Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Who needs papers?

The Sri Lankan government will support the ‘rightful’ residents of the North and East who have lost the documents proving ownership of their lands, the Daily Mirror reported.
Sounds great – exactly what is needed in the Northeast, where after decades of war and displacement, many people do not have the official documents to prove their ownership of their properties.
A telling problem, however, promptly arises: what is the criteria by which people can prove ownership of their ancestral lands? And who decides on their validity?
The same government, it seems, whose military offensives drove these people from their homes.
The real point of all this is underlined by how large numbers of Sinhalese are being hurriedly settled in Tamil areas through government-funded schemes.

According to a 2002 survey by the Sinhala-dominated state itself, 81% of the displaced population was Tamil, 14% Muslim and 5% Sinhalese (see Amnesty International's report on Sri Lanka's displaced).

Since then hundreds of thousands of more Tamils have been displaced by military offensives.

Under the ‘Bimsaviya’ programme between 2011 and 2013, those who lost their documents will be issued with ‘Land Ownership Certificates’ (LOCs), the government says.
“Our goal is to identify the lawful owners and resettle them on their own land,” Minister of Land and Land Development Janaka Bandara Tennakoon said.
“The government is aware of the difficulties people face in getting back their houses and properties which they were compelled to abandon during the war. This has severely affected the resettlement programme."
The LOCs, he says, “would provide a much awaited solution to the land disputes in the North and East and help expedite the resettlement programme.”

For example, Sinhalese families recently settled – the government says ‘resettled’ - in Jaffna apparently had no problem proving their ownership of properties in the Tamil heartland.
It is worth noting that Jafffna has been under government control since 1995 - following the Sri Lankan offensive which displaced almost the entire population of the region.
In all that time, Sinhala ‘resettlement’ has never been raised as an issue by successive governments in Colombo – unlike the resettlement of Tamil-speaking Muslims, which was raised in the Norwegian-led peace process, also.
So, whilst hundreds of thousands of Tamils today remain displaced or are 'resettled' (actually often just taken from camps and dumped by roadside), Sinhalese setting up in various places in the Northeast with military assistance apparently already have the government-issued papers.
Sounds like 'reconciliation', Sri Lanka-style.