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Sri Lankan Indigenous People’s Day Festival

Uruwarige Wanniyalaththo has visited President’s House in Kandy to invite President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Indigenous People’s Day festival which will be celebrated in Vakarai Sallathiv area on July 30 and 31 to mark World Indigenous People’s Day. Further he stated that all indigenous communities scattered around the country will be involved in this year’s Indigenous Day celebrations. Uruwarige Wanniyalaththo has also requested the President to take measures to authenticate the identity of the indigenous people dwelling in Wakare, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and many other areas.

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection. The reason for choosing the August 9th is to recognize the first UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations meeting in Geneva in 1982. On December 23, 1994, the UN General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People should be observed on August 9 annually during the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.

Sri Lanka’s indigenous persons living in various areas including Vakarai, Jaffna, Batticaloa and Trincomalee.Vakarai is the area where the ceremony will be held this year is famous for Muhudu Veddah community who makes their living by indigenous fishing. Vakarai was once the stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the Eastern Province. Wanniyalaththo added that these areas were in the grips of Tiger terrorists in the recent past and that these people had been forcibly used for terrorist activities. The President’s attention was drawn to the Wanniyalaththo’s request to get the ancestral culture of Veddhas in maritime areas preserved and prevent them from being used to get the needs and wants of others satisfied. President Rajapaksa said that he had allocated Rs 500 million rupees for the welfare of the Veddha community and inquired from the ministers the activities for which that money had been spent.

“We come here to join in the work of the Working Group on Indigenous population by contributing to the review of developments considering the diverse situations and aspirations of the world’s indigenous peoples.We draw your attention to the land of Sri Lanka and of the specific condition of our people, the Wannyala-aetto. Most indigenous participants here are familiar with the Sinhalese and the Tamil populations of our country but little is said about us, the first occupants of the island. Archaeological estimates link our ancestry in Sri Lanka as far as 130,000 years ago or possibly even 500,000 before presence.” Said Uruwarige Wanniya addressing the  Working Group on Indigenous People in Geneva in 1996. This was the first occasion an indigenous member of Sri Lanka to visit off shore.

“We the Wannyala-aetto, which means forest-beings are not allowed to remain in the forest. Our relationship with our environment is changing. We were the custodians of the jungle throughout generations. Now the jungle is no longer ours and we do not feel responsible for its maintenance.” This summarized the main worry of the Indigenous population in Sri Lanka.

ple dwelling in Wakare, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and many other areas./p

Sandun W

Sandun joined Lanka Help Magazine as a contributor in June, 2011. He has been consistently writing articles to our magazine. Many useful articles of this site are under Sandun's name.

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