Objection against collection of information of private land in Jaffna under armed forces’ occupation

Saturday, 18 September 2021 01:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Forty-two organisations and activists working on land issues in the north have raised concerns relating to recent letter issued by the Jaffna GA, regarding the collection of information from private land owners whose lands are currently under the occupation of the military/police. 

In their letter as members of the People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL), civil society representatives and communities struggling to return to their lands, said they are concerned regarding the letter dated 26 August, sent by Jaffna District Secretariat Government Agent Kanapathypillai Mahesan, requesting information from displaced families who own private lands that are currently under the occupation of the military or police. 

“Families suffering from loss of land and displacement due to military occupation, have on multiple occasions in the past, provided extensive information pertaining to their lands, to various authorities, in the hope of their lands being released. Many families are tired of being sent from pillar to post over the years, yielding no results, and are therefore skeptical that this will be yet another false promise by the Government,” the letter said. 

They also said the GA’s letter did not indicate a deadline for the submission of information. However, the Jaffna District Secretariat website states that the deadline for the submission of information is 15 September, less than a month from the date of the letter. 

Given the current travel restrictions due to the ongoing island wide lockdown, and difficulties in accessing original documents, it is an impossible task for most families, including the families who are living outside of the country, to submit these applications in less than a month. 

There is a lack of clarity on the purpose of collecting this information, which has created doubts among the people on the process, and increased their fears of there being new and further attempts by the military to occupy more lands.  

The letter additionally fails to mention a method in which people living out of the country can provide their information. There are many people living in many foreign countries with land in Jaffna which are under military occupation.   “Hence, our request is that authorities look into how information already provided by families can be utilised for the release of lands, and to also extend the submission deadline, so that families who have not yet sent in their information, have adequate time to collect and submit their information, to ensure that no family is left out of this process,” the letter said.

“We also urge you to develop a more transparent and collaborative process, with the participation of Local Government authorities, Government officers and civil society organisations to build awareness among the people about this process, and facilitate them to provide the necessary information,” the GA has been told.  

“We, as PARL wish to reiterate, that we will extend our fullest support to any genuine effort by the Government to return lands to their original owners, and ensure the right to land for all displaced communities in the Northern Province,” the letter added. 

The PARL Northern Regional Network comprises Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research; Alliance for Minorities; Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD); District Fisherman’s Co-operation, Jaffna; District Youth Council for Change, Jaffna; Forum for a Plural Democracy; Jaffna Social Action Centre (JSAC); Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF); Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR); Muslim Women’s Development Trust (MWDT); National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO); Palaly Uthaiyakalaivaani People’s Union; Performing Arts Group, Jaffna; Poonthalir Women’s Federation; Praja Abhilasha Network; Rural Labour Society, Jaffna; Vadamarachchi Citizens Committee; Valikamam North Resettlement Organisation; Vallamai Movement for Social Change and Women’s Action Network (WAN).

Separately 21 individuals have also signed the letter.