BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
Minister of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs, D.M. Swaminathan on 01 April confirmed that all resettlements of persons under the incumbent government had thus far been made only on their land initially belonging to those resettled.
Government sources said United Nations agencies working on an immediate response plan on housing schemes that were being constructed by India, will also provide US$3 million for the Joint Needs Assessment Fund which includes grants for shelter, non-food relief items, and also water and sanitation facilities for newly resettled communities.
He noted that a process completely antithetical to the aforementioned had been practiced by the previous regime.
Chief Secretarial Prelate of the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sanga Sabha, Ven. Dr. Iththepane Dhammalankara said that there were issues in relation to land in the North.
The government is now considering the release of more land, now in military possession, but not utilised for any purpose whatsoever, as part of its resettlement programme,Swaminathan added.
Leader of the National Movement for Social Justice, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera added that those presently dwelling in camps for internally displaced persons required permanent settlements because they had lost their ancestral homes.
“This problem which has both domestic and international dimensions affects the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims. The government should not delay resettlement in the North and East,” he emphasized
Survival is a crisis when families, engaged in farming and fishing, are resettled in places and areas where they cannot earn their livelihood, Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith noted.
“Fisher folk in Mullaitivu were dumped in the jungle and given 15 perches of land each with houses. They were deprived of their livelihood and subsequently were misfits in the areas,” he observed.
“We have received petitions against such resettlements in the past and have also received recommendations to remedy such situations. The government has occupied private lands and some have various constructions including fully constructed Police stations and Army offices. The Police and the Army have agreed to release some of these lands with buildings but not all. Where they have not agreed to release such lands we need to talk to the original owners and provide alternatives or even compensation , after seeking their consensus consent.” Swaminathan said.