Politics & Current Affairs

Sri Lanka military paid millions to hand back occupied Tamil land

Sri Lanka government has paid millions to its military for the release of a few acres of land forcibly taken over from Tamils eight years ago.

The army returned 133.34 acres of occupied land in the heavily militarised north eastern district of Mullaitivu after the  government paid nearly one million US dollars.

Original landowners have been protesting for almost ten months demanding the release of their land occupied by the military since 2009.

However, the military has not agreed to vacate the land until it has been paid.

Ministry of Prison Reforms, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Hindu Affairs had paid the military 148 million Sri Lanka rupees for the release of land in Keppapulavu to 85 families.

Following a demand by the military in July last year, the government approved the request by Minister for Resettlement DM Swaminathan in August for 'relocation'.

The Sri Lanka military is the single largest landowner in the predominantly Tamil north and runs many lucrative business including upmarket tourism.

Protest continues

Even after receiving money, the military is yet to release nearly 200 acres of land in Keppapulavu to its owners.

Hundreds of families vowed to continue with their protest until the military release all the land occupied since 2009. 

Sivapragasam Ariyakala protesting for over 300 days told journalists that the military is still occupying 171 acres of land belonging to hundred families.

However, the chief civil-military coordinating officer has rejected the idea of further release of occupied land in the north.

"The military has released all disposable land," Lieutenant Colonel Asela Ubayasekara told journalists in Mullaitivu.

Sri Lanka military claims that it has released 55,510.58 acres of private and state land by December 2017.

However, a recently released report by Jaffna based Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR) and  Washington based People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) records that the military occupied land in Mullaitivu alone is 30,000 acres.

It also has made the shocking exposure that there is at least one soldier for every two civilian in the Mullaitivu district.

Civilians asked to provide information

Speaking to a group of selected representatives from the families who were given their land back, the district military commander requested them to provide information on what he called 'external forces trying to divide the military and resettled Tamils'.

"There will be people who try to put ideas in your head," said Mullaitivu Security Forces Commander Major General Dushyantha Rajaguru.

"Please come directly to me and give information about them."

The commander's request came at a time when politicians are visiting the electorate in the run up to the local government elections in February 2015.

The demand of war effected to know the fate of the forcibly disappeared and the demilitarisation of the north and east is high on the agenda of almost every Tamil political party.

© JDS