27 October, 2020

Blog

In The North, The Government Is Setting A Vicious Cycle In Motion Again

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government has given notice of its plans to acquire lands belonging to private citizens in the North for public purposes that involve national security. 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. 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.  There are media reports of 3000 families being settled in different parts of the North with more to follow.   One of the recommendations of the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was that land settlement policy should not be used to artificially change the demographic composition of the war affected areas.

It is also important to note that the recommendations of the LLRC are in complete contradiction to the course of action that the government has embarked upon.  The LLRC specifically stated that government policy was not a substitute to recourse to courts of law and highlighted the need for a strong and impartial civil administration in relation to the land issue.  The LLRC also 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.  From a larger Sri Lankan point of view the more important issue would be addressing the root cause of the war and issues of good governance, which is where the LLRC report is uniquely valuable.

It is also significant that the government’s decision to acquire this large extent of land has been taken prior to the establishment of a legitimate and popularly elected civilian administration for the formerly war-stricken Northern Province.  Those decisions that severely affects the lives of large numbers of people would more appropriately be taken in consultation with the elected Provincial Council after it is constituted.   The general practice in the country has been 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.

Government’s Claim 

The LLRC continues to be very important in Sri Lanka’s relationship with the international community.  In March of this year the majority of countries in the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that repeated the call for the government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.   But while the website of the Presidential Secretariat shows an impressive set of statistics and targets set and met by the government, a question mark hangs over the government’s claim that these statistics represent progress in the implementation of the LLRC and its recommendations.  Over a year and a half has passed since the release of the LLRC report in the English language, but no printed copies of that report have been made available to the general public.  It is only available on the government’s website.  Nor is the report available in printed form in the Sinhala and Tamil languages.

Reconciliation is the healing of wounded hearts and minds and bringing people together as equal citizens.  Where people are unaware of what the government is doing in terms of reconciliation and do not see themselves as participants in the process of reconciliation, there is unlikely to be reconciliation.  The contrast with what took place in the United Kingdom with the signing of the Good Friday agreement that ended the long militant campaign of the IRA cannot be greater. There the British government ensured that the text of the agreement was made available to every household in Northern Ireland. There was also a massive educational campaign that preceded the referendum to ratify that agreement.  Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, there is no such government-led educational campaign on the LLRC and its recommendations.

An intellectual exchange at a recent seminar organized by a religious institution between a representative of the government and of the TNA summarized the problems of human rights in Sri Lanka in relation to post-war reconciliation.  This arose during a seminar on the contribution of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to ethnic equality and reconciliation in the country.  One particular issue that generated a strong reaction was the government’s decision to acquire land in the Jaffna peninsula for security purposes.  There were also many other issues relating to the human rights of the people that came up for discussion.  These included the fate of the missing persons and the reasons why some of those in government custody remained incommunicado.  The government representative urged the TNA to dialogue with the government.  He said that the government looked forward to such negotiations.

Core Problem 

The notion that there should always be engagement between parties who have a problem is etched in practitioners of conflict resolution.   The question is whether there can and should be negotiations on matters that are non-negotiable.  The position of the government and most of the people of Sri Lanka would be that the unity of the country is non-negotiable.  Even when the LTTE was at its strongest, there was a never a possibility of any government negotiating the division of the country.  Similarly the human rights of people are non-negotiable.  There are certain things that no government or majority can do even if they have the power to do so.  The referendum of 1982, at which then government sought and obtained the postponement of general elections is an example.  Not even a 2/3 majority in Parliament or a majority of people can take away the right of people to vote at general elections.

In recent years, 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 those who are internally displaced to go to courts to establish their right to restitution of their property.  The TNA representative’s position at the seminar was that the acquisition of a large extent of land amounting to over 6300 acres and covering 24 villages with a population of nearly 30,000 was not negotiable.  This position is given further strength by the promises made by the government to the international community that land designated as high security zones during the war would be returned to their original inhabitants.  In addition, there is a Supreme Court decision that such land should be returned to their rightful owners.

