120 acres to be released in the North by March
2 months ago | BY Mirudhula Thambiah
The Government is currently taking necessary steps to release 120 acres of lands from six different areas, including Palaly in the Jaffna Peninsula in the Northern Province, between the months of February and March.
Speaking to The Daily Morning, Director General of Community Affairs at the Presidential Secretariat Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon said yesterday (24) that it had been agreed upon by the tri-forces to release the above extent of lands and that the process pertaining to the same had commenced. “This land will be released to the relevant Divisional Secretariats by the military within 40-50 days. The paperwork in this regard has started,” he added.
He further highlighted that following the recent visit of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to Jaffna, it was directed by him to expedite the process and to identify the lands which could be released to the people.
Tennakoon noted that there are more than 600 acres of lands that are gazetted under the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Forest Department, but that people have been living for many years in these lands. “There are lands in which the people have been living for generations, but some of them have left these places during the wartime and the tsunami. Now, there are people still living there. There are schools, temples and mosques. Even though it is officially illegal, some of these people have land deeds. They have adequate documentation proving that their families have lived continuously for many years. We have identified more than 30 areas which came to the notice of the Presidential Secretariat as complaints, in addition to which reports were submitted by various Government institutions.
The lands gazetted under the Wildlife Conservation and Forest Departments are currently being examined. The lands to be released from them are yet to be decided because it is a long process and the authorities are mapping them. These lands are in Delft, Kayts, Palaly, and Valikamam North. It is being examined if people can continue to live in these parts. This process will not be confined to the Northern Province and will take place in every District,” he elaborated.
Accordingly, officials from the above said Departments held a combined operation with the land related officials in Jaffna, which commenced on Monday (23) and will go on till today (25).
“We had site visits yesterday (23), today (24) and will have them tomorrow (25) too. We have identified areas that could be released and cannot be released. It was a very positive meeting. All officials related to lands in the Jaffna District participated. Discussions were held at the Jaffna District Secretariat and the Valikamam North Divisional Secretariat. For the first time, we are having a very coordinated effort to identify the lacunas relating to lands. These people have suffered enough so we want to give them the basic human need,” he explained.
Meanwhile, a programme with a timeframe has been prepared under the instructions of President Wickremesinghe with the objective of providing solutions soon for the issues of people residing or engaged in agricultural activities within the forests under the control or purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Forest Department for a long time. This was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on Monday. The relevant issues are similar to almost all the other Districts and it is therefore expected to implement this programme in the preliminary stage in the Districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Monaragala. This Cabinet proposal was forwarded by Minister of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Pavithra Wanniarachchi.