While thousands of acres are still forcefully occupied by the Sri Lankan security forces including private lands, more than 4500 war-affected Tamils are still living as displaced persons even after the brutal civil war came to a bloody end 14 years back.
In the culturally important and political hotbed of Tamil politics, in Jaffna alone, officials told President Ranil Wickremesinghe that “Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)” yet to be resettled due to land occupation is 4567 from 1512 families.
These official figures were presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe during the special District Development Council meeting Jaffna, who directed his secretary Saman Ekanayake to devise a plan to complete this.
“I think we should finish this off. From 2009 we can’t be running every year having people being displaced. So, within this year, we must finish this whole programme off. I don’t want any displaced person by 2025", President Wickremesinghe told officials at the meeting.
Despite officials making it clear the IDPs are yet to be resettled due to land occupation, it was not explicitly mentioned in the meeting the details of the land held by the state security agencies.
Official details collected by Members of Parliament and local journalists reveal that 3114 acres of land are still occupied by the Tri-Services and Police of which close to 400 acres of land are state-owned and the rest of more than 2700 acres of land belong to the public which potentially belong to yet to be resettled IDPs.
In his remarks, the President said there could be disputes in releasing certain land areas.
“There may be disputes about the land around Palali, but all the others we should try and sort out”. Neither the President nor the officials clarified what the disputes could be although it is known for years the fertile lands near the Palaly airport are occupied by the security forces.
Former chairman of the Northern Province CVK Sivagnanam pointed out to the President that even Temple lands still occupied by the security forces are yet to be released as promised by him during his visit to the North for the Pongal Festival.
In response, President Wickremesinghe said a solution to this could be found after discussing it in the security council meeting.
Tamils question even if Temple lands were not released even after a year and a public assurance how could they expect the IDPs be resettled before the end of this year.
“Can the Minister and Members of Parliament help in finishing it? We will finish everything this year and early next year. We can’t be waiting for years and years and years” the president told the meeting attended by officials, elected representatives, security forces, and others.
But the wait for resettlement keeps continuing, say those whose lands are forcefully occupied by the military and other security agencies for decades now.