By Shanika Sriyananda
Strengthening the Government’s reconciliation and national integration process, another 263.55 acres of state and private lands in the North and East, occupied by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA), will be handed over to the legitimate owners before December 31.
Following the directions of President Maithripala Sirisena, who appointed the Presidential Task Force to look into the development of the North and East and had several rounds of discussions with the Governors of North and East and the top army officials, the SLA has identified more lands that could be released back to the original owners.
The SLA has identified 1.47 acres of state lands and 43.13 acres of private lands in Jaffna, 17.71 acres of state lands and 35.25 acres of private lands in Kilinochchi, five acres of state lands in Mullaitivu, 39.64 acres of state lands and 7.64 acres of private lands in Vavuniya, 8.75 acres of state lands and three acres of private lands in Trincomalee and 2 acres of state lands and 0.50 acres of private lands in Ampara to hand over to the original owners before end of 2018.
The SLA, which had occupied 84,523.55 acres of lands including state lands (58,181.12 acres) and private lands (26,342.72 acres) in the North and East before May 2009, has released 69,754.58 acres of state lands (45,1980.97 acres) and private lands (23,773.62 acres) to the original owners since the end of the war in May 2009.
“We have released over 79% of state lands and 90% of private lands so far,” the SLA spokesman Brig. Sumith Atapattu said.
According to the SLA spokesman, a total of 14,769.25 acres including 12,200.15 acres of state lands and 2,569.10 acres of private lands, are still occupied by the SLA.
“We release lands that were occupied by the SLA giving top priority to the national security. These lands were carefully selected in a manner that will not affect the security of the North and East,” he said.
Since 2009, the military has occupied 25202.88 acres of lands in Jaffna, including 23,840.23 acres of private lands, and released 21,707.73 acres back to people while occupying 2,132.50 acres of private lands in the Jaffna Peninsula.
The total land areas occupied by the SLA in Kilinochchi in 2009 amounted to 25,948.49 acres, which included 2,236.61 private lands. The SLA has released 1,075.41 acres of land back to people while still holding 153.28 acres.
In Mullaitivu, it held 11911.18 acres, including 959.25 acres of private lands in 2009 but released 805.95 acres back to the original owners. The SLA still occupies 153.28 acres of land in Mullaitivu.
The SLA, which occupied 2,302.30 acres of lands including 74.59 acres of private lands in Mannar, had released 50.51 acres to the original owners. It still occupies 24.08 acres of lands.
It has released 72.24 acres of private lands out of 135.37 acres of private lands that it had occupied in Vavuniya, 25.04 acres of lands out of total 39.65 acres of private lands occupied in Trincomalee and 52.59 acres of lands out of 52.59 acres of private lands occupied in Batticaloa. The SLA had released 0.50 acres of land out of which it had occupied 4.45 acres of private land since 2009.
According to data released by the SLA, it is still occupying 63.13 acres in Vavuniya, 14.61 acres in Trincomalee, 16.35 acres in Batticaloa and 3.95 acres in Ampara.
“The security of the country is paramount. Therefore we release lands - state and private - without compromising national security,” Jaffna Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Dharshana Hettiarachchi said.