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Upcountry Tamils and their Particular Situation

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1 Upcountry Tamils and their Particular Situation

2 INTRODUCTION The plantation Tamils living Sri Lanka is one of the most oppressed communities in the world They were treated like sub-humans by the Sinhalese governments since independence in 1948. In Sri Lanka, there are three major communities - the majority Sinhalese - the minority Tamils and Muslims. At the time of independence, the population was of about 8 million, of which the Sinhalese composed of 66%, the Tamils 26% and Muslims 7%.

3 INTRODUCTION........... The Tamils of Ceylon are of two categories
- The Ceylon Tamils - Northeast Province, have lived on the island for millennia. - The Upcountry Tamils - Central highlands, Uva and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. brought by the British from South India to work as a labours in their plantation .

4 Origen of plantation community in SL
Brought by Britishers in 19th century from South India to work on the plantations. The first batch of Tamil labourers from Tamil Nadu, called the Madras Presidency They, in two more decades, completing two centuries of habitation in Sri Lanka

5 Conditions of workers in presents and past (before 1948 and today)
Under the British rule,they were suffering under atrocious living conditions, These Tamils from Tamil Nadu were brought to Ceylon as indentured labourers.  ‘Indenture’ is a sealed agreement binding servant to master.  The poverty-stricken, ignorant and illiterate Tamils of South India were subjected to the terms of indenture and brought to Ceylon to work on plantations.  In 1920s leaders of Tamils of recent Indian origin were nominated to the legislative council In 1931 under the Donoughmore constitution-they were granted the right to vote.

6 Conditions of workers……..
Though They toiled on the Tea, rubber and coconut plantations to make Ceylon prosperous under gruelling and inhuman conditions their basic need and rights as citizens and development partner were denied. They were leading a life of slavery and treated as commodities.

7 Denied of citizenship rights
When Ceylon was unilaterally granted independence by the British in 1948, there were about one million Ceylon Tamils and a little more that one million Upcountry Tamils, out of a total population of about eight million The Ceylon Tamils were in general well off, but the Upcountry Tamils lived in poverty and squalor.

8 Denied of citizenship rights...
The plantation Tamils were deprived Citizenship and voting rights under the Ceylon Citizenship Act ,soon after independence Nearly one million people became stateless.( this is 40% of the total population of that time) This loss of citizenship was followed by the Ceylon Elections Act mendment Act deprived 13 % of of the population( plantation tamil)

9 Living conditions of plantations community
The living conditions of the plantation Tamils is appalling.  They live in labour lines like the slave rows in the United States.Each family is given a room and large families of ten or twelve children are crammed up in a room.  They have to use common toiletsand a common tap.  Men and women have to bathe from the common tap in the open.  After independence, while the Sinhala-dominated government went all out to improve the quality of life of the Sinhalese, the Tamils were neglected. The plantation Tamils were the worst off.

10 Social conditions The health and educational facilities made available to this unfortunate community have been deplorable.  There are dispensaries in the estates but no doctors.  Unqualified dispensers attend to the sick.  Schools are only up to 4th or 5th standard.  The objective is to discourage Tamils from improving in education to make sure that they remained labourers. “Among the plantation Tamils, there were a handful who are economically better off as clerks, tea makers, and head kanganies.  The sons of these few plantation Tamils, who are better off do get some chance to progress, but the vast majority live in abject poverty and ignorance”

11 Anti-Tamil hostility In the ethnic violence of 1977, 1980, and 1983 the plantation Tamils were the worst affected.  As a result of the recurring ethnic violence against Tamils, many plantation Tamils took refuge in the Northeasta and settled down there as farm hands.  In the 1983 massacre of the Tamils by the Sinhalese, the estate Tamils also suffered and many fled to India and the Tamil homeland of Northeast Sri Lanka.  The Sinhalese politicians used the armed forces to uproot them.  They were forcibly put into buses and taken back to the plantations and dumped there. 

12 Upcountry Tamils dissipated
Sinhalese policy of ethnic cleansing, - Sri Lankan state carried out forced sterilization of Plantation Tamils to reduce their numbers. Half of them have been expatriated to India.  Many were killed in the series of anti-Tamil pogroms and many fled to the Tamil homeland in the NorthEast. Their death rate is high due to lack of facilities.  Because of abject poverty, many children in the tea plantation workers community did not attended to schools, and employed as domestic workers, hotel boys and other off the jobs and exposed to abuse.  The rate of unemployment and/or underemployment among Estate Tamils is high even to-day.

