Return to the rightful owners | Daily News

Return to the rightful owners

By the end of the war in May 2009, the military controlled and occupied many of the lands in the North and East, including the areas previously held by the defeated LTTE. The Rajapaksa regime had previously promised to release the lands held by the military to their rightful owners, but while some of the lands were released, the process gradually lost steam while many of the displaced were lamenting in IDP camps.

However, when President, Maithripala Sirisena, came to power in 2015 followed by Parliamentary Elections in August and the formation of the Unity Government, these displaced families who were lamenting in shelters began to have hope that their dreams of returning to their own lands would materialise and their lands held by the security forces would be released to them.

In October 2015, Sri Lanka cosponsored a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in which the government pledged to address longstanding issues relating to the return of occupied land. Based on that pledge, Army has taken measures to release 263.55 acres of land in the North and East by December 31 this year, based on a pledge made by the President to release lands in the North and East to its rightful owners without compromising national security.

Prior to May 18, 2009, the Army had occupied 84,523.84 acres of land in the North and East. Of this land, 69,754.59 acres in the North and East have so far been released.

From 2009 to November 25, 2018 the Army has released 22,496 acres of land in Jaffna including 788.36 acres state lands and 21707.73 acres private lands, In Killinochchi 24,396.29 acres have so far been released including 23,320 acres of state lands and 1075.41 acres private lands. In Mulaithivu 7126.69 acres have been released including 6320.74 acres of state lands and 805.95 acres of private lands. In Mannar 885.74 acres of lands have been released including 835.23 acres state lands and 50.51 acres private lands, in Vavuniya 6250.24 acres of lands have been released including 6178 acres state lands and 72.24 acres private lands. In Trincomalee 98.18 acres that was occupied by the army have been released including 73.14 acres state owned lands and 25.04 acres of private lands, in Batticaloa 1040.54 acres including 1004.30 acres state land and 36.24 acres private lands and in Ampara 7460.82 acres have been released including 7460.32 acres state lands and 0.50 acres of private lands. In total, from May 2009 to November 25, 2018, the Army has released 4598.97 acres of state lands and 23,773.62 acres of private lands amounting to 69,754.59 acres in total.

In addition, the Special Task Force appointed by the President to look into how much more of the lands that can be released, held discussions recently with the Army Commander and the Northern Province Governor. Based on these discussions, the Army Commander had held several rounds of discussions with the relevant Security Force Commanders and in keeping with the intentions of the President, has decided to release the following amount of lands in the North and East without compromising on national security.

Accordingly, 263.55 acres of lands were to be released by the end of December this year in addition to the lands released so far. This includes 1.47 acres of state lands and 43.13 acres of private lands in Jaffna, 17.71 acres of state land and 35.24 acres of private lands in Killinochchi, 56.09 acres of state lands and 43.38 acres of private lands in Mulaithivu, five acres of state land in Mannar, 39.64 acres of state lands and 7.64 acres of private lands in Vavuniya, 8.75 acres of state lands and 03 acres private lands in Trincomalee and 02 acres of state land and 0.50 acres of private lands in Ampara.

Since the end of the war in May 2009, civilian lands belonging to the people of the North that were taken away from them has been released to them gradually, although for many the process is taking too long. Currently, nine years after the end of the war, keeping in line with the government’s policy of releasing civilians’ land, hitherto used by Jaffna Security Forces, the Sri Lanka Army released a record 683 acres of land in the Thelippalei Divisional Secretariat area to 964 legal owners during a ceremony, held in April under the auspices of the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake and the District Secretary for Jaffna, Nagalingam Vedanayaham.

This release of 683 acres which was held under the Palaly Army camp area, the biggest chunk of land released to the Jaffna public on a single day, adds a historic chapter to the government’s ongoing projects of reconciliation and ethnic harmony. All the documents pertaining to the release of lands was symbolically handed over to the District Secretary.

