park, B. Gunasinghe met the Veddahs and listened to their woes. An organization called People's Movement for Safeguarding Indigenous Heritage was also launched.
- Bellanwila Chief Prelate’s Death Police await JSC report to probe Coroner’s complaint Samaraweera insists on immediate action
- UN’s Resident Coordinator Una McCauley no more
- EP Women LG membership hopefuls harassed
- Bank of Maldives soon in Colombo
- Male’s NCTC says 50 Maldivians in ISIS Two nabbed at BIA recently
- Having PC polls on PR system discussed
- Police arrest 2,500 in pre-dawn swoop
- Lanka ready to take in ‘failed’ asylum seekers
- Washington Must Rethink Policy on North Korea
- Commitments made to International community Government must be held accountable - Sampanthan
- Lankan worker in KSA named in employer’s will Rewarded for services 22 years later
- Chinese New Year from 1 to 4 March Independence Square Arcade lights up from 6 p.m. to 10p.m.
- SAITM u’grads write to President Pleased with enrolment to KDU
- Journalist Joe Seneviratne’s funeral today
- President scheduled to visit Delhi Will attend ISA conference and solar summit
- Hospital ship USNS Mercy arrives in Sri Lanka Humanitarian and disaster preparedness mission
- Diyatalawa bus explosion Army appoints CoI
- Divi Neguma case in June
- CIABOC driver nabbed with heroin
- SriLankan Unions form Alliance For sustainability
- Baby jumbo possession sans license Magistrate Gamage’s bail condition relaxed
- Drug lord D. Manju killed in shooting
- Amnesty Int’l charges SL backsliding on HR commitments
- Seeking release from Avant-Garde case Gota files revision petition
- Child porn on Whatsapp racket India’s CBI to write to SL
- Kandy SC hold edge over Navy SC
- Million rupee donation for PSJASL
- Sanadru scores 100 not out
- Four teams advance to quarters
- Australians in front against South Africa A
- Thurstan finish on top
- Sharma set to lead in Sri Lanka
- Christ King beat Loyola by 184 runs
- Kavindu, Shermila clocks fastest 200m times
- 1500 athletes participating
- Irfan, Sangakkara fashion Multan win
- Hundred men to cycle 445.9 Km
- FIFA trusts Russia for safe World Cup
- Tiafoe topples del Potro in Delray Beach
- League Starts today
- Wenger vows to attack Man City in final
- Kenya captain, coach and board president resign
- Aitken Spence regain archery crown
- D.S. Senanayake and Mahinda in final
- Cummins, Hazlewood in pace blitz
- SL apparel exports hit US$ 5B, highest ever Exports to EU increase by 27.2% after GSP+ reinstatement
- Hambantota Port takes quantum leap, expands services
- Coal imports hit US$ 261.5 million for 2017
- EasyHotel to raise £ 50M for budget hotel expansions
- Corruption Perception Index Sri Lanka improves 4 points to rank 91 Journalists continue to die for the truth in corrupt nations
- Government Securities Market NFOs top $61.39M
- South Asian Micro-Entrepreneurs to host microfinance conference
- Women earn up to 43% less at Barclays
- National Chamber one-day workshop ‘HR- Driving force in an organization’
- CIM Sri Lanka to host networking event for 2018
- NDB Wealth sponsors 2017 Sri Lanka National Junior Golf Ranking Awards
- Ceylinco General Insurance records excellent results in 2017
- HNB launches Gateway Student Savings Unit
- Nestlé delivers Rs 37.6 billion sales in 2017
- Commercial Bank ends 2017 on strong footing
- Sri Lanka Ports Authority records Rs 13B in Profit Before Tax for 2017
- COLOMBO CITY CENTRE BAGS ASIA’S BRANDS & LEADERS AWARDS 2017
- Renault celebrates 120 years
- Pumping fuel with NTB American Express and win iPhone X devices
- Softlogic Properties promotes Everest Apartments
- Concretes & Abstracts Shuffling the pack or packing the shuffle?
- Government legal Speaker
- CONSTITUTION ON REMOVAL OF PM
- Where there is no vision, there is no hope
- Pursuing Peace Subverting Government through foreign funding
- For women candidates Battle is far from over
- Who really understands their anguish as they cry out...Where are they? Office of Missing Persons is yet to be made operational
- Tree planting goes hi-tech with Thuru
- Komaali Kings Breathing life into Lankan Tamil cinema
- Creating rain where there is none Artificial rain generation to tackle droughts
- Yameen is ‘cleaning up’ decades of elite rule – Maldives Envoy
- Masses are more politically literate than politicians
- Gota is Lankan Putin – Gammanpila
- President and PM are responsible for the election results
- Basil says…Await the return of ‘Spiritual Leader’ MR
- Accomplice to the crime Our own indifference
- UK flower farm suspected of enslaving migrants
- Costly Renovation
- Planetary combinations that nullify Arishta yogas
- Saraswathie –Consort of Maha Brahma
- Autobiography: Lighthouse of the Impossible Beyond conditioned mind and world
- Kitchen should be properly planned
- 7th House foretells nature of marriage
- K. S. Sivakumaran’s On Films Seen
- Some recent impressions
- Bandula Nanayakkarawasam: From Galle to the world
- Pauline Kael: The critic wore cowboy boots
- Pauline Kael: The critic wore cow boy boots
- “Hail, Caesar!” Silliness as a virtue
- Notes on history: The thinkers and the doers
- Reflections on a nation of non-readers
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Anger in NE Nigeria over Boko Haram ‘abduction’ response
- Macerata, Italy’s reluctant immigration battleground
- How Dudley’s 30-day Govt got defeated