13 Remnants of Upcountry Tamils granted citizenship
In 2003, the Parliament grant citizenship to the remnants of the Tamils left in the Upcountry numbering 168,141.  (It was a long and protracted, but finally successful struggle against Sinhalese oppression for Upcountry Tamil rights)  The struggle for economic survival of this battered community continues, however. The frustrated Tamil youth are restless, and resent the miserable conditions that their parents and ancestors endured. Remnants of Upcountry Tamils granted citizenship

Lack of human dignity - considered as descendents from a migrant labour - are not recognized as full citizens by the natives. Since independence – - systematically excluded from the main stream - leaving them with no rights to own lands and even right to vote. They were recognised as citizens only in 2003 - But still continue to struggle in gaining some of their fundamental and human rights to-date

Gender discrimination due to culture, religion and the social practices This has prevented the women and the girl figure of this community from taking up responsibilities or leadership in the family and society paving way for men to enjoy education, social status, earnings, leadership and ownerships. A little less than half of the female population of the plantation sector is in the labour force while at national level the corresponding figure is less than one third. They do not have any protection against occupational hazard. Being a day’s wage earner means no guarantees when ill or unfit to work or in any emergencies which lead them to live in poverty throughout. Nearly 60% of the women workers yet do not come forward to draw their wages it is their husbands who draw their wages on behalf of them.

16 WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT. Women and girls share the load of work both at home and the work place which prevents them any spare time to take part in any political or social activities. The low level of education, lack of occupational skills and gender discrimination compel them to lead a life of dependency were they are not even given the opportunity to express their opinion or select their marital partners. The women have been deprived and are the recipients of marginalization within the community with no self esteem or dignity well nourished by the culture. This attitude has resulted in not granting the opportunities of socializing activities like education and hygiene for women in the family instead the elders try to give preference in giving them in marriage or finding income earning opportunities. The quest for sufficient income for the families by parents through migration had left the elderly girls in the family vulnerable for sexual harassments by males and at times by their own relatives. All the above deprivation has also led to suicide and suicidal attempts by affected plantation women. Even the educated women and teenagers are the recipient of the same treatment. Therefore it is a vital fact that women should be given proper dignity, empowered and promoted to ensure their participation and leadership in the development of the community at large.

17 EDUCATION Lack of government intervention on plantation schools from its beginning - Historically the estate schools came under the responsibility of the estate. In 1973 only 7.7 percent of the residents in the estate sector had achieve more than primary education whereas in all other parts of the country the percentage was 32%. In the process of nationalizing the estate schools have been started - improvement have been only partially successful. - The nationalization could have been the start of a fundamental improvement of the education in the estate sector

18 EDUCATION There are disparities In the funds available to Sinhalese and Tamil schools within the same area. After the Nationalization the department of Education was confronted with serious shortcomings in the quality of estate school buildings. The funds required for upgrading were perhaps too large and fell beyond to capability of the department. In this respect it is understandable that the Sri lankan government faild to allocate funds for the upgrading and extension of the neglected school building in the estates. Funds were made available by foreign donors. Sweden (SIDA) contributed to a large extends. Many estate schools were extended and started to offer education up to grade 7. In certain cases schools were extended to provided classes up to GCE O/L. and A/L

19 EDUCATION Lack or no transport facilities to attend to schools Shortages of teachers High fail rate in Maths, science and English subjects The backlog in education result in Political tension and scarcity of human resources

20 EDUCATION Many of the children who enjoyed so many years of education have changed their aspirations. They are no longer satisfied with a job as an estate labourer. They aspire a job of higher status. But due to the poor quality of their education they lack the qualification to enter these jobs. And of course, because they belong to the community of the Hill Country Tamils, they face specific disadvantages in their search for attractive jobs. The other problem refers to the tremendous lack of human resources. - low number of students that pass the A-Level exam. - Hill Country Tamils who are educated at university are even scarcer. This lack of human resources is a result of the underdevelopment of the community and at the same it reinforces this situation of underdevelopment. - There problem is aggravated as many qualified people tend to leave Up Country and settle in Colombo where there are more opportunities for personal development and advancement.

