( President with Jaffna IDPs)
President Maithripala Sirisena this week appointed a committee headed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Karunasena Hettiarachchi to expedite the release of private land occupied by the military in the north to owners.
The President chaired an hour long meeting attended by the District Secretaries from the North, Army Commander Lieutenant General Chrishantha De Silva, Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D.M. Swaminathan and the Governor of the Northern Province H.M.G.S. Palihakkara.
Mr. Hettiarachchi told the Sunday Times that he would visit Jaffna on Wednesday to assess the situation. “I have to submit a report to the President within a month,” he said.
The Defence Secretary said that the land that is needed in the interest of national security will be retained while alternative land will be given to the owners of such land.
The Government has already released more than 3,000 acres of land that was occupied by the security forces and around 6,000 more acres of land remains to be redistributed. The land that has to be released is in the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Vavuniya.
Minister Swaminathan said that around 11,000 families in the North remain to be resettled of which 1,600 families are in 32 welfare centers.
The Minister added that President Sirisena has asked that the reconstruction and resettlement work in the North be expedited.
“I have instructed my officials to act fast to complete the work in these areas,” he said.
Meanwhile Army Spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said that they have not got any instructions for relocation of the forces based in the North.
By Chris Kamalendran /ST