Swaminathan: 8,000 acres of private lands still under military

By Saman Indrajith

Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister D. M. Swaminanthan yesterday told Parliament that about 8,000 acres of private lands were still under the control of the security forces and they would be gradually released for resettlement.

Participating in the committee stage debate on the budget proposals under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, Minister Swaminathan said that the government was in the process of releasing land to ensure the resettlement of IDPs and returnees where they had lived previously. 

He said that 1,000 acres of land from Jaffna, 500 acres from Kilinochchi and 1,000 acres from Sampoor, Trincomalee and other small parcels of lands had been released by the state for resettlement purposes. “Similarly, the government is committed to releasing lands gradually where military troops are stationed in the Northern and Eastern provinces to facilitate the resettlement of the displaced people.”

“The government is committed to releasing remand prisoners who have been detained for long periods without any charges or for minor offences.  Already 39 remand prisoners have been given bail. The release of the other prisoners is being considered by the Attorney General’s Department. With regard to ex-combatants a total of 12,000 have been rehabilitated by the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation and reintegrated into the society, the Minister said.

“Various reform efforts on prisons including relocation, reducing congestion, involving detainees in development, open air prison camps, improving of infrastructure facilities, improving health conditions of prisoners and integrating the prisoners into the society are being seriously considered for implementation.  The shifting of Welikada, Badulla, Tangalle and other prisons from heavily populated, fast developing urban locations to other areas as part of the prison reforms agenda is being implemented in an accelerated manner. ICRC guidelines will be used for the design of new prisons to ensure international standards. The Bogambara Prison has been shifted to Pallekelle and the Tangalle prison is to be shifted to Angunukolapelassa by June 2016 under the reform initiative.”

“The Cabinet has granted approval for undertaking a 65,000-unit housing programme with concessionary financing arrangements for the displaced families. Moreover, the Indian Government has also supported 46,000 housing units under its grant assistance programme which will be completed by the end of this year. Further, assistance has also been provided by the Government of Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Bahrain for constructing over 500 houses in the Mannar District and are in various stages of construction. Under the European Union grant programme 3,400 housing units are to be provided and livelihood and income generation support is also to be extended to the conflict affected families. The ministry undertook several relocation programmes and provided alternative accommodation to displaced families as a result of military occupation of private lands. The Keppapilavu relocation programme in the Mullaitivu District with 287 houses including infrastructure facilities is an example of Relocation Programme and has been implemented.”