( A film poster)
President Maithripala Sirisena has directed the Sri Lanka Army to release 701.5 acres of land in two DS Divisions in the Jaffna district on a request made by Prisons Reforms, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan.
According to Prisons Reforms, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy, 468.5 acres of land in Tellippalai and 233 acres of lands in Kopay DS divisions in the district have been released by the Sri Lanka Army in the resettlement process.
The 30 year war resulted in internally displaced families and the private lands owned by the people been occupied by the Armed Forces. With the cessation of the armed conflict in the country in May 2009, there was very little progress made in releasing the lands to the original occupants. In Jaffna there are 12,000 families still living either in welfare centres or with friends and relatives as their lands were not released for resettlement. The largest area of lands occupied by the Forces is in Tellipalai and Kopay D.S. Divisions.
Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister D.M.Swaminathan submitted a Cabinet Memorandum dated 7th December 2015 requesting President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet of Ministers, for the release of private lands occupied by the Armed Forces for resettlement in the Jaffna district.
The details of the lands released include Kankesanthurai South, Palaiveemankamam North and Thaiyaddi South which covers 213.5 acres and Palaly South, Palaly East and PalalyNorth which covers 255 acres.
In Tellipalai D.S. Division 468.5 acres of private lands have been released. In Kopai D.S.Division, Valalai 233 acres occupied by the armed forces have been released. Accordingly, the total acres of land released are 701.5 acres. Further, it is noted that in the Kopay area almost 100% of the private lands have been released for resettlement.
Following discussion at a meeting held in President’s Office with the officers of the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Army Commander, District Secretary, Governor’s Office of Provincial Council and other authorities 701.5 acres of land was released. Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Ministry Secretary V.Sivagnanasothy informed that on December 29, 2015, the Divisional Secretary of Tellippalai and Kopay have already taken over the 701.5 acres of lands and commenced removal of fences.
This will enable the resettlement of over 700 families and provide livelihood opportunities through agricultural activities in the Jaffna District. Release of lands to the displaced families to resettle them in their original place of residence is a major milestone to ensure durable solution and establishing sustainable peace in the war affected Northern Province.
Further, the resettled families will be provided with resettlement allowance by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs for land clearance, tool kits, food package and temporary shelter.
Further, the 65,000 housing programme initiated by Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Ministry D.M. Swaminathan will give first priority to the resettled families said Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy. These houses will have solar electricity, water, sanitation facilities and furniture.
Sivagnanasothy also stated that in addition to the 701.5 acres released now and in 2015 already 1000 acres of land from Jaffna, 500 acres from Kilinochchi and 1000 acres from Sampoor, Trincomalee and other small parcels of lands had been already released by the state for the resettlement of IDPs and returnees where they had lived previously. With the Christmas, New Year and Thai Pongal, this initiative demonstrates the good gesture on the part of the Government towards finding durable solutions for the conflict affected people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.