Wanniyal-aetto elders Suddu Bandiya and Taepal Bandiya led a delegation to Colombo to testify about injustices to their people.
A field study conducted in 1992 by a specialist in indigenous development policy from the International Labour Organisation succinctly summarized the plight of the Wanniya-laeto with respect to current development policy in Sri Lanka.
According to the existing studies, the majority of the resettled Veddhas are economically backward, socially isolated, and politically marginalised. The Veddhas did not have the skills, means and knowledge needed to either adjust to the new situation (no knowledge of capital accumulation or savings, no familiarity with the monetary system of exchange, no long-term involvement in agriculture as a livelihood, lack of incentive for competitive tasks, etc.), or to cope with the other non-Veddha settlers.
As a result, they are being exploited by the other settlers who have control over the local political institutions and economic opportunities; in several cases attempts to get the Veddhas used to seasonal paddy cultivation have failed, thus worsening severely their livelihood since they do not resort any longer to hunting or food gathering.
It has been pointed out that tribal peoples have suffered from depression and loss of confidence as a consequence of factors such as loss of land, loss of freedom of the forest and disappearance of ritual hunts as the causes of their demoralization. The situation has not changed substantially even after national authorities recognized the Veddhas' desire to preserve their cults and customs and to be resettled in close proximity to their traditional lands. 4
The same study traces the wholesale disruption brought upon Wanniyalaeto culture due to 20th-century development activities:
The drastic changes in the number, distribution and social organisation of the Veddhas started in the 1930s and 1940s when large irrigation and colonization schemes in the Polonnaruwa and Mahiyangana regions were launched. These projects brought a massive influx of Sinhalese and Tamil colonists and a reduction of the forestland that was homeland to the Veddhas. In the 1950s when the Gal Oya scheme was completed, access of the Veddhas to their ancestral lands and their means of livelihood were eroded even more drastically.5
Contrary to popular misconception, Veddahs are bright, intelligent and happy when left to live according to their ancestral ways.