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President will return land assures TNA Sampanthan

The Sri Lankan president has instructed the army to return lands in Kepapilavu, Puthukkudiyiruppu and Kilinohchi back to the Tamil people, the leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R Sampanthan said on Monday citing a meeting he had with the president.

At a press conference, Mr Sampanthan, flanked by TNA MPs MA Sumanthiran and Selvam Adaikkalanathan, Mr Sampanthan said, "the president clearly told us that he had no objection to the lands being returned to the people in so far us Kepapilavu is concerned."

The site has been the focus of a prolonged protest by the land owners who have called on the government to release the land back to them. Recent weeks have seen a number of similar protests across the North-East with people calling for the release of land from the military.

On the Kepapilavu situation, Mr Sampanthan continued, "fifty-four permits have been issued. The government had examined the permits. Forty-two of them - even the others. There are records to the effect that 54 permits have been issued. These people have also been given some other alternative land. They have to decide to which land they will go - whether they will go to the original land, or whether they will go to the new land, on top of which houses have been constructed. They must communicate their decision to the government agent. Whichever land they want to go to they will be allowed to go to that land."

"In so far as Puthukkudiyiruppu is concerned there are 16 acres of land belonging to 19 families. Some of these lands are private lands, some of these lands are permit lands. Army has chosen an alternative land but is presently under the control of the forest department. Steps are being taken to release that land and hand over that land to the army. And when the army is given that land, which should be in the next few days - in terms of the presidents instructions - the people should be able to return to their land at Puthukkudiyiruppu."

"In our presence the president spoke to the acting defence secretary, the president spoke to the army commander and the air force commander, and gave them instructions that it should be done immediately in the course of the next few days and wanted the action taken forthwith. And we think such action will be taken and the land will be returned."

"We have also requested the return of the land belonging to the Kilinochchi Mahavithyalayam which is presently under the control of the army - a part of it. Even in regard to that the president instructed the army to release that land early. That land too could be released early."