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(Pics by Chamila Karunarathne)

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.

Accordingly, Security Forces Headquarters – Jaffna last week announced that they have released an area of 19,159.38 acres of lands allowing the original owners to come back and resettle in their own lands. Jaffna, Security Forces Head Quarters Commander Major General Nandana Udawatte told the media at the Jaffna SF HQ in Palaly that they have fully supported to have a civil administration in the peninsula for a long time and by that date almost 20,000 acres of lands have been released Maj. Gen. Udawatte revealed that the Army released above lands in six steps during the last five years ensuring the safety and security of the area. “We have released more than 50 percent of the lands in the High Security Zone, Palaly to their owners. I must stress that the High Security Zone which previously encompassed 11,629 acres have now been reduced to 5,371 at present after the release of 6,258 acres to their owners,” Maj. Gen. Udawatte added.

The Army had released 370 acres on October 28, 2010 and 1,952 acres under the second stage on November 27same year. Another 1,971 acres had been released on May 9, 2011 under the third stage and 345 acres had been released under the fourth stage on October 6, 2011. The fifth stage released 617 acres on November 29, 2011.  And in this year, 1,000 acres had been released on March 23 and April 10 under the stage six.

The Jaffna Commander also said that out of 152 army camps in the peninsula had now been reduced to 93 as they have removed 59 camps since 2010, allowing the total civil administration in the area. However, he also said that only ‘very few families’ have returned and settled in their original lands even after they facilitated in resettlement process after releasing the lands. He also said that most of the owners are in overseas as he was informed. He also said that the Army had released the lands and now it is up to the Government Agent and other officials to monitor the next steps.

He also highlighted that not a single act of terror reported from the Peninsula since end of the humanitarian operation in 2009, and the Army had maintained very good surveillance and monitoring process assisting other law-making authorities in the area. Major General Udawatte also maintained that the Sri Lanka Army is a much disciplined element and strongly rejected Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran’s claim that post-war Army deployment in the province was responsible for the spread of the drug menace among Tamils in the North. He said that the Army has assisted to counter the drug menace in the Peninsula as well as in the province. He also reminded that one objective to establish the Palaly Camp in 1963 was to combat drug trafficking.

The officials from the Jaffna HQ also spoke about the de-mining activities and said that the proceedings almost over as it is left only a very small area which Major General Udawatte said only an area of 0.56 percent to be cleared from the total identified areas. “It was a tiresome and difficult job to finish an area of 99.44 percent from the normalcy restored in Jaffna in the beginning of 2010, an official added.

Major General Udawatte also stressed that they have no any connection with the civilian administration process in the peninsula as the Police engage in it and also denied reports that additional troops had been deployed to Jaffna following the recent protests over the rape and murder of a girl in the area.

Director Media to the Sri Lanka Army Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera led the team from Colombo to Jaffna.

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