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Sri Lankan government pledges to return 818 acres in Sampur

The Sri Lankan government pledged on Tuesday to return 818 acres of land in the Sampur region of the Eastern province to "original owners" by the end of April, said the Minister of Resettlement, Reconstruction and Hindu Religious Affairs, D M Swaminathan.

The government also promised to release 234 acres of land, currently under the Sri Lankan navy, to its original owners, reported the state media site, News.lk, adding that the "preliminary phase of the transfer had already begun".

The new pledges come a day after the government promised to release 425 acres of army occupied land in Jaffna.

Commenting on the announcement, during a ceremony attended by the Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena, the Northern Province's chief minister said that whilst “we are no doubt glad a start has been made to give back our people’s lands... their expectations had been far in excess to that seen on the ground today”.

“Unless Grama Sevaka Divisions 244 and 252 are released in full as promised earlier, what has been gingerly granted today would hardly be of any use to the few families now selected to enter their erstwhile denied lands,” he added.

Citing several examples of Tamil villages that remain cordoned off by the Sri Lankan military, Chief Minister Wigneswaran concluded by saying:

"In the above backdrop I urge the issue of Land and Property be addressed based on well-established international principles and rights as outlined in the Pinheiro Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons, Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

“Let us hope humane thinking will ensure the restoration of our people’s lands and the withdrawal of the armed services from our areas except to keep a minimum surveillance in the area in line with international norms and standards.”

See full address here.

Related article: Sri Lankan president grants release of 425 acres of army-occupied land in Jaffna (23 Mar 2015)