COLOMBO: The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, C.V.Wigneswaran, has said that out of the 67,000 acres of private lands of the Tamils seized by the Sri Lankan armed forces during the war, only 3,500 acres have been returned so far.
Since the war ended in May 2009, only 5.2 % of the lands seized has been given back to their rightful owners.
Speaking on Human Rights Day in Jaffna on Saturday, the Chief Minister said that if the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is sincere about walking the talk on reconciliation, it should do the following things: return all private lands to their original owners; stop erecting Buddha statues and Buddhist temples illegally and in places where there are no Buddhists (barring army camps); stop arbitrary arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act; repeal the PTA; start an inquiry into war crimes with international participation; release Tamil prisoners who have been in detention for long without being charged; release militants and others arrested during the conflict; release fishing harbors now under the navy’s control; build houses which were destroyed during the war ; and consider stopping people from South Sri Lanka taking away the resources of the Tamil areas.
Wigneswaran noted that while many Sinhalese politicians are making statements which go against reconciliation, the utterances and actions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are encouraging. But they have to keep walking the talk in the face of opposition from even their own ministers.
To illustrate the obstacles in the way of the President and the Prime Minister, Wigneswaran pointed out how the Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana, Wijedasa Rajapakshe, without knowing the facts and checking with him, warned Northern politicians not to make demands which infuriated the Sinhalese. Rajapakshe, who charged that Wigneswaran and other Northern Tamil leaders wanted a ban on the construction of Buddhist temples in the North, should have spoken to him first before making the charge as it was a falsehood.
The Tamils do not want a blanket ban on Buddha statues and temples, Wigneswaran asserted. The Tamils are only objecting to putting up Buddha statues and temples illegally on private lands and in places where there are no Buddhists, the Chief Minister clarified.
While Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders, including its chief R.Sampanthan, are supporting the efforts to enact a new constitution in the hope that it will meet the Tamils’ demands, statements of important Southern Sinhalese politicians belie hopes that the Tamils’ needs will be met, Wigneswaran said.