The government is preparing to amend legislation to revamp the Land Development Act. Amendments to the Act will possibly be presented in Parliament within the first quarter of 2016.
Secretary to the Minister of Lands, Dr. I.H.K. Mahanama, said the Legal Draftsman’s Department has been directed to have this amending legislation ready by January 2016 in time for it to be tabled in Parliament within the first three months of next year.
Meanwhile, the JVP accuses the government of possibly making plans to exploit weaknesses in the existing Land Development Act to facilitate the transfer of State land to business tycoons and foreigners. “If that is going to be the case we stand totally opposed to the proposed amendment” a JVP Spokesman said.
The existing law prohibits the sale or transfer of State land to foreign investors or buyers. The ceiling on land ownership for Sri Lankan is limited to 100 acres.
JVP General Secretary, Tilvin Silva observes that Budget 2016 removes the tax payable by a foreign buyer/investor when land is transferred to either of them. The Budget deficit is given as Rs 740 billion. The government has only two ways of bridging this deficit. The government has to either raise loans or sell some of the country’s assets. Against such a backdrop it appears as though the government is getting ready to amend the existing Act with the objective of transferring State lands to business tycoons at extremely cheap prices after enacting a law that simplifies these transactions and also lift the 100-acre ownership ceiling on Sri Lankans. We will oppose any such moves very strongly, he said.
Dr. Mahanama however, says that the proposed amendments only seek to grant ownership deeds to 1.7 million families living on gifted Swarnabhoomi and Jayabhoomi State land.
There are 600,000 families on Swarnabhhomi lands and another 600,000 families on Jayabhoomi lands, plus 500,000 squatter families living for very long periods of time on State land without deeds of ownership.. Nobody should object to the legal transfer of ownership of these lands to these families, he said.
All District Secretaries in the 25 districts Island wide had been notified of the government’s intention to transfer these ownership deeds to the people.
A Spokesman for the Legal Draftsman’s Department said the Ministry decided to proceed with amendment to the Act to facilitate these ownership transfers without having to consult the public on the issue.
The Attorney General’s Department has told all District Secretaries that they would be notified about the amendments before they are incorporated in the Draft Amendment Bill.
Workshops were meanwhile conducted two weeks ago for the District Secretaries of the Central and Wayamba Province, and last week for Southern province District Secretaries on the proposed changes and their views were solicited.
Workshops will be held this weekend too for District Secretaries in the Central and Uva Provinces, and next weekend, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and lastly in the Western and Sabaragamuwa Province. ‘The views of the District Secretaries are very important to us.
Dr. Mahanama said that 600,000 families with Swarnabhoomi titles are to be granted their title deeds as soon as the amendments are pushed through.