Image: Many families working in the tea plantation sector do not own any land. ( Image from Kasun Pussawela FB)
Sri Lankan civil society groups has established a “People’s Commission on Land” to develop a framework for a national land policy based on the views and opinions of communities whose right to land and natural resources have been violated or threatened.
Text of the statement issued by the People’s Alliance for Right to Land follows:
6th March, 2019
PARL People’s Commission on Land
The People’s Commission on Land is initiated by the People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL), a network of displaced communities, civil society organizations and activists working on land related issues across Sri Lanka. The purpose of this Commission will be to develop a framework for a national land policy based on the views and opinions of communities whose right to land and natural resources have been violated or threatened.
Issues relating to lands and their use have led to many social, economic, financial and political issues for people in Sri Lanka. Conflicting claims on lands based on vested interests have led to numerous conflicts in the recent past. Since access to, and the ownership of lands have a direct impact on people’s livelihoods, quality of life and their futures, it is imperative to have a people-centered and equitable approach to drafting a land policy for Sri Lanka. Currently however, there is no such bottom-up land policy designed to govern matters relating to lands in the country.
The Commission will conduct public hearings and focus group discussions in various areas across the country to gather information and views from affected communities, over the course of three months. Commission hearings will commence on the 8th of March, 2019 in Mannar, followed by Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. The Commission will also visit Ampara, Vavuniya, Monaragala, Mullativu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Kandy, Hambantota, Matara, Matale and Colombo. It will meet with communities who have been affected by land rights violations due to militarization, development projects, discriminatory government policies and historical marginalization, to gather their proposals and recommendations for a national land policy.
The Commission will primarily focus on issues based on ownership of, and access to land and other natural resources by local communities, the proper management of lands and environment to maximize public benefit, the promotion of local livelihoods, ensuring the preservation of ecology and environment, and reviewing current policies and practices relating to land. The input and information provided by displaced and recently resettled communities will then be analysed and used to formulate guidelines for a national land policy for Sri Lanka.
The People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL) will use these guidelines to push for a national land policy based on the needs and recommendations of people whose lives are dependent on their right to land.
The Land Commission comprises the following members;
1.Ermiza Tegal, Attorney-at-Law, Colombo
2. Ganeshalingam Ganesh, Activist, MONLAR, Maskeliya
3. Godfrey Malarnesan, Activist, Maatram Foundation, Vavuniya
4. Iromi Perera, Researcher, Colombo
5. Jansila Majeed, Women’s Rights Activist, Women’s Action Network (WAN), Mullaitivu
6. K. Nihal Ahamed, Activist, Human Elevation Organization (HEO), Ampara
7. Mahendran Thiruvarangan, Lecturer, University of Jaffna
8. Priyalal Sirisena, Attorney-at-Law, Colombo
9. Priyankara Costa, Activist, NAFSO, Negombo
10. Sajeewa Chamikara, Environmental Activist, MONLAR, Colombo
11. Sarala Emmanuel, Women’s Rights Activist, Women’s Coalition for Disaster Management, Batticaloa