The most likely rationale for the government’s takeover of the land in the North and East is to ensure national security.  But there is a lack of clarity with regard to the need for such a large extent of land at such great cost to the affected population.  The government’s actions create the very problem it is meant to address.  The high security zones were acquired during the time of war. They were meant to put a stop to the LTTE infiltrating into civilian areas with their artillery guns and then firing into military bases.  Every time the LTTE acquired more powerful guns, the perimeter of the high security zones was expanded.  But today without the LTTE and without war there is no need for large protective spaces to guard against attack.  In the absence of government explanations as to the purpose of the land takeover the people are left to speculate as to its true purpose and whether it includes changing the demographic composition of the Northern areas to their further detriment.

It is a tragedy that a mere four years after the end of the war the vicious cycle of potential militancy born of injustice is being put into motion again.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Thanks for this Jehan! Keep up the excellent work.
    CIVIL SOCIETY, the JVP and other opposition groups, trade unions and civil society organization should launch a massive campaign NOW – against the CHOGM being held in Colombo which is and will further boost the Rajapassa military dictatorship and land grab:

    Continuous Protests should be held in front of the British and Indian High Commissions for colluding to entrench a military dictatoship in Lanka. The failure of civil society to educate the people on the gigantic waste that is the CHOGM – an old British colonial relic that is now a platform for 3rd world dictators has embolden Rajapassa to move a 19th Amendment to the Constitution to strip Provincial Councils of land and police power which is essentially to gutter local government and power sharing and strengthen the military dictatoship.

    Civil society needs to start and public education campaign against CHOGM also because the BILL for CHOGM DEFINITELY BANKRUPT the country which is already heavily in debt and broke and the burden of the economic crash after CHOGM due to the massive waste of funds to host and irrelevant organization by the Rajapassa dictatorship.
    Let us prepare for the Lanka Spring to gutter the CHOGM in Rajapassa ville
    The scandal is that the UNP opposition and Ranil Wickramasinghe, the other dictator in particular, rather than educating the Lankan tax payer on the massive waste of funds on this irrelevant British colonial organization, the Commonwealth of Clowns keeps talking about the Commonwealth as if it is god’s gift to the world – invoking irrelevant Latimar House rules to support Rajapassa’s illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice.

    The old or white Commonwealth nations (Canada, Aussi, New Zealand are laughing while the new Commonwealth’s Asian and African dictators embrace the Commonwealth of Clowns.
    The Commonwealth of clowns is a white elephant organization – an irrelevant colonial vestige that has morphed into a platform for third world military dictators like Rajapassa. Handing it to him is Britain’s exit strategy to close down an irrelevant white elephant.
    Rajapassa has meanwhile embraced another white elephant like the Hambantota airport and sea port simply to boost his ego and military dicatorship!!

  • 0
    0

    Dr. Jehan,

    Please tell us in clear terms what the TNA, UPFA and UNP should do in the current circumstances and the anticipated PC elections in the north? We need a prescription urgently.

    Dr.RN

    • 0
      0

      Doctors of what?
      You choose to agree without knowing the facts. The owners of the crown lands were never owners. If they are in possession of deeds then they can move the District courts of the areas to either stop the acquisition or get them paid compensation. The CIA are paymasters to the most gullible Harvard dropouts and doctorate are a plentiful on the internet.

      • 0
        0

        The Suoreme Court has given its directions. but as is becoming the practice now, they were ignored. Let the government prove that the claimants are not the owners. What have doctorates , Harvard and CIA got to do with this issue?

        Dr.RN

        • 0
          0

          Dr RN,

          CIA and Harvard have lot to do with the issues in the North. Just ask National Peace (or Piece?) Council if they dare to reveal.

          30 Years of destruction showed the need for permanent security establishments in the North. The invasive regimes in Tamil Nadu further validates such a requirement.

          Jehan seems to have got the contract of weakening state’s hold in the North prior to PC elections so that the separatists can create havoc.

          It is Jehan’s prescriptions that will allow space for the terrorists to rise in the North again.

          • 0
            0

            Only 30 yrs of destruction ??
            Contemporary History is not taught in schools?

            Ask your parents and grandparents what happened in the previous 30yrs:

            http://www.scribd.com/doc/104705097/Conscientious-Sinhalese-Tell-LLRC

            Read the current newspapers to see what has been happening in the last 4yrs. Just the other articles on this page may help.

