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Jan-14-2014 01:52printcomments

Colonization Schemes: What Did The B-C Pact Say?

These are lands on which these people have lived for generations and centuries.

R Sampanthan
R Sampanthan

(COLOMBO) - I am happy to follow the Minister, the Hon. Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, who, I think, in the course of his statement referred to the multifarious problems that exist in the North and the East pertaining to State land. I will be dealing with some of these issues in the course of my speech.

Lands, Sir, is a fundamental issue. It has enormous influence on vital aspects of human activity and it is crucial, particularly from the point of view of the affected people, like persons displaced during the war and so on. There are private lands. Large extents of private lands are to be acquired by the Government in both the North and the East. The owners are opposed to such acquisition. These are lands on which these people have lived for generations and centuries. People have gone to court in regard to this matter and the Government has given certain commitments to court on this question. But, unfortunately, those commitments have not been kept. In fact I have raised some of the issues in Parliament and I have been given some commitments on the Floor of this House, but unfortunately, even those commitments are not being kept.

There are substantial lands held on permits issued by the State. There are lands possessed by people over long periods of time for which they have not been issued permits because Governmental machinery has not functioned in some of these areas efficiently for a long period of time. No land kachcheries have been held. Necessary action was not taken by Government to give land to landless people. These people are landless people and are entitled to receive land. There is documentary proof of the fact that they have cultivated those lands or lived on those lands. There is what is known as the “Dappu” entered in regard to paddy fields. There are also other documents with Local Government officials to establish that people have possessed these lands. It is necessary that all these people must be given those lands. It is also necessary that a vast number of people who do not have lands are also given lands to enable them to live on such lands and to cultivate such lands.

People were displaced, Sir, in large numbers both in the North and the East. Some have returned Some are unable to return because their lands, particularly agricultural lands, are unlawfully held by others. Those lands have been encroached upon, trespassed upon by other persons and are being held by those persons, largely new settlers from adjoining areas in the East and in the North, such lands are held by the military.


There are also instances where persons are being brought from other areas to these lands in both the North and the East. These people have no means to survive unless they cultivate their agricultural land. In the matter of residence, those people who do not have land are unable to obtain any relief for the purpose of their residence because they must own a land before they can even build a house. So, these are matters that need to be attended to. But, unfortunately, the authorities are not resolving these issues. The people have complained to Divisional Secretaries, to land authorities, both at central and provincial levels. They have complained to the police and sought interference by the law-enforcement authorities, but there is no resolution. There appears to be a lack of will on the part of the authorities to resolve these issues in an effective manner. It appears that in some instances such delay is deliberate. Land should be restored to people who are entitled to such lands, and landless people must be given lands. There appears to be no definite arrangement to implement this responsibility. This is beneficial to people who are unlawfully possessing such lands. It gravely affects the displaced people who want to return, and the landless people who are entitled to State land and want to receive land. These people can resume normal lives only when this issue is resolved in a just manner.

The implementation of impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms is one of the components in the Resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013, which the Sri Lankan Government had been called upon to implement. That is no mechanism whatever to resolve such land issues. The position is only getting worse by the day. People are suffering immensely. In some so-called welfare centres, people are living in squalid conditions. I am sorry to state that the Government is insensitive to this situation. In some areas, high officials want people to suffer because the people want to be resettled on the lands from which they were displaced and are not willing to comply with the directions of the officials in regard to the area of resettlement. This applies to particularly the Sampur area in the Trincomalee District. People have been deprived of their dry rations; people have been made to starve. There is a retired military official who is retained as Government Agent in Trincomalee for more than seven years. I wish to pose the question whether he is being retained to implement such programmes. Such a long term for a government agent is not heard of in public service. The Governor of the Eastern Province against whom the previous provincial government resolved that he should be removed, the Cabinet of Ministers unanimously resolved that he should be removed and wrote to the President but he is not being removed and his term has been extended and he has been given a fresh term.

