The Veddahs, who has a strong factual claim to being the first settlers to inhabit the land of Sri Lanka, bemoaned the fact that they had not been consulted and made aware of the constitutional reforms process, specifically about the issue of the devolution of power.
Generations of these ancient people are presently found living in 62 villages located within six Districts.
Leader of the indigenous people, Veddah Chieftain, Vishva Keerthi Vanaspathi Uruvarigay Vannile Aththo and his translator, Uruvarigay Wimalaratne emphasized that it was of utmost importance that they be brought into the discourse and be made to understand the national issues to which solutions are being sought.
They called on the Government to pay special care and attention to the Veddahs when providing for programmes which would generate employment for members of the Veddah community.
Whilst explaining that they did not exactly comprehend the concept of devolving power, the duo however noted that while devolving power would provide the denizens within a particular Province, convenience in getting things done, and being spared the hassle of having to commute to Colombo, it should however be done within one State under which governance currently takes place.
“So as long as we can live freely, there is no issue. The problem however is that the forests are forbidden to us and we face livelihood and survival related issues. When it comes to obtaining regular employment, we do not have the qualifications. This is because we do not have the capacity owing to the lack of monies and facilities. It is with much difficulty that our children are being educated,” they lamented.
The Veddahs therefore called for an affirmative action policy to be put in place and a mechanism based on such to be established, which would allow for the Veddahs to obtain employment on the basis of minimum qualifications.