21 access to government services
The problem of restricted access to government services is further aggravated because of political interference by the ruling party, that is running the national government, politicians from the ruling party are ministers in the central government and in that position the politicians control the divisional branches of their departments. Furthermore the most powerful bureaucrat in the division, the AGA, is appointed and directed by a minister in the central government. This structure of control Government. This structure of control enables politicians of the ruling party to influence the distribution of government resources in the AGA division. At the local level the political patronage is reinforced through supporters of the ruling party. Village level politicians act as brokers to gain access to government resources on behalf of their affiliates. For government officers it is not always easy to resist this political pressure, as they know instruct officers in the local government. These rules and regulations may define specific administrative procedures for estate resident civilians or for citizens by registration or for non-citizens.

22 Identified as the courses for the core problem:
a) Dependency mentality Limited self reliance and social insecurity due to their monotonous life style, existing administrative style of the plantation, immobility, language barrier, transport and poor social infrastructure. Lack of exposure to fundamental human rights and labour laws, higher degree of gender subordination and inability to confront conflict situations within the community, suicide, suicide attempts and others also contribute to the situation b) Low income due to: Limited opportunity in the plantation system for employment, Lack of marketable skills, Lack of alternative income sources and lack of professional qualifications Identified as the courses for the core problem:

23 c) Lack of awareness in political rights & responsibilities due to:
Lack of awareness in political rights & responsibilities due to: Low level of education, Cultural barriers and lack of leadership qualities. d) Gender discrimination  About 60% of plantation workers are females. Very often they are more or less the bread winners of the families as the males squander whatever they earn. Also, the society in the plantations is male dominated. Even in many cases the wages of the women workers are drawn by their husbands and not by the worker. Women in plantation work as pluckers mostly. They have no promotional prospects at all. They join as pluckers and retire as pluckers. They are isolated from the general society of the country, marginalized and looked down as seconded class citizens.

24 e) Housing and Lack of ownership
 Presently there are about families living in plantations. Lack of housing for them is a serious issue. They live in congested line rooms devoid of basic amenities like water and electricity. Because of trade union agitations the Government set up the Plantation Human Development Trust to cater to this need. But, during a period of 18 years, since inception, the Trust has been able to provide only single houses for these families. Morever, even after 18 years, the residents of those houses have not been given deeds to their properties, As the houses are now fairly old repairs become due. The residents are unable to raise a loan for such repairs in the absence of deeds.

25 f) Lack of individual Address;
Plantation families do not have a postal address of their own. Letters in the name of a worker are addressed to the estate. So, all letters received by the management of the estate are kept at a common place for the workers to pick. There are many workers of the same name and wrong persons pick up letters meant for others. Very often they destroy the letters without handing over to correct persons. Recently, the POWER Foundation of Badulla, with the assistance of the donor agency, FLICT, went to Gonakelle Estate of Badulla, gave street names to the by-ways and house numbers to line rooms, to solve the problem. The Foundation is pursuing action to expand this activity to other estates.

26 Lake of Security to hill Tamils.
The war in the North and the Estate affected the Tamils in the hill country as well. They had relations in Jaffna, Trinco and Batticaloa. Therefore they were suspected as LTTE terrorists or their sympathizers.  The plantation community is mainly uneducated and backward. Almost 30% of them do not possess birth certificates or national identity cards. Plantation youth were continuously arrested on suspicion and remanded. They could not go out of their estates for fear of imprisonment, even for employment outside the estates.

27 I) Violation of human rights.
As stated above lack of ownership of their residences create hardships for plantation families. Encroachments take place. They are treated as second class citizens. Without identity cards voting rights are denied to them. They were brought to Sri Lanka 180 years ago. They remained as stateless persons till 2003, when citizenship was granted. Even now the rights and privileges due to a citizen under the Constitution are not given fully to these workers.

28 j) Non access to equal Government service
Many welfare facilities are denied to plantation community. Example : Samurdhi. Infrastructure amenities, such as usable roads, water supply and electricity are others.

29 Right of using Tamil languages
Though the Official Languages Act guarantees equal status to the Tamil language, it is not evident in practice. All Government and Local Authority letters are sent in Sinhala only and the Tamil recipients are clueless. Letters sent to Government authorities in Tamil receive scant attention.

30 Communal violence experienced by Tamils since Independence
On many occasions the Tamil community as a whole has suffered violence at the hand of the Sinhala majority.  In 1958 communal violence erupted over the affixing of “Sri” to license boards of vehicles. Other incidents such as Bindunuwewa attack and infamous “Black July” catastrophe occurred. Recently, just a week ago, a Sinhala security guard was found murdered in an estate in Nivithigala. Tamils were suspected and over 100 houses were torched.

31 Thank You

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