            • 0
              0

              Day or night, you are free to travel the full length and the breath of Sri Lanka. Could you do that before May 18th 2009? No.
              We had 386 human bombs and numerous clamour bomb blasts in our buses, trains and public places that killed and maimed tens of thousands of people during the last 30 years.

              Sri Lanka may not be a perfect democracy. Nowhere one allows wild ass freedom. Would the US allow North Koreans to have a publicity office in Fleet street? No. What matters is we have no road checks or bomb blasts today. You can, go anywhere you want; live anywhere you like; do any business you like; write what you want on any subject just like so many are doing here in CT. Who should get the credit for all that? Most people think if not for Rajapakse, human bombs would be blasting around us even today. That’s why Rajapakse keeps winning elections.

              In which country do you have perfect peace after such a lengthy war? But we perform far better than almost all other countries. Show me one country that had wars but excels better than Sri Lanka after the war so quickly.

              Aren’t we in a far better position than Libya who had only a very very short civil war. Libya couldn’t even protect ambassador of those countries that helped them to have democratic governance. They just cannot stop blasts and killings even today.
              Leela

          • 0
            0

            Hela,

            I have no objections to the military presence in the north and east . However, expansion of bases, should not be expense of the long resident people or valuable agricultural land. The people- land-village relationship in Jaffna is quite unique. Anything that tends to intrude on this, will prove divisive. This should be avoided at any cost. Alternatives have o be found by the government to the land acquisitions in the Palaly- KKS sector. I have commented on this in detail in another recent thread.

            Dr.RN

            • 0
              0

              Dear Dr RN,
              Thanks. I am pleased and agree with your comments.

  • 0
    0

    An excellent analysis by Jehan
    Bensen

  • 0
    0

    Canada, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, the EU and USA is said to have handout Rs.171 million to Jehan Perera’s National Peace Council and Rs.277 million to Mr. Pakiasothy’s Center for Policy Alternatives and Rs.174million to Weliamuna’s Transparency International.

    Now that isn’t a small amount of money by any standard. And mind you, that’s only the declared sums. Can we imagine the undeclared sums. Think of what’s on the grab for this year when PC elections are due and stakes are high.

    s I said, for this being the PC election year for the North, Jehan and co should tell us how much they get for it and what were their sponsors’ instructions, and above all, how they intend to spend that kind of money before they talk about good governance and help with rights of the citizens and etc.
    Leela

    • 0
      0

      LEELA

      Don’t be petty minded. speak about the contents of the article. Not about personalities.
      Homes in VAli-North in the northern part of Sri Lanka was heavily bombed in order to chase the people out of their homes.More than 30.000 people fled their homes. several people died in the Arial bombardment. My cousin with her 6 months baby was in the lavatory outside the house. That lavatory was bombed and both my cousin and the baby died instantly. Similar deaths were not so far accounted for. Over 30,000 people fled their homes, most of them left their possessions in their homes. After 25 years, when the war ended, those people should have been resettled in their homes. I am talking about the government and its people. If the government cannot look after the people irrespective of race, then that government is worthless. Now the government is trying to take over those lands consisting of 7 villages forcibly depriving those 30,000 people. Why?

  • 0
    0

    you only have to read this idiots articles during the war to realize where his sympathies lie . he was pretty much jumping for joy at every militery debacle . instead of pretending that you are a sri lankan why dont you join your we thamiz in norway’s slums

  • 0
    0

    The 2014 UN resolution against Sri Lanka is going to be much worse than the 2013 one which itself is going to give enough problems for the Rajapakshes.They seem to be thumbing their nose at the international community and going their merry way as Prabha also did at one time.In 2002 when Prabha was told by the west to embark on a course direction he told them to go and fly a kite.In 2009 he was no more.It took 7 years to finish him off.It might take longer to finish off the Rajapakshes,but there is no doubt the way they are arrogantly following prabha’s path,it is only a matter of time they are also taught a lesson.By the time they do decide to embark on a course direction it will be too late for them because once the die is cast it is cast for good and there will be no turning back for the international community.The Rajapakshes have decided to take them on,good on them,brave fellows and adios amigos.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.