The Plantation Community in Sri Lanka mainly consists of the Indian Origin Tamils who are presently known as the ‘Malayaga Tamils” meaning Upcountry Tamils.
As per the historical evidence, the arrival of the 1st batch of Indian Origin Tamil Speaking workers happened from 1823 to 1824, thus making 2023/2024 as the 200th years of their existence and service in Sri Lanka with much hardships & challenges. They were brought in from South India as bonded labourers by the colonial masters to work on the coffee plantations.
Since then, they have remained a marginalized community in the Sri Lankan society and have faced challenges and hardships in addition to the inhuman work conditions with which they have to work until today. They have now become the most vulnerable ethnic community in Sri Lanka according to many development indicators.
They have been discriminated in sharing the opportunities as equal citizens.
Since January 2022, Caritas Sri Lanka (CSL) has launched a unique Program of NETWORKING with all Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) who render service to / among the Plantation Community in the Dioceses / regions of Central, Uva, Sabaragamuwa, Wayamba & Western provinces (11 Civil Districts in Sri Lanka) in order to voice together for the grievances faced by this Community. Many sociologists and social / civil workers identify this as a structural discrimination, which has cornered them for centuries from the ordinary way of living conditions, which enjoyed by the other Sri Lankans in the country.
This project intervention is made possible with the generous support by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) of the United States of America with an initial monitory help to start with the collective efforts of Net working with CSOs.
The Catholic National Commission for Justice, Peace & Human Development has been endorsed to carry forward the initiative. Thus, Caritas Sri Lanka jointly with its Diocesan counterparts are implementing the programme. The Diocesan Directors with their able staff members of the Diocesan centers (DCs) have been very enthusiastic and got themselves involved in the above program since it was introduced in January 2022.
The project is designed to call upon all the Actors & Stakeholders in the Government, Non-Governmental Organizations and the Civil Society Organizations to join hands towards this worthy cause and TOGETHER BECOMING ACTIVE PARTNERS in the life struggle of this Community.
The National Centre of CSL has successfully implemented the following activities;
Brain Storming / Study Session – conducted on Friday 23rd April 2021 at Caritas Sri Lanka, on the lives & social issues of the Plantation Community in Sri Lanka in view of the 200 years of their arrival and existence in the country.
Pre-Orientation Session – a two day Pre-orientation Session for the Diocesan Directors & the Diocesan Project Coordinators was held in Nuwara Eliya on the 29th and 30th November 2021.The purpose of the programmme was to give an orientation to the participants & also to share information with data & statistics on the life & social issues faced by the Plantation Community.
Orientation Sessions for the Staff members of the Diocesan Centers (DC) – Sessions were held on 4th January 2022 at Deniyaya Galle DC, 11th January at Colombo DC, 24th of January at Badulla DC, 25th January at Kandy DC and 8th February at Ratnapura DC.
Awareness Sessions for Clergy & Religious – conducted in the Dioceses of Badulla on 24th and on 14th February in Galle to educate them with information on the life & social issues of the Plantation Community, so that they become more involved in the justice & development issues of the plantation communities.
Review meeting with the Diocesan Project Coordinators – They were called in for a Review Meeting on 08th of March to find out the progress of work in their respective Dioceses.
Meeting with Auxiliary Bishop & a few Priests serving the Plantation Community in the Archdiocese of Colombo – This was held on 21st March 2022 at the Diocesan Center in Colombo. Bishop Anton Ranjith & Priests present were updated on the Project & its objectives along with the present realities among the Plantation Community in Kalutara & Colombo Districts.
Orientation for the Staff Members of Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC – A brief orientation session was held on 28th of March 2022, so that the Staff Members of the Program Units became aware of the special & unique nature of this Programme towards this underprivileged community and support the implementation of the same.