Interview with Vedda Chief Tissahamy
Tissahamy Vows to Preserve Identity of His People
Colombo: The Sunday Times, Sunday, May 24, 1992
Vedda chief Tissahamy, whose community is embroiled in a major controversy over their traditional homelands and the ill-effects of development, in an interview with The Sunday Times this week went to the core of the crisis. Following are extracts from the interview which he gave through an interpreter.
They are returning from these areas as they cannot practise their culture freely and because they feel that they are losing their identity in mixing with the various other communities.
I want this area to come under the reserve so that our people would have the minimum of contact with the outside world and maintain our identity as much as possible. I also want to be remembered as the Vedda chief who did his best for his people, then only can I take my last breath in peace.
The Mahaweli Authority took over our lands nine years ago. They resettled us in what they considered best for us. They wanted us to adjust to the Sinhala way of life which cannot come about instantly. It takes a great deal of time. The younger people have adjusted faster than the older ones. Things have changed very much. There might not be any Veddas left at the turn of the century.
I am not against the national method of farming but we have not been effectively taught this method. I can understand the fears of the government that we are indiscriminately cutting down forests, but the proper raw materials and training has to be given to us.
They had a grudge against the Veddas as we were letting our cattle graze on their land and we collect honey which they want to have for themselves. They also get us to hunt animals for them. They will take revenge from us if we do not obey them. I have told my descendants to avoid them as much as possible. I am angry over this incident.
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