Prez urged to release army-held land

Prez urged to release army-held land

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Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader MP S. Sampanthan has urged President Maithripala Sirisena to ensure that the military vacates land at Keppapulavu, Mullaitivu district belonging to displaced Tamil Civilians. Having reminded President Sirisena that the TNA had taken up the issue in the third week of July, 2017, MP Sampanthan said: “Early action needs to be taken to return the land to the people. They were born and bred on this land. They want to return to their land. It is their birthright and this should not be denied. They have been kept out of the land for more than one decade;

the armed conflict ended over 8 years ago. The people have been protesting in the sun and rain for the past 165 days. At the entrance to their land, demanding the vacation of their land. They are suffering but they are determined to continue their peaceful protest.

I respectfully submit that the land should be returned to them at the earliest.

I respectfully submit that Your Excellency should give directions accordingly.

If need be Your Excellency could convene a meeting at which this decision could be arrived at. I kindly request the earliest action.”

Mr. Sampanthan’s Office released to The Island a letter he had written to Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyarathne PC on Aug 1, 2017. The following is the full text of the letter: “I thank you for your letter No: MOD/PAC/01/L/938/AY of 09.08.2017 in regard to the above received by me yesterday.

This matter has been under consideration at different levels for some time, the last discussion was under the Chairmanship of Minister of Rehabilitation D.M. Swaminathan on 26th July 2017, at the Ministry.

I confirm all that I have stated in my Letter of 20th July 2017, to the President with Copy to you and others. Secretary to the President has responded to my aforesaid letter by his letter No: SP/4/1 of July 28, 2017.

A decision was reached at the meeting held on 26th July 2017 at the Ministry of Rehabilitation to release the Land in extent 111 Acres at the earliest and the Minister of Rehabilitation agreed to provide the required funds, within a few days to enable the Sri Lankan Army to commence the process of vacating the said Land.

As per the agreement reached, the vacation of this land should now be in progress. The only issue that remains is the land in extent 70 Acres 2 Roods, which I believe is the same block of Land referred to your letter of 09.08.2017 as being in extent 73.11 Acres .In regard to this block I confirm what I have stated in my letter of 20th July 2017 to His Excellency the President.

Confirmation of this position is also contained in the response of the Secretary to the President in his letter dated July 28, 2017.

In the circumstances, it would appear that the only outstanding matter is the time frame for the vacation of the Land in extent 70 Acres 2 Roods/73.11Acres.

It is more than a decade since the civilians were compelled to vacate the Land; it is more than eight years since the Armed Conflict came to an end; these civilians have been demonstrating at the entrance to this land for 165 days up to now and the demonstration continues in the sun and the rain, amidst immense suffering.

The Land was taken over, without the consent of Civilians, and despite their strong protests, and has been occupied without the Land being legally acquired.

Such action is clearly not within the frame work of the Law of the Land.

Moreover there is enough State Land available in the Area to meet the needs of the Sri Lankan Army. The extents of 111 Acres and 70 Acres 2 Roods/ 73.11 Acres were primarily the Lands largely used by the Civilians, for residence and other social and economic needs and which they have owned and occupied for generations and centuries. They have an attachment to the Land on which they were born and bred.

I do not think that these civilians should be deprived of these Lands any longer. It would be unjust to do so, and would be immensely harmful to the promotion of good will and reconciliation.

I have to strongly urge that the lands of the Civilians including the extents of 111 Acres and 70 Acres 2 Roods/73.11 Acres be released and handed over to the civilians without any further delay.”

 

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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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