BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Sri Lankan government forces may never return swathes of land taken from ethnic Tamils during a decades-long civil war, land and human rights experts said on Friday, further impoverishing tens of thousands uprooted in the bloody conflict.
ELLIPALLAI, 19 June 2015 (IRIN) – As a young girl, Kasthuri Udayakumaran’s grandmother would tell her of a house where birds chirped as the morning sunlight streamed through the thick foliage of a peaceful village. It seemed like a fantasy, a world away from her home in the northern city of Jaffna where soldiers manned checkpoints and claymore mines exploded on dusty streets.
Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province, and it is also the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna District located on a peninsula of the same name. At one time Jaffna’s population exceeded 85,000. However, by today the number has been reduced to 60,030 and the total population in the Northern Province, which once showed as 734,000 (1981) at present stands at 614,428, according to the Jaffna District Secretariat.
After the end of the war against the LTTE in May 2009, the government began its mega development programs in the Northern Province and the Security Forces also left most of the lands which they were using during the operation period.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is unlikely to hand back large chunks of land back to the Tamils until after the parliamentary elections in September this year, a highly placed official source said.
Land is a sensitive subject in Sri Lanka, which is why power over it is held by the Central government in Colombo, even though it is a Provincial subject under the 13 th. Amendment of the Constitution. Sensitivity is particularly high in the case of lands seized from the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces for strategic reasons during the war.