Colombo, Sri Lanka — More than 30,000 Sinhalese families will be issued arms and settled in the northeast, where Tamil militants have been fighting to establish an independent state, the government announced Friday.

The government will select ethnic Sinhalese families and give them arms and assistance to settle on government land in the northen Jaffna peninsula, Minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali said.

At present, the north has a population of 600,000 people living in an area of 700 square miles, of whom nearly 98 percent are Tamils.

In recent months, Tamil guerrillas have stepped up their struggle to establish an independent homeland called Eelam in the north and east of the island.

Since the escalation of rebel activity there, most Sinhalese have left the region.

Athulathmudali said the plan to resettle 30,000 Sinhalese families in Tamil areas is the best method of combating the secessionist rebellion in a nonviolent way and the arms they would be issued are for self-defense only.

The predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese form nearly 74 percent of the population of the Indian Ocean island nation formerly called Ceylon. The Tamils, mostly Hindus of south Indian origin, make up 18 percent of the population.

Eastern Sri Lanka has about 400,000 mostly Tamil inhabitants living in a region of 1,800 square miles.


Article extracted from this publication >> January 25, 1985