Why are these things being done? The general impression is that it is these persons who are creating obstruction in regard to the resettlement of these people on the lands from which they were displaced. A reasonable resolution in regard to disputes pertaining to land is fundamental for reconciliation. There can be no reconciliation unless disputes pertaining to lands are settled reasonably. Reasonable resolution of issues, particularly power pertaining to land, are also inextricably linked to the evolution of a reasonable political solution.

I would like to trace, Sir, the history of this issue. I would first like to refer to the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact signed on the 26th of July, 1957. What did the Pact say with regard to Colonization Schemes? This is what the Pact contained. I quote:

    “(F) It was agreed that in the matter of colonisation schemes the powers of the Regional Councils shall include the power to select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the area at present administered by the Gal Oya Board in this matter requires consideration”.

    That is because at that point of time, a substantial number of people from outside had been settled in that area administered by the Gal Oya Development Board. But, other than that area, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, this was to be the position.

    Then, we had the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact, Sir, which was signed on the 24th of March, 1965 and this is what the Pact stated in regard to State lands. I quote:

    “4. The Land Development Ordinance will be amended to provide that citizens of Ceylon be entitled to the allotment of land under the Ordinance.

    Mr. Senanayake further agreed that in the granting of land under colonization schemes the following priorities be observed in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

    (a) Land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces should in the first instance be granted to landless persons in the district.

    (b) Secondly, to Tamil-speaking persons resident in the northern and eastern provinces.

    (c) Thirdly, to other citizens in Ceylon, preference being given to Tamil citizens resident in the rest of the Island.”


That was the Pact signed with Mr. Dudley Senanayake. Two of the tallest leaders, Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mr. Dudley Senanayake who served this country, signed these Pacts along with the undisputed leader of the Tamil people, the late Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, in their capacity as Prime Ministers of this country. Their idea was that the territorial identity of minority peoples, who preponderantly occupied the Northern and Eastern Provinces, must be preserved.

That is because they felt that such an arrangement was fundamental to ethnic peace and harmony. Unfortunately, Sir, that matter was not implemented and I think that has been the primary cause for the conflict, which everyone in this country has faced for several decades.

I might mention, Sir, – I do not want to be misunderstood – that when the country attained Independence in 1947, not a single Member of Parliament from the majority community was elected in the Eastern Province. But, today we have five Members of Parliament who have been elected from the majority community in the Eastern Province. That is because the thinking of both Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mr. Dudley Senanayake has not been implemented. I might mention, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that between 1947 and 1981, while the natural increase in the Sinhala population in the whole country was 238 per cent, the Sinhalese population in the Eastern Province increased by 883 per cent. In other words, the natural increase of the Sinhalese population in the whole country was less than two and a half times between 1947 and 1981, but, in the same period, the increase in the Sinhalese population in the Eastern Province was almost nine times. Those facts, Sir, speak for themselves and clearly indicate how unjust this question of allocation of land has been.

Then, we come to the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Sir, which was the next step in regard to State land. Item 18 of the Provincial Council List says, I quote:

    “Land, – Land, that is to say, rights in or over land, land tenure, transfer and alienation of land,  land use, land settlement and land improvement, to the extent set out in Appendix II.”

That is the land power given to Provinces in regard to State land.

Appendix II states, I quote:

    “State land shall continue to vest in the Republic and may be disposed of in accordance with Article 33(d) and written law governing the matter.

    Subject as aforesaid, land shall be a Provincial Council Subject ….”

I repeat,

“Subject as aforesaid, land shall be a Provincial Council Subject, subject to the following special provisions:-”

There were certain special Provisions made in regard to that matter.

Land was also referred to, Sir, in the Reserved List II in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which states, on the question of land, I quote:

“… State Lands and Foreshore, Except to the Extent Specified in Item 18 of List I.”

In other words, that is, except to the extent specified in Item 18 of the Provincial Council List.

