COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government’s decision to return to the original Tamil owners, 1055 acres of agricultural lands at Sampur in the Eastern Province, ends a decade-long Tamil struggle to get back lands seized by the Lankan armed forces during Eelam War IV.
“ The 2000 ousted families of Sampur have been living in refugee camps since 2006. About three years ago, the government had stopped giving dry rations to them to force them to leave the camps and stop entertaining hopes of getting back their lands. When NGOs went to distribute food parcels, the military would bar entry. But ultimately our struggle has borne fruit,” said Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman, Suresh Premachandran.
However, as the returnees in Jaffna found to their dismay, the Sampur returnees will also find resettlement a challenging task. Many houses, schools and temples are in a shambles and the land has to be cleared for cultivation.
When the Rajapaksa government was ousted in January this year, the successor government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe decided to give back all the seized lands to the original owners.
They took back 818 acres given to the Board of Investment (BOI) to set up an industrial zone because no investment had come. About 237 acres which were given to the Navy to set up a training centre will also be returned to their original civilian owners as the Navy has agreed to shift to an alternative site.
However, the refugees will not be able to move back immediately, cautioned Austin Fernando, the Eastern Provincial Governor.
“The provincial Land Commission will have to examine the deeds and permits presented by the original owners before allowing resettlement. This may take six months. As regards the lands with the Navy, they will also be available only after six months as the Navy will have to find a suitable alternative site,” Fernando told Express.
Indian Plant Stays
About 505 acres which were allotted to the power plant to be set up in collaboration with India, will not be returned, Fernando said. The seven Tamil families ousted by the project will be accommodated elsewhere.