GoSL cannot give title ownership of State land only to farmers – all citizens have to be given state land ownership
Posted on June 28th, 2022

Shenali D Waduge

The current government is only a caretaker government with a cocktail cabinet. Its mandate was to only deal with the financial crisis. The prime minister has no mandate to give state land to anyone as title ownership. The same prime minister attempted to do same since 1999. He was ousted by the previous President for this very reason. The present President must also act & protect the State (People, Land, Resources) which he pledged to preserve & protect based on which he was elected President.

84% State land cannot be sold – State land can only be leased

Whether it is to citizens or foreigners land cannot be sold & is generally leased under various schemes for numerous terms.

Outright ownership cannot be given & if so given, it can be legally challenged.

Why can’t a govt sell land or give title ownership to State land?

A Govt is only a temporary custodian of the State (comprising the land, the resources & the people)

Public Trust Principle/Doctrine applies to State Land.

A Govt is only voted for a term of office & thus has no moral right to cut tracts of State land & sell or to give title ownership especially to only one segment of people (farmers)

State land & its resources belong not only to this generation but future generations as well.

The unwritten rule is that what we enjoy has to be left for future generations to enjoy just as we are enjoying what was left for us.

GoSL is committing a fundamental rights violation giving only farmers title ownership to state land ignoring all other citizens. That a Govt cannot give all citizens State land title ownership is the reason why a Govt is allowed to only lease State land not sell state land or give title ownership to State land which can be sold.

What if a govt sells or gives title ownership to the 84% State land?

If a govt decides to give title ownership of the 84% State land then State land no longer becomes under the State.

Giving title ownership of state land to a citizen or foreigner means land belonging to the State falls into private ownership. Once it falls into private ownership, the private owner can do as he/she likes with the land. The state has no legal right over the land.

This is why the statutes related to land clearly declare that State land can only be leased.

Successive governments for political & corrupt purposes have attempted to deviate from this principle & created emotive campaigns to justify giving away state land.

Campaign: to give farmers ownership of state land 

The issue of state land has emerged following repeated attempts to give title ownership of large tracts of leased land to farmers as title ownership. That this effort failed previously shows that people realize the dangers of this initiative.

This campaign is cunningly using propaganda that farmers cannot take loans, farmers deserve their own piece of land etc. This is to arouse emotions of farmers to negate any opposition by people who see the greater dangers & long term implications that will be felt by the farmers themselves.

What those who wish to give title ownership to state land hides, is that foreign investors have been demanding large tracts of farmland under their control and Governments have tried various googlys to cater to this demand. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is also eyeing these lands and explains why the sudden rush to give farmers state land ownership. This highlights how governments are not only endangering our sovereignty, by land sovereignty, our food sovereignty & people’s livelihood sovereignty as well.

No government should be allowed to take such unilateral decisions most of which is done without consultation, without looking at the long term repercussions & in secret.

We expect the legal fraternity to not be part of this same insidious campaign as these are fundamental right violations of the People, as the constitution clearly advocates that sovereignty is inalienable & with the people and the State is the people.

What are the advantages of a farmer given title ownership of leased State land

  • He gets a piece of paper saying he owns the land
  • He can mortgage the land
  • He can even sell the land

Note: contrary to what is being told, farmers do take loans from banks & banks do offer facilities to farmers to take loans and banks gives loans without a deed ownership to the land. Therefore, the key excuse being used by the Prime Minister to give state land title ownership is incorrect.

What are the disadvantages of a farmer given title ownership of leased State land

  • Co-Ownership of land is not allowed – so farmer can only write land to one family member even if he has many children. This can cause family disputes & create animosities.
  • Farmer who mortgages the land to the bank may lose the land if he defaults payment
  • Bank will acquire the land & auction it (foreigners are given approval to buy land & this is exactly what is likely to happen)
  • Farmer & family will be asked to vacate land
  • Farmer cannot seek intervention of govt as he is a private land owner
  • Farmer & family are left on the road – no home, no land, no livelihood – not even the piece of paper giving title ownership of a land he and his family had been living in for generations.

Imagine 50,000 farmers given title ownership of state land

  • 50,000 farmers presume have an immediate family of 5.
  • He can only pass deed ownership of land to one member of family. What if this member asks others to vacate land. So many social disputes will emerge.
  • 50,000 x 5 member families – all on the road with no home, no land, no livelihood – who is going to look into their welfare or future? No one, as the Govt is now helpless, as govt has forsaken control of state land & no longer has state land to resettle these farmers.

Imagine 84% state land falling into private ownership?

  • Govt will not have ability to tax
  • When a govt doesn’t have ability to tax – it has no revenue
  • A govt is virtually not required if the entire island is in private hands (owned by either locals or foreigners)

These seventy plus politicians will soon depart but not before leaving a legacy of problems to the country unless legal channels prevent them from doing so.

The legal fraternity in particular the judiciary must uphold the principle of Public Trust Doctrine and safeguard the land – for without land, there is no sovereignty of any kind for anyone.

Shenali D Waduge

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