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Land acquisition by occupying military challenged in Sri Lanka Courts


Following a writ-application filed at the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal by 1,474 Eezham Tamils owning lands in Valikaamam North on 14 May, which was an initiative taken by Colombo-based lawyers, including those belonging to the Tamil National Alliance, a group of lawyers based in Jaffna have filed legal action in Sri Lankan Supreme Court on 22 May, challenging the publication of the Section 2 notice to acquire lands from the owners in Valikaamam North.
In the meantime, the commander of the occupying SL military in Jaffna, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, who recently faced questions from the visiting United Nations representatives on the acquisition of lands in the former High Security Zone (HSZ), was attempting to play down the scale of the Sinhala militarization by hiding the extent of land acquisition outside the Valikaamam North area. 

 The SL commander, who accused the Tamil media and politicians as ‘exaggerating’ the figures, was trying to project that there were only three SL military bases outside the so-called HSZ.

Meanwhile, the latest FR petition by the lawyers in Jaffna has questioned the nature of the military corporatism being practiced in the lands that have been seized by the SL military in Valikaamam North.

The lawyers didn’t fail to cite the news items that have been published by the SL military’s news outlets claiming the existence of military-run tourist resorts, farms, and yoghurt factories in the Valikaamam North.

192 owners of lands appear as petitioners, according to a press statement issued by the lawyers in Jaffna.

On Friday, a press conference was held at Jaffna Press Club on the latest legal move against land acquisition by the SL military.

When questioned on the legal moves by the TNA and the lawyers group in Jaffna, Attorney Mr Guruparan Kumaravadivel, said that the action filed by the TNA was in the form of a writ-application, seeking the Court of Appeal to quash the Section 2 notices issued under the Land Acquisition Act to acquire lands in the Valikaamam North area, whereas the action being filed now is a fundamental rights petition wherein the group of lawyers complain that the publication of the Section 2 notice is in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Sri Lankan Constitution, particularly article 12 (1), which provides that there should be right to equality of all citizens of the “country.”

The FR petition argues that lands owned by different owners cannot be considered as a single unit, that the ‘public purpose‘ was not clarified, that the owners were not properly informed according to the legal procedure of land acquisition, and that the lawyers representing the owners were not allowed by the SL military to inspect the notices that were placed in the lands of the owners.

The FR petition has also taken up the issue of legality of the definition of the former HSZ.

Lawyers in Jaffna Mr Parthipan Balakrishnan, Mr Thirukkumaran Visuvalingam, Mr Manivannan Visuvalingam Ms Suhashini Kisho Anton and Mr Guruparan Kumaravadivel have moved the Sri Lankan Supreme Court under the leadership of Ms Shantha Abimannasingham PC.

The writ-case filed at the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal and announced to media by the Tamil National Alliance on 14 May was moved by Attorneys-at-Law M.A Sumanthiran, Viran Corea, Lakshmanan Jeyakumar, Bhavani Fonseka & Niran Anketell with Moahan Balendran as instructing Attorney.

Following is the full text of the press statement by the TNA on 15 May:
15th May 2013: “Around 1474 persons owning land in Jaffna filed a writ application today in the Court of Appeal challenging the attempts to illegally and unlawfully acquire their private land. A further 2000 petitioners are to file on the same issue in the near future.

The petition challenges the Section 2 notices issued under the Land Acquisition Act which specifies that 6381 acres and 38.97 perches are to be acquired for the ‘Defence Battalion Headquarters [Jaffna]- Regularising handover of area on which High Security Zone [Palaly and Kankesanthurai] is established.’ The massive area that is identified constitutes approximately 25.8 square kilometers and is more than two-thirds the entire land area on which Colombo City (which spans an area of 37.21 square kilometers) is located.

All of the petitioners own substantial tracts of land that fall within the above area and were displaced from their land due to war. Although the war ended in 2009, the petitioners have been prevented from returning to their land due to military occupation of the area and barbed wire fences and barricades manned by military. Although certain areas were demarcates High Security Zones (HSZ) with the using of emergency regulations during the war, the area in question was never demarcated a HSZ and there was no legal basis for the use of HSZ with the lapse of the state of emergency in 2011. The petition contends that there is no ‘public purpose’ served as specified in the Act by the acquisition of their land as the area was never a HSZ nor does it exist as one.

The Petition has cited as Respondents the Land Acquiring Officer for Jaffna, the Minister for Lands and Land Development and the Land Survey Officer, Jaffna District.

Mr. K. Kanag-Isvaran (P.C), and Attorneys-at-Law M.A Sumanthiran, Viran Corea, Lakshmanan Jeyakumar, Bhavani Fonseka & Niran Anketell settled papers, with Moahan Balendran as instructing Attorney.

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