Concern Over Military’s Land Requests in Jaffna
By Maryam Azwer
Despite military claims that they will not acquire private lands in Jaffna, concerns have been raised following recent requests for land made by the military to local government bodies.
Requests have been made to various Divisional Secretariats and Pradeshiya Sabhas by the Department of Land Administration as well as the military themselves, to identify land that can be acquired by the military.
According to TNA MP and Attorney-at-law, M. A. Sumanthiran, these government bodies have been sent notices which have made references to land that is both state owned, as well as private.
“They have sent schedules of various lands that they want,” he said, adding that divisional secretariats had also been asked to make arrangements to get people to sign over their lands.
“They have been asked to take action under the Land Acquisition Ordinance,” said Sumanthiran. He also explained that very little land in Jaffna was state land.
The Nallur Divisional Secretariat and Valikamam North Pradeshiya Sabha are among the government bodies who have received such notices.
According to Valikamam North Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, Somasundaram Sugirthan, the military had made a request for a certain plot of land on May 23.
“This land had been given by the government to the Pradeshiya Sabha in 1971, to be used as a playground, but since 1990 has been occupied by displaced people,” he said, while a part of it is being used for solid waste management.
He added that they had written to the military saying that they were not willing to hand over this land.
The Chairman also said that none of the land in Valikamam North was state land. “There is only the Pradeshiya Sabha land, the KKS cement factory land and agrarian land,” he said. He also said most of these lands came under the High Security Zone. Meanwhile, Nallur Divisional Secretary, Senthil Nanthan, who had also received requests for land for the military, said this matter had been referred to the Government Agent (GA), Jaffna. Jaffna GA, Arumunaigam Suntharam, said he was still looking into the matter, and that he would be discussing it with the divisional secretaries.
The military’s stand on this, however, has been that they would not be acquiring any private lands.
“We are not going to take private land, only state land,” said Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe.
“The Governor has told the respective district secretaries to identify government lands wherever possible. We are just checking with those lands, whether strategically they are important for us,” he said.
Major General Hathurusinghe also said that the reason they wanted this state land was so that they could move out of private lands that the military currently occupied.
“For so long we have been occupying private homes, private lands of the people. We are in the process of handing them back and we are strategically locating ourselves in government land, like in any other part of the country,” he said.
He also said, “the problem is in Jaffna, where state land is very less. But we are trying to fit in our requirements within government land.”
A week ago, there were media reports that the military was planning to appropriate land in the Jaffna, Tellippalai and Nallur divisions. Responding to queries on this matter, Military spokesperson, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya said that this was actually part of the army’s relocation process.
“In the process, there are some lands, government lands, identified as available. We haven’t acquired them yet. We are only trying to, and shift from private lands, thereby freeing the city further of military presence,” he said, adding that it was also a means of bringing scattered military establishments together.