28 October, 2020

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Change The Demographic Composition: Govt Must Reconsider Taking Over Large Extents Of Jaffna People’s Land – NPC

The government has made moves to acquire over 6381 acres of privately owned land in the Jaffna peninsula, which it says is for a public purpose. The public purpose is presumably for the security forces.  The pasting of notices on trees in Valikamam North under section 2 of the Land Acquisition Act coincides with preparations for the Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year. It appears to be a hurried plan on the part of the government to acquire this large extent of land prior to the establishment of a legitimate and popularly elected civilian administration for the formerly war-stricken Northern Province.

There is concern in the Northern polity that the purpose of this land acquisition is to change the demographic composition with settlers from outside being registered on the Northern electoral lists.  In Kokilai, Mullaitivu and adjoining villages such as Vannankulam, Uradikulam, Thaddamalaikkulam, Pannaiyandaukulam, Akkaraivelli, Vathamadu, Kamankulam, Amayankulam, there are media reports of 3000 such families being settled.

The government move to take over the land of the war-affected people has caused agitation and panic amongst the thousands of affected people in over 24 villages who continue to be displaced and living in camps who now stand to lose their lands forever and given rise to disaffection amongst the majority of people living in the Northern Province.   The National Peace Council notes that shortly after the end of the war in May 2009 the government promised to resettle the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in their original places of residence. This necessarily implied that private land would be restored to their rightful owners. This was one of the recommendations in the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

NPC is very concerned about the retreat of the government from promises it made and the use of strong arm action against the people using the security forces.  The general practice in the country is that when the government wishes to take over large tracts of land for a public purpose it discusses this matter with the affected population and with their political representatives, and gives the necessary time for legal objections to be made through the judiciary.  We also note that the recommendations of the LLRC are completely opposite to the course of action that the government has embarked upon.

The LLRC recommended that the government should de-militarize the administration of the North as soon as possible and release private lands taken over by the security forces to the people. Internally Displaced Persons have been internationally recognized as having a right to return to their original lands ever since 1948 when the Palestinians fled Palestine when the new state of Israel was set up. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was set up specifically to deal with the right of Palestinians to return to their land.  More recently, this right of return and restitution of their property was recognized by the UN in the case of Bosnia as well. Resettlement in their former housing was perceived by the displaced as important for reasons of morality, justice, and economic rehabilitation.

In recent years, the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees have come to be regarded as essential to peace processes in war-torn societies.  An increasing number of human rights documents and peace agreements contain paragraphs on housing and property restitution and the right of displaced persons to return to their homes of origin.  The UN has also recognized the right of the Internally Displaced to go to courts to establish their right to restitution of their property.   The National Peace Council believes that any decision that severely affects the lives of large numbers of people needs to be taken in consultation with the elected Provincial Council after it is constituted. Therefore we urge the government to reconsider its decision to take over the vast extent of privately owned land in the North in the light of what the LLRC has recommended with a view to fostering national reconciliation in a manner that meets with international standards.

National Peace Council

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    The reasons given are:

    1. The expansion of the Palaly airport.
    2. The expansion of the Kankesanthurai harbour.

    Both reasons are untenable in the context the HSZ was created during the war to provide security for the Palay airbase.
    The reason why large extents of privately owned land were emptied of its owners, was security. It was necessitated by the exigencies of war. The war was over four years back. Unless the government fears another war is imminent within the foreseeable future, there is no justification for not restoring this land to the rightful owners. The Supreme Court directive should be complied with.

    What is the justification now for the reasons being now put forth? Is the expansion of the Palaly airport a priority for the Tamils in Jaffna now? Will the Palaly airport once expanded be a civilian airport or airbase cum civilian airport ? How big would the civilian component be? If it is to be a combined entity, how convenient will it be for the public? Should not the civilian airport be developed elsewhere- probably in Kilinochchi? This would meet the needs of the people in the Peninsula and the Vanni. The other alternative is to retain the present Palali airport as the civilian airport and develop the airbase elsewhere in the Vanni. There is already a large airbase in Vavuniya.

    What is the extent of expansion of the KKS harbour , in terms of objectives? Is it to to be a naval base cum civilian harbour? As also a civilian harbour, would it encourage transport of goods to and from the peninsula from and to the rest of the country and parts of the world? Would it also involve passenger services? As part of a naval base, would it be convenient to the public? Should the Naval base continue to be located at Karainagar, with only a small naval presence in KKS? The KKS harbour could then be smaller and not require any acquisitions of land.

    Acquiring valuable land from private owners in land- limited Jaffna and especially in an area with the best soils in the island is unjustifiable and unconcienable.

    Are the civilian components touted as reasons for acquiring these lands, the fig leaves to cover armed force intentions? Have the people of Jaffna been educated on the details of these projects? Should they not be considered stake holders? Is this not their basic right?

    The land that was commandeered for reasons of war should be returned to the rightful owners. Monetary compensation will never compensate the feeling of ownership to ancestral land, especially in the Jaffna culture, where village-related identity define individuals and is a matter of great pride. This is moral imperative.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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    The Pallali airport is for India, just like the Hambantota airport is for China!
    India worked for Lanka to have CHOGM so that it could have Sampur in Trinco to balance China in Hambantota and Northern PC elections to placate Tamil Nadu.
    Now Rajapassa with characteristic aplomb is going to remove the basis for the existence of the PC system by taking Land and police powers to the center. The endless duplicity of the bugger boggles the mind! The whole PC system might as well be scraped. Doddering Manmohan and tottering Congress have clearly lost the plot and been out smarted by Rajapassa
    Displacing people and creating HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL and DEVELOPMENT disasters in the name of DEVELOPMENT and SECURITY is the Rajapassa game in Hambantota where white elephant airport is an environmental disaster and Jaffna where Palely is human disaster!

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    After the construction of Hambantota and Mattala the Govt should learn a lesson an stop this mania to build international ports and airports in all corners of our small island. Hambantota is 4000 acres and Mattala is 2000 acres. So is the govt planning to do the same in Jaffna?

    Throughout the war Pallali and KKS were able to handle the logistics for the Navy and Airforce so that there is no need for such extravagance. Especially in the aftermath of the war when the local population is struggling to come on its feet, the appropriaton of fertile agricultural land for another monstrous project is totally uncalled for.

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    When India uproots the Adivasis at will SL can only monkey the Indians.All wars are economic.

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    If it is to change the demographics, I fully support it. That is the only solution to this problem.

    Scrap Thesawalami law too. Only in SL you get these race based laws.

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      There are no racial differences in Sri Lanka, given that Burghers are a minor presence now. There are also few pure Kafirs now. What we have in Sri Lanka are communities. Most of us who live here now belong to the same race and share a large proportion of our genes.

      There are community related laws in Sri Lanka, which pertain to the Kandyans, Muslims, the Tamils of the north and the Tamils of the east, and have a place within the Sri Lankan legal system. It is one of the last vestiges of community related democracy left standing in this country. What is this preoccupation with the Thesavalamai laws? Is it because you think it stops the Sinhalese from buying property in Jaffna? You are mistaken. If you want to buy property in Jaffna, you can yet do so, provided there is someone willing to sell.

      Dr.RN.

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