In December 1984, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) expelled Tamil farmers from three villages in the Ma'nalaa'ru region in the northeast of the island of Sri Lanka and seized 1500 acres of land.
The land has been occupied by the SLA ever since. The displaced farmers told two Tamil National Alliance members of the Sri Lankan parliament who recently visited the area that the army still bans them from returning. They are not even allowed to look at their land.
The pretext given by the SLA for preventing the return of the farmers is the alleged presence of land mines. But the farmers deny this, pointing out that the SLA has controlled the area since 1984.
The farmers believe their land may be targeted for settlement by Sinhalese from the south of Sri Lanka, as has happened with other nearby areas.
The situation at Ma'nalaa'ru is typical of what is happening in many parts of northeastern Sri Lanka. Sinhalese settlements are being established in traditional Tamil areas, with the goal of breaking up the contiguity of the Tamil homeland and rendering a Tamil state impossible.
This is similar to the Israeli policy of using Jewish settlements to break up the contiguity of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Even though the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ended with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, the SLA continues to occupy large areas of the northeast.
For example, 30% of the Jaffna district remains under military control. Military bases are being expanded. There is one member of the SLA for every 10 civilians in the Jaffna peninsula.
Tamils are subject to repression and harassment by the army and Sinhalese settlers.
Hindu temples have been demolished or damaged. Buddhist temples have been built for the settlers. Most Tamils are Hindus and most Sinhalese Buddhist.
Economic discontent is growing in the predominantly Sinhalese south of Sri Lanka. Students have protested against the privatisation of education, leading to violent clashes with the police. Workers have protested against the failure of their pay to keep up with inflation, and against attacks on their pension schemes.
In June last year, a worker was shot dead and many others injured during a protest against a new pension law.
One reason for poverty in the south is the huge government spending on the military occupation of the Tamil areas. New Socialist Party leader Vickramabhu Karunaratne said there was a possibility of building links between the economic stuggle in the south and the Tamil struggle.
He says: "Agitation for justice to the Tamil people should be tied to the anger of the people at the economic misery.
“It is time a powerful democratic movement is formed to bring out the power of all oppressed communities.”