“Although these are welcome statements by the GOSL, land occupation continues to be a problem for returns, durable solutions and reparations. A total of 12,751.240783478 acres of land (which amounts to 51.60244065818675807 km² including both state and private lands) continues to be occupied in the Northern Province, with lack of clear information in many cases as to whether there is actual acquisition in adherence to the legal framework in Sri Lanka.” says Colombo based Think Tank Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA).
Some excerpts from the report:
The total land area in the Northern Province is 8,848.21 km² (2,186,440.307 acres)11. Although this can be interpreted by some as a low figure, the impact of displacement and the inability to return home is significant. Consideration must be given towards IDPs displaced for decades and the impact on identity, community support systems, education, livelihoods and voting rights, among others. There must also be attention on the arbitrariness of the occupation and lack of process, with many cases not adhering to the legal and policy framework in Sri Lanka.
Several months have passed since the adoption of the UNHRC Consensus resolution on 1 October 2015, however there is no public information as to what the GOSL has planned to implement its obligations in terms of the resolution. At the time of writing, the Consultation Taskforce was preparing to commence its work in consulting communities on different aspects of transitional justice including on reparations38. It is to be seen what information, if any, will emanate from this process in terms of land and reparations and any implementation plans.
The present research and previous studies by CPA indicate that most people are not officially informed as to why their land has been acquired or occupied by the government and the public purposes for the acquisition, contrary to what is provided within the legal framework.
The present research attempts to understand the extent of land occupation and land ownership and control patterns in the Northern Province in Sri Lanka. The primary aim is to understand the extent of land occupied by a range of actors including the Army, Air Force, Navy and Police, the nature of the land in occupation and its broader implications for reconciliation.
The following are some findings based on the data collected through the present project:
- In the Jaffna district, a total of 73.9475 acres of state land and over 6,400 acres of private land are occupied.
- In the Mullaitivu district, a total of 1,551.088668538 acres of non-alienated and alienated state land are occupied.
- In the Kilinochchi district, a total of 515.534255 acres of state land and 138.6426553 acres of private land are occupied.
- In the Mannar district, a total of 1,717.75 acres of state land and 29.3 acres of private land are occupied.
- In the Vavuniya district, a total of 2,115.77 acres of state land and 43.28 acres of private land are occupied.
Although there are concerns with the status and progress of reparations, one must note some developments. In 2011, the LLRC report which examined the issue of land, recommended the following – for unofficial High Security Zones (HSZ) to be withdrawn and for official HSZs to be reduced, alienation of state land to be prevented unless it is for the resettlement of IDPs, withdrawal of security forces from administrative duties in the North and East, the establishment of a National Land Commission (NLC) and perhaps more importantly, for restitution of land to the displaced in the Northern and Eastern Provinces to be recognised as a national issue. 33 However, many of the LLRCs constructive recommendations are yet to be implemented. As highlighted in the present research, much more is required in terms of land occupation and reparations.
With the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015, some progress was witnessed with regards to land releases in the North and East of Sri Lanka. According to the Secretary of the Department of Prisons Reforms, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, V. Sivagnanasothy, 1000 acres of land from Jaffna and 500 acres from Kilinochchi have been released for resettlement34. Official statements indicate that more land is likely to be released, though no information is publicly available regarding details. Furthermore, CPA was informed by officials that despite promises to release more lands, bureaucratic delays persist impacting GOSL promises.
Read the full report as a PDF:Land-Occupation-in-the-Northern-Province