ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 5
Posted on November 30th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Tamil Separatist Movement complained that the land taken over by the armed forces in the Northern Province were not given back once the Eelam war IV ended in 2009. When the war ended in 2009, altogether 82,555 acres of lands in the North and East were held by the military, of which 30,300 acres were private lands, reported the media. Only 5.2 % of the lands seized had been given back to their rightful owners since 2009, Tamil Separatist Movement complained.

Once Yahapalana government came to power the Tamil separatists were able to put pressure on the President to get their lands back. In January 2018 Yahapalana announced that it had released a total of 55,510.58 acres of private and state land in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya. 

In August 2018 The President said that 88 per cent of land used for security purposes, had already been released. Only 12% remaining lands have to be released. In November 2018 Yahapalana said that the releasing of the lands occupied by the Security Forces in the North and East is in its final stage. In 2019, the Government has released about 80 percent of state lands and around 90 percent of private lands held by the military in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Yahapalana reported, in greater detail, that the lands which were held under the Security Forces Jaffna in 2009, was released gradually spread over 20 stages. Most of these lands were held in the high-security zone. In stage one, 370.65 acres were released to the public on October 28, 2010. In Stage two 1952.13 acres was released on November 27, 2010. In stage three, 1971.9 acres was released on May 9, 2011.

Under stage four, 345.94 acres was released on October 6, 2011. Under stage five, 617.76 acres was released on November 29, 2011 in the Thondamannaru area. Under stage six, around 1,000 acres was released on two occasions on March 23, 2015 and April 10, 2015. Then under stage seven, 18.04 acres was released on November 12, 2015.

Under stage eight, 712.98 acres was released on January 15, 2016 while under stage nine, on March 10, 2016, 0.67 acres was released. Under stage ten, 6.73 acres was released on March 2, 2016. Under stage eleven, 214.18 acres was released on June 25, 2016. Under stage 12, 499.49 acres was released on October 31, 2016 and another two acres was released under stage 13 on January 14, 2017. Under stage 14, on April 7, 2017, the military released another 33 acres

Under stage 15 another 54 acres of land was released on July 03, 2017. Under stage 16 the military released 29 acres on November 30, 2017 and another 683 acres was released under stage 17 on April 13, 2018 and two more acres on February 2018. On May 28, 2018, the military released another 0.25 acres and again on June 4, 2018, 36.6 acres was released. In total, 8550.32 acres have been released up to July 2018.

All private lands that were non essential for the national security have been released, said the Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva in 2019. However,  he released further150.15 acres, in Kilinochchi belonging to the State and private owners.

Statistics are also given according to army divisions. The 51 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 2,692.60 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 2,512.16 acres to their rightful owners currently occupying 180.53 acres as at May 20, 2018.

The 52 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 10,839.83 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 10,665.37 to their rightful owners, currently occupying 174.46 acres as at May 20, 2018. The 55 Division in 2009 had occupied in total 1,821.17 acres of land and since 2009 they have so far released 1,303.00 acres to their rightful owners, currently occupying 518.17 acres as at May 20, 2018. (Daily News 10.7.18 p 11)

The total amount of land occupied by the Army in the Palaly Cantonment area is 2082.66 acres. The total land area occupied by the Army in other areas is 873.16 acres . The Sri Lanka Navy currently occupies 636 acres while the Sri Lanka Air Force occupies 996.74 acres. The total area utilised by the security forces is 4627.11 acres. (Daily News 10.7.18 p 11)

The lands released included  23-hectare land in the Mundirrippu Forest Reservation . 35 acres of land in Urani, 21.84 acres, belonging to 17 land owners in Seeniyamottai village area. The Ottapulam-Vasavilan road, Point Pedro to Kankesanturai road, Ponnaleivithi Road, which runs through Parthithurai, Jaffna to Myliddy,  road connecting Vattappalai and Puthukudiyirippu  and  the main road that runs between Kankesanturai and Point Pedro  were opened to the public.

The  Tamil Separatist Movement  specially targeted  the Palali cantonment near  Kankesanturai where  the military had occupied 10632.98 acres In the Palali Army Cantonment area in 2009.

1,473 petitioners from Achchuveli, Jaffna had complained to the Court of Appeal In May 2013, that 6,381 acres of land, which belonged to them, is to be acquired by the state for the use of security forces in Palali. The petitioners said they had been displaced from their villages during the war. When they wanted to return, they had been prevented by the Army.

 Notices of acquisition had been pasted on trees on those lands. The notices were under land acquisition Act Section 2 and dated April 27, 2013.The petitioners requested the Court to restrain the Minister of Lands from effecting this mala-fide acquisition. An amended petition was submitted later, K. Kaneg Ishwaran PC, appeared with M.A. Sumanthiran, for the petitioners. The bench comprised Justice S. Sriskandarajah, the President of the Court of appeal.

Security forces said in 2016 that the army had occupied 27,250 acres of which 21,134 have been given back. It was not possible to give all the lands back due to security reasons. The lands now  come under the Jaffna and Palaly high security zone. There will be no more releasing of land from Palaly cantonment. Security forces said  in 2016.

But  in 2017, 29 acres including the buildings belonging to St. Mary’s Church and Roman Catholic Tamil Mixed School, located inside the Palaly Army Cantonment, were handed over . In 2018 a further   683 acres which was held under the Palaly Army camp area, were released. This was the biggest chunk of land released to the Jaffna public on a single day.

