Despite over a decade since the end of the armed conflict, Tamils in the North must wait another two years for their land to be returned from military occupation if New Democratic Front (NDF) presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa is elected, claimed a current Sri Lankan government minister.
Failing to fulfil previous promises, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne gave these assurances during their recent visit to the North, where thousands of acres of land remains occupied by the Sri Lankan military.
“We will hand over the lands to the owners within the first years of a future administration led by Sajith Premadasa, but will keep back all lands which are essential with the government,” Senaratne claimed. He did not elaborate on what the government felt would continue to be "essential".
In October 2018, current president, Maithripala Sirisena promised to ensure all occupied land in the North-East would be released by December 31, 2018 but fell short of this promise.
Over a decade has passed since the end of the armed conflict, however, the Sri Lankan military continues to control and occupy large swathes of land in the Tamil homeland, forcing families to remain displaced.
Ranil Wickremsinghe also reportedly stated that the government had already set up the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and the Office of Reparation to compensate the families of the disappeared. However, since its establishment, the OMP has failed to provide tangible results, diminishing victims’ faith in the office. Earlier this year, the OHCHR report raised concerns over the OMP’s approach and lack of results, stating that there is a “lack of a comprehensive strategy and of outreach on the process to address the past.”
The Office of Reparations Bill was passed in Sri Lanka’s parliament last year but was criticised by Sri Lankan civil society as the office does not have any decision-making power or independence.
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