Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) was formed as a network of farmer organizations, NGOs and people’s organizations in other sectors at the beginning of 1990, in response to the serious socio-political and economic crisis that emerged in Sri Lanka at the end of 1980s.
MONLAR started with a dialogue. This dialogue was one where we tried to find answers to questions that were extremely serious. The youth uprising of 1988-90 had resulted in around 60,000 disappearances, (as estimated by the European Parliamentary Delegation that visited Sri Lanka in 1991) making Sri Lanka one of the most violent countries in the world. In this uprising around thirty of our activists connected with the All Lanka Peasant Congress were assassinated. They were killed for their support of the devolution of power to the Tamil people and not because they joined the insurrection.
There were previous experiences of two uprisings, one in the South in 1971 and the other in the North beginning in 1976 which ended up in a long war for over 30 years. Why were these happening? What understandings did the responsible leaders of society have and what solutions did they have?
A group of people who worked with the All Lanka Peasant Congress (ALPC) and the Peasant Information Centre (PIC), Ibbagamuwa, made a submission on this to the Presidential Commission on Youth in 1990, (Ref: Youth Uprisings and Social Responsibility) and decided that these questions needed to be discussed with people island-wide. A similar submission was made to the Presidential Task Force for Land Distribution and Utilization appointed by then President R. Premadasa.
It was necessary to analyze the reasons and discuss them widely with ordinary people in the country who had suffered, and were continuing to suffer, and therefore would want to find genuine solutions. From this time onwards MONLAR's process was one of trying to analyze society, how our situations are linked and influenced by global trends and to develop responses to effectively influence the changes in the country in relation to such efforts globally. When people have the right analysis of problems they can create right solutions. This search and dialogue had to be made as wide as possible among people who suffered the consequences. We have continued this dialogue consistently over the last 25 years.