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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

President Sirisena Defends Return of Land to Minorities

[Some Tamil IDPs still live in makeshift huts]

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday night defended the new government’s policy of returning private land, once used by the security forces, to legitimate owners, especially in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, where Tamils and Muslims are present substantially.

In his 30-minute-long address to the nation through the electronic media to coincide the completion of 100 days of the government, Mr Sirisena, who spoke in Sinhala, said “the 30 year conflict” [with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] should not raise its head again. “We have to ensure amity among all communities.”

Rebutting the campaign of his political rivals that the security forces were being withdrawn from high security zones; their strength was being reduced; lands in Sampur had been given to LTTE terrorists and Tamils and minorities were being given “more rights than Sinhalese,” he said: “We must clearly state that during the war, the security forces acquired lands not only in the North and East but even private lands in the Colombo City for their use. Is it wrong to return these lands to the original owners in a manner that does not affect the [functioning of the] security forces; cause problems for national security and does not weaken security bases?” In this context, he also referred to the security forces earlier holding private property and homes around the President’s house and Temple Trees in Colombo.

Indirectly targeting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he contrasted the present situation with the past wherein the media and every institution, be it judiciary or any other body, were, according to him, under fear and intimidation.

T. Ramakrishnan /The Hindu


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