'Stop alienation of State land in Trincomalee district' - Sampanthan

[TamilNet, Saturday, 16 August 2003, 15:51 GMT]
The Tamil National Alliance’s parliamentary group leader, Mr.R.Sampanthan, Saturday made an urgent appeal to the United National Front government to stop the alienation of State land in Trincomalee district as it would cause serious harmful impact on the peace process, saying that such alienation of land was one of the main causes that led to the commencement of war and therefore it would be “tantamount to an abuse of the current ceasefire.”

In a letter to Mr.Bradman Weerakoon, Secretary to Prime Minister Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe, Mr. Sampanthan said, “State lands with beach frontage in Nilaveli and Kumburupiddy, which are predominantly Tamil villages in the Kuchchaveli division, north of Trincomalee district, are to be alienated by top government officials to foreigners, violating the Cabinet’s decision and the Prime Minister's directive.”

Following representations made by Mr.Sampanthan, Mr. Wickremasinghe last week directed relevant authorities to stop alienating state lands in the Trincomalee district for the time being. The Cabinet also decided that no alienation of State land should take place for the present. This was confirmed in a letter sent by Mr. Weerakoon to Mr.Sampanthan on August 5, sources said.

However, top officials in the Lands Department in Colombo have taken steps to alienate State lands in Trincomalee district to influential persons, contrary to the Cabinet’s decision and the PM’s directive, sources said.

Mr.Sampanthan in his letter to the PM's Secretary said, " I have information that the Land Commissioner has sent a letter to the Government Agent of Trincomalee, requesting that steps to be taken to lease out a substantial acreage of land with beach frontage in the Nilaveli-Kumburupiddy area to a foreigner. This would be in violation of the Cabinet decision and also the PM's decision."

"In order to ensure that the Prime Minister's decision is complied with, it would be necessary for you to communicate this decision to the Land Commissioner in Colombo, the North East Provincial Land Commissioner and the Government Agent of Trincomalee district. It would be advisable to keep the Minister of Lands and the NE Provincial Governor informed of the PM's decision. This would be the only way to effectively bring an end to the persistent steps that are being taken somewhat surreptitiously, to alienate valuable State land with beach frontage for virtually nothing in violation of the current government policy," Mr.Sampanthan said in his letter.

In his letter, Mr.Sampanthan enclosed copies of the Cabinet decision and the PM’s directive to the Lands Minister, Dr.Rajitha Senaretna.

Mr.Sampanthan added in his letter, " Much concern has been expressed in Trincomalee in regard to oblique efforts made by individuals to obtain State land at virtually no cost for the development of tourism. This did not happen even in the past. To do so now would be to disregard one of the main causes (alienation of State land) that let to the commencement of the War, and would be tantamount to an abuse of the current ceasefire."

The Trincomalee parliamentarian has sent a copy of this letter to the Provincial Governor, sources said.

In a letter to the PM on July 26, Mr. Sampanthan had said, "It would be extremely unfair in this situation for persons with influence to try to grab valuable State land in Trincomalee district merely because there is a ceasefire. The disposal of such valuable State land, particularly if it is done in an unfair and unjust manner, could have a very harmful impact on the peace process. It would appear that old practices are being recommenced during the ceasefire without any sensitivity to local concerns.

"A large number of families in several villages north of Trincomalee town, particularly within the Kuchchaveli division, are landless. These families who were refugees mostly in the Vanni, are now returning to be resettled in their respective villages. Several families have multiplied as the children have married in the past two decades and have new families. Most of these new families are also landless. Many families whose occupation is fishing would need land with access to the sea.

“All these persons who are landless need to be given State land for purposes of residence and cultivation, and the fulfillment of this need would be primary duty of the State. These families would not be able to receive assistance such as for housing or cultivation unless they have title to such lands.

"Since the commencement of the ceasefire, there have been requests from individuals, for the allocation of valuable land belonging to the State, with beach frontage in the Nilaveli-Kumburupiddy area (Kuchchaveli division) and Marble Beach area (Trincomalee town and gravets division). The ostensible purpose for such requests of State land is tourist development.

"It would be my submission that individuals interested in tourist development should either purchase private land with beach frontage, or collaborate with the owners of such private land and commence tourist projects. It would be unethical and improper for some persons to use their influence, and attempt to get valuable State land for virtually nothing.

"I would submit that such State land with beach frontage as is available should be retained for planned development at a later stage. With potential available in these areas and with such planned development we would be able to promote high quality tourism with immense benefits to the Trincomalee district and to the whole country.

"The disposal of such valuable State land particularly if it is done in an unfair and unjust manner could have a very harmful impact on the peace process. It would appear that old practices are being recommenced during the ceasefire without any sensitivity to local concerns."

"When these matters were taken up at the District Co-ordinating Committee meeting, I lodged my strong objections against these proposals.

"Even as of now, these matters, in my view, would come under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Council and not under any central authority. Though we have a North East administration, with a governor, we do not have a duly elected North East Provincial Council functioning, which in my submission would be the proper authority to take such a decision.

"It would seem to me, that for whatever reason, there is a persistent desire to help the individuals who have made such requests, regardless of the injurious consequences of such actions and even without the concurrence of the District Coordinating Committee.

"I have to request you to kindly issue instructions that any action contemplated or taken, to allocate any State land in the Nilaveli-Kumburupiddy area in the Kuchchaveli division or in the Marble Beach area in the Trincomalee town and gravets division with beach frontage be terminated forthwith."

It was in response to this letter that the PM issued a directive to the relevant Lands authorities to stop for the present alienating State lands in the Trincomalee district. The cabinet also approved this directive, sources said.


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