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TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION

by Lt Col.A.S.Amarasekera.

The Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group in the Ampara district. From the census figures of 2001, there are 231771 Sinhalese living in this district, which is approximately 40% of the population and they occupy 79.4% of the land in this district. Dehiattakandiya, Padiyatalawa, Maha Oya, Uhana, Ampara and Damana divisional secretariat areas are all in the interior parts of the district. Only the divisional secretariat area of Lahugala has the coastline as one of its boundaries. While 226472 Sinhalese live in the divisional secretariat areas mentioned above, only 5299 Sinhalese live in the other divisional secretariat areas of the Ampara district that suffered from the tsunami disaster.

D.S.Area Extent of land District% Population D.S.Area %
Dehiattakandiya 400.2 Sq Km 9.10% 61840 98.80%
Padiyatalawa 398.6 Sq Km 9.00% 15539 99.30%
Maha Oya 676.6 Sq Km 15.30% 17926 99.50%
Uhana 424.4 Sq Km 11.90% 52059 99.80%
Ampara 149.4 Sq Km 3.40% 37251 98.00%
Damana 538.8 Sq Km 12.20% 34497 99.30%
Lahugala 818.0 Sq Km 18.50% 6910 91.10%
Total 3506.1 Sq Km 79.40% 226472

Map of Ampara district

Approximately 60% of the population in the Ampara district is Tamil and Muslim and they occupy 20.6% of the land extent. This extent of land is divided into nine divisional secretariat areas, namely Pottuvil, Tirrukkovil, Aladiwembu, Akkaraipattu. Addalachenai, Nintavur, Karathvu, Kalmunai and Sammanturai. Therefore these divisional secretariat areas are densely populated. All these divisional secretariat areas hug the coastal belt, the only exception being Sammanthurai.

Though the coastline in the Ampara district is approximately a hundred kilometers, only the village of Ulla with approximately 250 families in the Pottuvil divisional secretariat area and the village of Panama with approximately 1500 families in the Lahugala divisional secretariat area, are close to the coastline. The tsunami tidal wave destroyed the whole of the Ulla village but the damage to the Panama village, which is further inland from the coastline, was minimal with only five houses being destroyed. However the district that recorded the most number of deaths from the tsunami tidal wave was Ampara. The divisional secretariat areas where the Tamil and Muslim population live in the Ampara district have many densely populated townships, built not very far from the coastline. The tsunami tidal wave inundated most of these densely populated towns and caused a tremendous loss in life and property.

The Tamil and Muslim population was left destitute, crying for help and it was the Sinhalese population living in the interior areas of the Ampara district, who spontaneously rushed to rescue the Tamil and Muslim people, long before Government relief and assistance was organized. They evacuated most of the Tamil and Muslim people from the affected areas and established seventeen camps for these internally displaced people and provided food and lodging to the best of their ability. It was very much later that the Government was able to get their act together.
Buddhist Monks were seen giving the necessary leadership and it was in their temples that most of these camps for the internally displaced Tamil and Muslim people were initially established. Gonagala was a village that was attacked by LTTE terrorists, who came from the adjoining Tamil villages. The acting chief incumbent of the Gonagala temple Indasumana Thero, led a group of Sinhalese people to provide relief and assistance to the very same Tamil villages from where the attack on the Gonagala village was staged by the LTTE. Many were such acts performed by unsung Sinhala Buddhist heroes that went unnoticed and which the media failed to spotlight, as they were done sans any motive of gaining praise, profit or fame.

During my last visit to Ampara on 4th 5th and 6th of January 2005, most of the internally displaced people who were accommodated in seventeen camps in and around the Ampara town were preparing to leave for camps established in their respective divisional secretariat areas by the Government. I met a few of them and they were full of praise to the Sinhala people, who came to their assistance in their hour of need. Several Tamil youth approached me with some leaflets in Sinhala and distributed them to those who were with me. Shanker Gunasekeram one time E.P.D.P Member of Parliament and the present Chairman of the Cashew Corporation on behalf of the Tamil speaking people of Digamadulla had prepared the leaflet. If this leaflet were translated to English it would read thus,

Copy of the leaflet

"As a result of the tsunami tidal wave of 26th December 2004, the Tamil and Muslim people of Digamadulla who were living in the coastal areas were subjected to a greater disaster than in any other district in Sri Lanka. From the time this disaster struck until now the service rendered by the Sinhala people to the Tamil speaking communities, the Tamil and Muslim people was colossal.

As a result of the war that has continued for two whole decades the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people who lived in all parts of the district were fighting each other with racial animosity. At a time like this, the Sinhala people helped the Tamil and Muslim people in distress without any malice and without thinking of the two decades of war they had fought. How the Sinhala people completely set aside the past and how they came forward to help the Tamil speaking people with unity and brotherhood, it must be mentioned, will never be forgotten by the Tamil-speaking people in the future.

The Tamil speaking people in distress went to the Sinhala people looking for help and assistance. How we were welcome with love and affection and from that moment until now the hospitality and the assistance we received, will never be forgotten and the brotherly bondage created as a result has been so strengthened that it must be mentioned that no force will be able to break this bondage in the future.

We offer our brotherly praise and sincere thanks, from the bottom of our hearts, to the Sinhala people in Digamadulla for the help and assistance they gave us from the time of the disaster up to now.

Is this not adequate proof to show the world the magnanimity of the Sinhala people?


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