Initially, lands that were outside of the Palali Army Cantonment area. The 51 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 2,692.60 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 2,512.16 acres to their rightful owners currently occupying 180.53 acres as at 20th May 2018. The 52 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 10,839.83 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 10,665.37 to their rightful owners, currently occupying 174.46 acres as at 20th May 2018. The 55 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 1,821.17 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 1,303.00 acres to their rightful owners, currently occupying 518.17 acres as at 20th May 2018. The total extent of land occupied in 2009 by the Jaffna Headquarters was 15,353.69 acres and so far 14,480.53 acres have been released to their rightful owners. The Jaffna Security Force Headquarters currently hold around 873.16 acres for military purposes.

In the Palali Army Cantonment area the military had occupied 10632.98 acres in total in 2009 at the end of the war and so far to date, 8550.32 acres have been released to the people. The military currently utilises around 2082.66 acres and according to the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake and the Jaffna Security Force Headquarters Commander Maj. Gen. Dharshana Hettiarachchi, more lands would be released to the people while the military establishments would be located on government-owned lands unless it is strategically important to national security. Accordingly, the total extent of land occupied in 2009 was around 25,986.67 acres in both within the Palali Army Cantonment and lands occupied by the other divisions. However, from 2009 to date 23,030.85 acres have been released to the people which are around 88.48% of the total land area held by the military at the end of the war in 2009.

Meanwhile, the army and Civil Security Department (CSD) are also running farms in some of these lands and around last week, Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake said that some of these army run farmlands would also be released to the people shortly.

The releasing of lands were carried out by the government in stages and in stage one, 370.65 acres were released to the people on October 28, 2010. In Stage two 1952.13 acres was released on November 27, 2010. In stage three, 1971.9 acres was released on May 9, 2011. Under stage four, 345.94 acres was released to the public on October 06, 2011. Under stage five, 617.76 acres was released to the people on November 29, 2011 in the Thondamannaru area. Under stage six, round 1000 acres was released to the public on two occasions on March 23, 2015, and April 10, 2015. Then under stage seven, 18.04 acres was released on November 12, 2015. Under stage eight, 712.98 acres was released to the public on 15th January 2016 while under stage nine, on March 10, 2016, 0.67 acres was released. Under stage ten, 6.73 acres was released on March 2, 2016. Under stage eleven, 214.18 acres was released on June 25, 2016. Under stage 12, 499.49 acres was released on October 31, 2016, and another two acres was released under stage 13 on January 14, 2017. Under stage 14, on April 7, 2017, the military released another 33 acres and under stage 15 another 54 acres of land was released on July 3, 2017. Under stage 16 the military released 29 acres on November 30, 2017 and another 683 acres was released under stage 17 on April 13, 2018 and two more acres on February 2018. On May 28, 2018, the military released another 0.25 acres and again on June 4, 36.6 acres was released. In total, 8550.32 acres have been released so far since 2009. The areas that the lands were released to the public are Kadduwan, Thenmailai, Kurumbasiddy, Kurumbasiddy East, Vasavilan West, Myliddy North, Myliddythurai South, Thaiyiddi North, Palaly South, Palaly East, Palaly North, Palaly North West and Palaly West areas.

The total area occupied by the military in mainland Jaffna including Kayts is 289,612.92 acres, 32,823.60 acres in the nine islands in the Northern region, excluding Kayts and in the Jaffna Peninsula 322,436.52 acres. The total amount of land occupied by the Army in the Palaly Cantonment area is 2082.66 acres. The total land area occupied by the Army in other areas excluding the Palaly Cantonment area is 873.16 acres.

The lands currently being held include the Palali airfield of the Sri Lanka Air Force of 996.74 sq km. Against the total availability of land in the Northern Peninsula, the security forces occupy around 1.43% of it.

So far the total percentage of government lands that were occupied by the military that has been released is around 79%, while they have so far released 90% of the private lands.

However, the government is looking into every possibility of releasing more lands this year, to the people of the North and East without compromising on national security. 


 

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