JAFFNA: The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) passed a resolution on Thursday asking the security forces (SF) to vacate all privately owned lands and houses in the province by year end. C V K Sivagnanam, the chairman, told the council that 67,000 acres of cultivable land are presently under SF occupation.
But the opposition Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP), abstained from voting as it did not consider occupation of land by the SF to be significant whether in terms of its extent, or in terms of its impact on agricultural development in the Northern Province.
S Thavarajah, Leader of the Opposition, said that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is approaching the issue “emotionally” and not with facts and figures.
“In Jaffna district, the total extent of land is 983.60 sq km or 242,506 acres. In 2009, at the end of the war, the security forces was occupying 126.03 sq km or 31,091 acres. Totally, the SF and the police were holding 12.8 per cent of the land here. In addition, the SF and police were occupying 1120 houses.”
“In five years since then, the SF and police have released 70.95 sq km or 17,503 acres. Out of these 37 sq km or 9138 acres had been in the High Security Zone (HSZ),” he said.
“Presently, the SF and police are holding 55.08 sq km or 13,588 acres. This accounts for only 5.6 per cent of the total land area of Jaffna district. Of the 1120 houses, 647 have been released,” Thavarajah said.
In Mullaitivu district, the SF is occupying 34,180 acres or 5.5 per cent of the total land area of 620,919 acres. In Mannar district, the SF is occupying 4.53 per cent of the total land area of 491,180 acres.
“Assuming that 67,000 acres are occupied in the entire province, it is only 3.18 percent of the total land area of 2,108,128 acres. This is negligible and also too small to have an adverse impact on agriculture. If agriculture is sluggish in Jaffna, it is due to water shortage and not land alienation,” Thavarajah said.
The TNA leader claimed that in the districts of the Wanni, agriculture is picking up. But Wanni’s farmers complain of lack of funds and unfair competition from army-run farms.