“Out of the land we came and into we must go” – Pearl S. Buck in ‘The Good Earth’
President Maithripala Sirisena has instructed authorities in the North and East to restore private land annexed by the Military to their original owners with immediate effect. While the Military will occupy land essential for security, all additional land will be returned to civilians. In this effect 90 per cent of lands have already been returned.
From the time of the agricultural revolution, land has played a major part in our civilisation. It has given us the tools to build a home and food we need to live. From generation to generation, we have inherited these lands. Our ancestors’ tears, sweat and blood are mixed with the dark matter and have given us shelter and nutrition. The lands we inherited are made of memories and these memories define who we are.
Being a great humanitarian and a firm believer of the importance of a future generation understanding our legacy, President Maithripala Sirisena instructed to expedite the process of handing over lands acquired by the military to their rightful owners in the North.
Releasing northern lands
The Northern Province suffered the most due from the 30 years of separatist conflict. At the end of the humanitarian operation in 2009, nearly 84,675 acres of land in the North remained under the control of Security Forces. The de-mining process to clear mines was accelerated after President Sirisena took office in January 2015. Under President Sirisena, the occupied lands were gradually released to their rightful owners during the past five years.
There lands were being used by the Armed Forces for agricultural purposes and will be returned as farmlands with the sweet smell of success and happiness as opposed to the State they were originally in when they were requisitioned.
On 28 August 2019, the President’s Office further stated that this was instructed, during a meeting with State officials. The President further instructed that the lands be released without jeopardising national security and that a report must be submitted to the Governor of Northern Province, Dr. Suren Raghavan on 1 October.
The President also instructed that proper compensation should be paid if the Forces need to retain a land.
During this meeting, security officials had informed the President that 80.98 per cent State lands and 90.73 per cent of private lands which had been acquired during the war has been released so far.
Importance of security
Continuing the discussion on the matter and that of national security, the President further stated that all should understand the importance of Army checkpoints and camps and that they were requirements to ensure national security. The unfortunate Easter Sunday terror attacks highlighted the importance of this measure and security camps and checkpoints should not be moved under any circumstances.
This meeting was also attended by the Governor Raghavan, TNA Parliamentarians including Maavi Senathirajah, Secretary to the President, Udaya R. Seneviratne, Secretary to the Minister of Defence Major Gen. Shantha Kottegoda, Chief of Defence Staff, Commanders of Tri-Forces and several other security chiefs joined the discussion.
Since President Sirisena took office he has continuously followed up on the process, requesting frequent updates. Now after five years the mission is almost complete.
The decision taken by the President played a huge role in building goodwill and trust among people.
We should all put our political differences aside and give credit where it is due and appreciate President Sirisena’s successful attempt in building understanding and his vision for one country and one nation.