So, the power devolved on Provincial Councils in regard to State land was to remain. I lay emphasis on this matter, Sir, on account of certain developments that have taken place recently.

So, even under the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Sir, you would see that there was power given to Provincial Councils over State land however limited or inadequate such power maybe.

Then, from there, Sir, we move on to the Constitutional proposals of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. I would first briefly refer to the proposals that she placed before the country in 1995 on Land and Land Settlement. Paragraph 4.1 of the proposals states, I quote:

    “ 4.1  Land will be a devolved subject and State land within a region will be vested in the Regional Councils. State land within a Region required for the purposes of the Centre in respect of a reserved subject may be utilized by the Centre in consultation with the relevant Regional Council in accordance with such procedures as may be established by law.

    4.2  Priority in future land settlement schemes will be given to persons first of the district and then of the Region. “

These proposals of Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1995 were followed by the Constitutional proposals she placed before Parliament in 2000. What is stated under Chapter XVI pertaining to land is as follows. I quote:

    “143(2) The Centre and the Regions shall succeed to such State land at the commencement of the Constitution in the manner hereinafter            provided and shall hold such State land in the name of the Republic. “

The next paragraph states further, I quote:

    “(3) (a) The Centre shall succeed to State land controlled or used, in relation to subjects and functions enumerated in the Reserved List, by the Central Government, its institutions or any public corporation at the commencement of the Constitution. ”

Then, Paragraph 5 states, I quote:

    (5) Every Region shall succeed to all other State land within the Region and such State land shall, subject to -

    (a) The rights enjoyed, immediately prior to the commencement of the Constitution, by any person in lawful possession or occupation, immediately prior to the commencement of the Constitution, of any such land;  and

    (b) be at the disposal of the Regional Administration of that Region for the purposes set out in the Regional List, and the Regional Administration shall be entitled to exercise rights in or over such land, including land tenure, transfer and alienation of land, land use, land settlement and land improvement, in accordance with applicable written law.

    (6) (a) Where the Central Government is satisfied that State land in a Region is required  for the purpose of a subject in the Reserved List, the Central Government may, after consultation with the relevant Regional Administration, require the Regional Administration to make available to the Central Government or to such public authority as the Central Government may specify, such land as may reasonably be required for such purpose and the Regional Administration shall comply with such requirement.”

Further, Sir, on the question of priority it states, I quote:

    “(8) Priority in land settlement schemes after the commencement of the Constitution shall be accorded first to landless persons of any sub-division, recognized by law, of a District, then to landless persons of the District and then to persons of the Region.”


That is what Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s proposals stated, both in 1995 and 2000.

What is significant about this proposal, Sir, is that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a Member of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s Cabinet of Ministers and was a party to this proposal. That was definitely the position of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and all its progressive alliance partners.

I am confident that this continues be their position even today. In fact, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he addressed the inaugural meeting of the APRC and the Committee of Experts in 2006, wanted them to study all earlier proposals starting with the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact and the patterns of power-sharing in other countries the world over. Land is always a regional or state subject in every other country.

The majority of the Committee of Experts came up with their report on State land and their position is very clear. The majority of the Committee of Experts appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and guided by him in his inaugural address at the first meeting, deliberated and came up with their proposals in regard to State land. It states in paragraph 17:1, I quote:

    “The Centre shall succeed to State land controlled or used by the Central Government and its institutions in relation to subjects and functions in the National List at the commencement of the Constitution”.

I am happy to follow the Minister, the Hon. Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, who, I think, in the course of his statement referred to the multifarious problems that exist in the North and the East pertaining to State land. I will be dealing with some of these issues in the course of my speech.

Lands, Sir, is a fundamental issue. It has enormous influence on vital aspects of human activity and it is crucial, particularly from the point of view of the affected people, like persons displaced during the war and so on. There are private lands.

Source: Tamil National Alliance

http://tnapolitics.org/?p=1992

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