In a hard hitting letter addressed to the Jaffna Government Agent, Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran has accused the government officer of sidetracking the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in an effort to please the army over the relocation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The letter addressed to N.Vethanayakan under the heading ‘Lucrative Compensation for Lands to be acquired by Army’ Wigneswaran said “I saw a letter addressed by you to an IDP. In fact Major General Mahesh Senanayake made a passing reference to three categories of such IDPs possessing lands – one owning lands entitled to go back immediately, another with lands who will have to wait for some time to go back and the third category being those whose lands are to be taken over by the Military and handsome compensation to be paid. I believe you are giving effect to what he said by these letters.”
Wigneswaran admonished the GA saying, “Your writing letters to the IDPs without consulting us amounts to sidetracking us to please the Army.”
In the letter, the Chief Minister also noted that several areas need to be taken into consideration over the matter, including consultation with the NPC with regard to concurrent subjects of land, rehabilitation and resettlement. “The decision to hand back or withhold lands and houses cannot be a top to bottom unilateral exercise. The NPC as representing the People must have the right to examine and consider the need and necessity for such an exercise and the feasibility of what is being suggested. We are no more in War Times,” Wigneswaran said.
“The civil administration has taken over and it is the civil administration and the People themselves who decide what is best for the People. There cannot be any unilateral decisions by the Defence Ministry without consulting the NPC. After all we are discussing security, right to return, right to development and livelihoods (within the existing internationally accepted human rights principles and values) of our People,” he said.
He also demanded to know as to why the military needed to retain such large acreages of land in the aftermath of the war balancing state security and human security. “We could suggest alternative sites to station the Army Camps. While deciding their situation we can bring in expert evidence to prove the choice of the Military is not based on proper Military considerations but extraneous reasons. Besides, these issues have been raised with United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) during his recent visit in relation to September 2015 UN Geneva Resolutions including Security Sector Reforms which relates to downsizing of military to aid war to peace transition,” the letter said.
Wigneswaran also asked for reason as to why certain lands are to be returned only at the end of 2017.
“Major General Mahesh told me they need about 1000 acres maximum to situate their Camp. If so 3500 acres can be immediately returned. The reasons for not returning has not been given. I do not in any event accept 1000 acres are needed for a peacetime Army to occupy. However, it should be borne in mind that even to decide to retain 100 acres considering issues raised under points 1 and 2 above requires consultations and study and evaluation,” he said.
Wigneswaran said that the Army cannot decide that they are going to occupy our areas for ever and ever. “We have been asking for the withdrawal of the Military in toto and replacement by adequate Police Forces. Without consideration of all these matters simply confusing our People with such letters and dangling lucrative compensation does not seem proper and guided by good governance and humanitarian considerations,” he said.
He also requested the Jaffna GA to schedule an emergency meeting of Defence Ministry officials, the NPC and the AG’s Department without delay to discuss the issue.