Land has a central place in the post war debates involving resettlement, reconstruction, development and the search for a political solution. With the ten year anniversary of the tsunami nearing and more than five years after the end of the war, many questions regarding land issues persist including continuing challenges to individuals being able to fully enjoy, access and use their lands and reside in their homes, due to restrictions placed in the name of security and development. Furthermore, Sri Lanka has a complex framework for legal and possessory rights, covering both State and private land. This framework is meant to provide tenure security for individuals residing and using the land and safeguards to prevent arbitrary displacement and eviction. The legal and policy framework, despite its shortcomings and the need for reform in specific areas, is a basic starting point of a governance system as well as constituting recognition of the rights of those owning and in possession of land. Unfortunately, present practices and recent policy decisions undermine the framework in place and demonstrate a deliberate disregard and/or ignorance of what is in the books. These challenges are highlighted in the present brief with recommendations provided for immediate reform.
The Centre for Policy Brief (CPA) in its most recent policy brief titled ‘Politics, Policies and Practices with Land Acquisitions and Related Issues in the North and East of Sri Lanka’ issued today draws attention to several disturbing trends of land acquisition and related issues in the North and East. The brief makes the case that since the end of the war, instead of using land policies to further reconciliation, the Government of Sri Lanka has abused provisions within the Land Acquisition Act among other pieces of legislation to take over thousands of acres of land in a manner that predominantly affects minority communities and facilitates entrenched militarisation in the North and East.
The brief documents how the Government through land acquisitions has shown clear disregard for the law, often acting outside the parameters of the Land Acquisition Act and avoiding the inherent responsibilities of the Act itself, which requires that land only be taken where it is for a “public purpose”. The brief examines three specific cases, Jaffna, Sampur and Weli Oya, to highlighted problems related to acquisitions and alienation of land and how the present practices raises concerns of ‘land grabs’ in the area. Another disturbing trend with respect to land highlighted in this brief is the dominant role of the central government and military actors in the administration of land.
The brief comes at a time when there is increased attention on Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was recently held in Colombo where several issues related to human rights and reconciliation were raised including ongoing problems related to land. There is likely to be attention on these issues in the coming months and leading to the United Nations Human Rights Council session in March 2014. This brief focuses on land acquisitions and related issues because they serve as an important reflection of government policy and attitudes towards meaningful reconciliation. As the Government continues to blatantly disregard legal standards and pursue initiatives that can constitute ‘land grabs’, they further alienate minority communities and contribute to perceptions that the Government only caters to the majority community. The questions raised in the policy brief have far-reaching implications for devolution and governance in the area, begging the question of whether trends of further centralisation and militarisation regarding land issues are signs of things to come and accordingly key impediments to reconciliation and unity. It is time to take stock of ground realities and initiate reform.
30 May 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives is pleased to release it’s latest report, Short-Term Benchmarks for Peace and Reconciliation in Post-War Sri Lanka. The report provides a set of key measures that need to be implemented by the Government in the short term in order to achieve peace and reconciliation. It calls for actions in twelve thematic areas and lists recommendations including those in the interim and final recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and other official documents such as the National Human Rights Action Plan and Universal Periodic Review pledges, as well as those identified by CPA as critical to facilitating the transition from a post-war to a post-conflict society.
While the document identifies twelve thematic issues, several cross-cutting themes such as human rights, justice, accountability, gender, minority rights and vulnerabilities have been treated together constituting an overarching framework.
The document is primarily addressed to the Government in order to strengthen efforts to implement the recommendations of the LLRC and other key initiatives, but also highlights vital areas requiring the attention of political, civil society and other actors.
Short-Term Benchmarks for Peace and Reconciliation in Post-War Sri Lanka is part of a larger initiative on the part of CPA to generate public debate on reconciliation and explore modalities in moving forward.
Download the report as a PDF here.
12 March 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has produced a table that contains basic information pertaining to Commissions of Inquiry (CoI) (1) and committees appointed by the Government since coming into power in November 2005 (2). Section I of the table examines the CoI and Section II contains information pertaining to key committees established during the specific time period (3).
- The Commissions listed in this document does not include those established by the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.
- The commissions and committees listed in this document are limited to those where information is publicly available.
- As of 9 March 2012.
Access the full table online here, where you can also print or download it as a PDF.