Attention then turned to Valigamam North. Valigamam North was classified as a High Security Zone.  Sampanthan said  in 2017 that civilians were evicted from several thousands of acres of land in Valigamam North in order to protect the Palaly Air Base from artillery fire almost 25 years ago. But even after the fighting had ended in 2009, only a fraction of that land had been returned for civilian resettlement,  he said.

After Yahapalana took office, many areas in Valikamam were returned to their  owners. The army returned 28.8 acres of land to its owners in Valigamam North In 2017. These lands, belonging to 400 families, were held by the security forces since 1990.  However, some of the owners found only empty grounds. Houses had been bulldozed and wells filled up, reported the media. A further extent of land encompassing 4.4 acres in the Valikamam North hitherto used by the Army for service requirements, was released in 2018.

Another area which got much attention was Myliddy. Myliddy is near the high security zones of Palaly airport and Kankesanthurai harbour   and is home to vital military installations, including ammuniion dumps.

Myliddy was one of the first areas of land to be taken over by the military .It has also been one of the last areas to be handed back to its civilian owners. The Army  needed Mailady and the area shouldn’t be vacated under any circumstances, said Sarath Weerasekera, retired Navy Chief of Staff .

The owners of the Myliddy lands  believed that the military did not intend to return this land to them at all as the lands  were  near to the high security zones of the airport and harbor. Jehan Perera recounted that in 2012,  three years after the war had ended,  at Myliddy bulldozers entered the land and completely flattened all remaining buildings, which in any event had become dilapidated due to being vacant for close to three decades. The people had returned to theirhomes to find nothing remaining, not even the boundaries that separated their properties

In 2016,Tamil politicians were making a determined bid to compel the Army to vacate Mailady in the Jaffna peninsula. Tamil National Alliance politicians are demanding Mailady for resettlement in spite of the Army repeatedly offering alternative housing, observed critics. Those who had been displaced aren’t allowed by Tamil politicians to settle elsewhere because  the TNA wanted somehow to evict the Army from Mailady,  they said.   

500 acres of Myliddy in Jaffna, which was a long-term request of people, were released in April 2018.  In 2019  on Maha Sivarathri Day  Army released a further  19.72 acres in Myladdy north and east within the Palaly Army Cantonment and a section adjoining it. A small section of 0.25 acres of the released land in Myliddy belongs to the state while the remainder is owned by private owners, reported the media

Urani Primary School, occupied for over 27 years by the military for security reasons, was returned to the school community in 2017. In 2018  a block of 2.75 acres, belonging to the Kalaimagal Vidyalayam, Myliddy North was returned.

A  big fuss was made over the  land taken over  at Kepapilavu.  Sri Lanka army’s 59th division had its   Headquarters at Kepapilavu in Mullaitivu , in a camp that spanned over a thousand acres,  using up much of the residential land, ‘believed to be legally owned’ by private individuals who hold legal documentation, complained Tamil Separatist Movement .

The army had displaced the villagers of Kepapilavu, said Tamil Separatist Movement .  An additional 54 families  had been displaced by the Air Force. These were their private lands or lands with permits. The villagers are in Seeniyamottai close to Nandikathal. They are in very infertile area and are suffering. The military is treating them badly, said Tamil Separatist Movement  in 2013.

Shenali Waduge had gone to Kepapilavu, in 2013. The villagers looked happy, after living for 30 years in cadjan huts.  The 125 families are now in Kepapilavu model village, bordering Seeniyamottai. They have 40 perches of land for each family, six months of dry rations, 12 roofing sheets per family, 8 cement bags, kitchen ware, plastic mats, grant of 25,000 and eventually a brick house of 550 sq feet. Also 100 bicycles gifted and overseas visitors donating goodies, she said.

After Yahapalana, things improved for the owners of lands in Kepapilavu. In 2017 another 133.34 acres in Kepapilavu was released to 68 land owners together with newly-built or completely renovated 28 houses. At the time the Army acquired those lands, there were only 8 buildings and one foundation in the location.

But the matter was not over.  In 2017 it was reported, that families in Mullikulam and Keppapulavu, were protesting for the return of lands held by the Navy and Air Force. In small tents set up right at the entrance of the camps, these families took turns to sit in for 24 hours calling for the return of their land, said Groundviews. It was only after months, and after continued media coverage, that the state began partially releasing land.

A group of Keppapilavu residents also staged a protest opposite the Mullaitivu Security Force Headquarters on December 31, 2018 demanding that their lands be released to them as promised by the government. 55 families were demanding for the return of their lands some of them had legal documentation proving their ownership, while some do not hold such ownership documents, reported the media. The protestors said that this would be their last warning and if their lands are not released prior to January 25, they would forcibly take possession of their lands.

It was reported in 2019 that around 2014, the majority of these families had consented to accepting compensation for their lands and around 270 houses had been built for them. However, around nine  families had not agreed to accept compensation and had wanted their lands returned to them.Subsequently, the rest of the families who had earlier agreed to give up their lands and accept the compensation by the government,  had changed their minds and are demanding that their lands be returned to them, said Tamil Separatist Movement .

President Sirisena said people have the right to decide whether they want to resettle in their original lands or in alternative lands and instructed the release of these lands.  However, it was said that only some of those demanding for the lands possess legal documentation to prove ownership to these lands. In 2019 the army had reported to the President that they were working towards an amicable solution”, in consultation with civilians, regarding the lands occupied by the army in the Keppapilavu area in the Mullaitivu District. (Continued)

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