Quit notices on Linganagar Tamil families withdrawn

[TamilNet, Monday, 10 June 2002, 05:13 GMT]
The Trincomalee Divisional Secretary (DS) has decided to withdraw ejectment applications filed in the magistrateís court under the State Lands (Recovery of Possession) Act against several Tamil residents who live on state lands in the Linganagar area, a suburb in Trincomalee, when the defense counsel submitted that the affidavits of the prosecution were bad in law and not in conformity with the land.

The Sri Lanka Army claims that the said state land has been vested with them. At the inquiry in the Trincomalee Magistrateís court the defence submitted that the Linganagar land is vested with the Sri Lanka Port Authority and not with the Sri Lanka Army. Hence the Divisional Secretary has withdrawn the ejectment applications against sixteen Tamil families.

Ejectment applications filed against another thirty-six Tamil families are to be withdrawn in the coming days, DS sources said.

The Trincomalee DS filed applications for ejectment in terms of Section 5 (1) of the State Lands (Recovery of possession) Act No.7 of 1979 as amended by Acts No 58 of 1981, 29 of 1983 and 45 of 1992 for ejectment of the accused persons stating inter alia that he is the competent authority for the purposes of the Act and prayed for the recovery of possession of lands occupied by several Tamil families, at the instance of the Sri Lanka Army. At the inquiry the defense counsel submitted to court that there is cause to show against the ejectment applications whereupon the Court directed written submissions to be filed on behalf of the accused.

The defense counsel Mr.K.S.Ratnavelu in his submission gave the background of the Linganagar dispute.

The dispute arose when the residents of Linganagar were directed arbitrarily by the Sri Lanka Army to quit their residences to make way for an army camp and firing range in the midst of the densely populated civilian residential area. These residents were in occupation of the said land from as early as 1972.

Responding to the representations made by the Linganagar residents against the quit orders of the SLA, the then Governor of the Northeast province Lt.General Nalin Seneviratne by his letter dated 21st September 1991 directed the Co-coordinating Officer of the Sri Lanka Army in Trincomalee to refrain from establishing a military camp or firing range as the Linganagar village is situated in the expanding city limits and to look elsewhere in the jungle

However the SLA continued to exert pressure on the residents to move out of the said State lands. As a last resort the affected persons including the accused appealed to the President Chandrika Kumaratunge setting out the facts. Due to the pressure by the SLA the Trincomalee Divisional Secretary had sought the assistance of the court to eject said fifty-two Tamil families who are in occupation of the said land.

Setting out these facts in his submission the defense counsel Mr.Ratnavelu further stated that the land in Trincomalee commencing from Linganagar to Palam Potta Aru bounding Trincomalee-Dambulla road is presently vested with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). The full extent of the State land vested with the SLPA is 9767 acres, 1 rood and 27 perches. The defense counsel further brought to the notice to the court that it is this land the SLA is now trying to claim as theirs and to evict the Tamil families.

The defense counsel further argued that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority has the power to invoke the jurisdiction of the court and not the Divisional Secretary. The DS should have obtained prior approval from the Minister in charge of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority to file ejectment applications in court. ìIn this instance the prior approval envisaged in Section (2) has not been obtained by the DS and therefore these proceedings in the Court does not have the sanction of the law. The Ministerís approval is a condition precedent in any prosecution under this law and therefore the Ejectment applications are one that ought to be refused ëin limineí, the defense counsel stated in his written submission.

The defense counsel Mr.K.S.Ratnavelu further told court that the quit notices served on his clients were bad in law and not in conformity of the land. The affidavits furnished by the Divisional Secretary regarding the ejectment notices were not in order.

When the first batch of the sixteen Linganagar cases were taken for final inquiry before the Trincomalee Magistrate Mr.S.Thiagendran last Friday, an official representing the Trincomalee Divisional Secretary made an application to court seeking permission to withdraw the quit notices served on Linganagar residents with the right to file afresh. The court then allowed the application. The other thirty -six ejectment applications are to be withdrawn in the coming days when those cases are taken up for disposal, DS sources said.


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