6th May 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka:
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) undertook a field visit to Jaffna and Killinochchi districts in April to assess the rule of law and human security situation in the areas. The CPA team spoke with a cross section of actors including Government officials, politicians, humanitarian agencies, civil society, media and community groups. During the course of the visit, key themes were highlighted as needing urgent attention including security considerations, preparations for Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections, the recent land acquisition process and its impact over land ownership and demographic change, as well as larger governance issues. These are briefly highlighted in this report.
Nearly four years after the end of the war, complex and challenging issues abound in the North. This report of a brief visit by CPA highlights some aspects of life in the North. It is by no means a comprehensive or definitive overview of issues on the ground. CPA notes the range of issues that were encountered during the short trip – from the day to day to the larger issues of politics and governance. Many of these issues are not new and have been highlighted by CPA in the past. Accordingly, CPA reiterates the recommendations made in previous years.
In light of possible NPC elections, there is now an opportunity to address shortcomings of previous years. It is paramount that the Government upholds basic constitutional guarantees and fully implements the Constitution including the devolution of power to the Provincial Councils. This visit demonstrated yet again the persistence of land problems, recently compounded by policy directives that may lead to the dispossession of land of thousands. CPA calls upon the Government to take urgent steps to address this situation and to institute processes that are transparent, participatory and just. CPA also calls upon Government and military officials to adhere to promises and pledges made including the release of private lands and to ensure people’s fundamental freedoms are respected. It is important that the Government takes immediate steps to build confidence among the people in the North by addressing the security situation, upholding law and order, providing a conducive environment for free and fair elections and ensuring that basic guarantees provided in the Constitutional and legal framework are adhered to. These steps are fundamental if reconciliation and unity are to be meaningful in Sri Lanka.