COLOMBO:The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has stayed a bid by the Sirisena government to return 818 acres of land at Sampur in the Eastern Province to Tamils from whom the lands were seized during Eelam War IV.
The stay given on Friday, will be operative till the court gives its determination in the case. But it is likely to be challenged by the displaced Tamils, senior counsel and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, M A Sumanthiran, told Express.
The restraining order was given in a case filed by the Singapore-based Sri Lanka Gateway Industries (SLGI). In 2013, when Mahinda Rajapaksa was President, the land in question was allotted to SLGI by the Board of Investment (BOI) for the purpose of setting up an industrial zone to attract US$ 4 billion in investment. But no investment came. On May 9, the successor government of Sirisena announced that it was taking back the 818 acres given to the BOI because not a single investor had showed up. Eastern Province Governor, Austin Fernando, announced that the recovered lands would be given back to the original Tamil owners who had fled the area in 2006 when Eelam War IV started. About 2,000 families were to benefit by the recovery of the land.
Lawyer M A Sumanthiran pointed that the court had given the stay without hearing the other affected party, namely, the displaced Tamil farmers. He further said that a case filed by the displaced Tamils is still pending in the apex court. The acquisition of the land by the BOI had not been done as per the Land Acquisition Act, and those disposed had not been compensated, he said.
Moreover, on October 21, 2011, the then Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, had told parliament that lands not given to the Indian power project, will be given back for resettlement of refugees. The government gave this assurance to the SC too, he said.
These will be brought to the notice of the SC when the case filed by the displaced comes up for hearing in June, Sumanthiran added.