We recently wrote about the Sri Lankan military’s land seizures. Since then the Government of Sri Lanka has issued even more seizure notices, and we understand yet more are still to come.
Once again they are claiming this land in the public interest. Yet they have made no attempt to demonstrate that there will be any benefit to the public from the Army owning this land. In every single instance the land is to be taken by the military. In an example of how shameless the Sri Lankan Army can now afford to be, in once instance they even specify that the land is to be used to build a holiday resort.
In total 7063.8 acres of land has now been seized by the army in this way. As the average price of land in the Northern Province is Rs 260,000 per perch and there are 160 perches in an acre this means the total value of land seized by the government might be worth almost 300 billion rupees – that’s over $2 billion!
Furthermore the Government has deliberately made it exceptionally difficult for landowners to come forward and claim their land. The descriptions given of the areas to be seized are vague, imprecise, and on occasion clearly inaccurate. One notice gives three different latitudes for the northern boundary of the land to be claimed: one is at the latitude of Jaffna – many miles from the area of the land claim – while the other two are twenty and forty miles north of Jaffna in the middle of the Indian ocean! In other cases mere fragments latitude and longitude are given, and in a manner which does not relate to any common manner of giving coordinates. More commonly only a vague description of the land to be claimed is given.
We struggled to identify some of the areas of land in question, and had to make approximations in many cases. And we have access to the internet and powerful research and mapping tools. Given the extent to which we struggled, how do the Government of Sri Lanka expect a subsistence farmer or Internally Displaced Person to be able to establish if it is their land that is being stolen?
Small wonder that in most instances the current landowner is given as “claimant can not be traced”. However this too is inaccurate as the current landowners have come forward, and are now appealing to the courts, in over 2000 cases. Clearly the Sri Lankan Government did not try very hard to track them down. Indeed, writing for this blog, the Social Architects have claimed that the Government went even further than this and used deception and mistranslation to ensure that landowners did not come forward. In a case brought by 1474 petitioners (now increased to 2176) the point is made that many of the people who own this land were in daily contact with government officials who were well aware of their claim, and yet the Government still claimed that “the claimants cannot be traced”.
These cases are now going to court, but because of the lack of information many more people may well not be aware that the Government is plotting to take their land. Many people who left Sri Lanka still own land there, and that too could well be seized by the Government without their knowledge. For this reason we have created this map, to share information about the land which is to be seized:
- If you own land in the north of Sri Lanka, or know anybody that does, please take a moment to look at this map and forward it on, the more people who are aware of what is taking place the better.
- If you think you might be affected by any of these land seizures, or if you have any more precise information about the location of the land, photographs of the land, or who might own the land then please get in touch.
- More land notices are being issued all the time and we will update the map as we get them. If you know of any more land seizures please do get in touch and pass on the details. If you can send us a copy of the notice (in any language) so much the better.
Note: When using the map please be aware that the location of the items on the map are approximate in many instances. We have indicated if and how accurate we believe the location to be, but please use the land notice itself only to determine the true location of any piece of land.
The map can be accessed here, and is embedded below. Please share the link far and wide.