Govt mulls post-war Land Commission to address grievances


by Shamindra Ferdinando

The government is still struggling to address land issues four years after the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. In accordance with the post-war recovery process, the government is in the process of addressing the contentious issue in accordance with the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

Resolving land issues remained a priority in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga said while explaining the reasons for the delay in the finalization of the process as well as measures taken by the government to rectify shortcomings.

The Presidential Secretary was addressing the media at the Central Bank on Wednesday evening.

Referring to the difficulty in alienation of land in the wake of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the Presidential Secretary said that the government was mulling the possibility of appointing a Fourth Land Commission to settle land issues.

Previous Land Commissions were appointed in 1926, 1935 and 1985.

Responding to queries, the Presidential Secretary said that during his recent visit to Geneva and Washington, he had an opportunity to brief the international community as regards measures taken by the government to address the land issue.

Commenting on the large extent of land held by the military during the conflict, Weeratunga said that 20,001 acres of private and 5,740 state land had been released so far in the Northern and Eastern provinces. The Presidential Secretary said that high security zones too had been done away with, leaving military cantonments at selected places to ensure national security.

Dismissing allegations of a heavy military presence in the Northern Province, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula, even after the conclusion of the conflict, Presidential Secretary Weeratunga said that the government would continue to evaluate the situation to explore the possibility of further reduction of military presence. Weeratunga said that since 2009, the presence of troops in the Northern Province had been reduced by 30 per cent, whereas a 26 per cent reduction of troops was carried out.

On the issue of the five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), demanding the removal of the Northern Province Governor, retired Major General G.A. Chandrasiri and Northern Province Chief Secretary Mrs.R.Wijialudchumi, the Presidential Secretary said that the government couldn’t give in to that demand. Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran had been pushing for the appointment of a retired SLAS officer as the Chief Secretary in spite of the government ruling out that possibility. "In fact, we asked the Northern CM to appoint his choice as his advisor. We also requested him to make some other appointments. Unfortunately, he is yet to respond."

Responding to a query, the Presidential Secretary said that a retired SLAS officer couldn’t be appointed to the Northern Province, as retirees were in place in none of other provinces.

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