The military is handing back to the original owners another 522 acres of private land under its control in the Jaffna Peninsula, a senior army officer told the Sunday Times. The military is still occupying 3,100 acres of private land in the peninsula. According to Military Spokesman Sumith Atapattu, the military has already given back 3,800 acres of land to the owners.
“We have received part of the money from the Ministry of Rehabilitation to relocate our military camps and as soon as we receive the balance, we will be able to release most of the remaining lands to their owners,” he said. The military has asked the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Ministry for Rs. 880 million to relocate military installations in privately owned lands.
Brig. Atapattu said that in Valikamam North there were some lands that the military needed for national security reasons and this could not be compromised. Jaffna’s Additional District Secretary (Lands) K. Maheswaran said that though the military had released 3,800 acres of privately owned lands back to their owners, many could not return to their lands because there were no houses for them.
“The Rehabilitation Ministry needs to construct another 28,000 houses to enable them to be resettled in their original lands,” he said. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan has held several rounds of talks with the President and the Prime Minister to get the rest of the military occupied lands released soon to their original owners.
Last month, in Thelippalai, Karachchi and Maritimepattu, the military released 120 acres to their original owners. Since 1990, 27,000 acres of private lands had been occupied by the military in the north. However, with the end of the war in 2009, the government started to return such lands to the original owners.