One of the crucial factors of the post war scenario was the resettlement of those who were displaced during various stages of the war over the past 30 years.
But, the resettlement of those who were moved out of their homes during the final stages of the war gained prominence over those who left their homes years ago, for the simple reason that the newly displaced people had lost almost everything that they had and were therefore dependent on whatever assistance they got through the Government and the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that worked for the welfare of the war affected people.
Even today, the issue of resettlement is one of the key issues discussed when looking at solving the long- term and short-term needs of the war affected people.
Recently, President Maithripala Sirisena handed over 701 acres of land to their owners in Tellippalai, Jaffna. The current Government had been gradually releasing land areas that were taken over by military during the war back to their rightful owners.
During this ceremony, which was held on March 12, 650 families in Thellippalai and 50 families in Kopay were given back their lands. In addition, the President also said all lands in Kopay which were taken over by the military over the years have been released.
In addition, the Nadeswara College in Thellippalai which was occupied by the security forces during the war was released for the education of the children in the area.
The President had also assured that the Government would give priority to resettle the displaced in the North in their places of origin. The President also invited people from the South to witness the conditions under which the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) live in temporary shelters and camps.
Such moves by the Government play a crucial role in building confidence among the people.
High Security Zones
The High Security Zones (HSZ) were mostly prevalent during the war time. The Governments at the time stated that the HSZs were needed to ensure security to the specific areas.
One of the key demands of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) over the years had been the release of these lands back to the owners so that they could resume normal lives in their own lands.
One of the allegations levelled against the previous Government was that it was trying to change the demographic structure of the Northern Province by keeping the HSZ and by settling people from the South in the lands owned by the Tamils.
He also ensured that the Government would give priority to resettle the displaced in the North in their places of origin.
He stated that a group of extremists in the South is making various allegations and criticisms against this programme. He requested them to come to the North and witness the poor situation of the innocent people living in the camps.
However, the situation under the current Government had eased after it had taken steps to release these lands.
But, the question here is what happens to the lands that had been vacant and uninhabited for years? Over the past 30 years, hundreds and thousands of families had fled their homes to other parts of the country, and to other parts of the world too.
Most of them have settled down in the respective places where they are. Even their children have grown accustomed to the new surrounding to which the parents have moved.
There are other instances where several people do not have the proper documents needed to prove their ownership.
These factors definitely need to be considered when the Government continues its resettlement process.
Handing over lands and resettling the people is a welcome move. But, what is more important is that these people need to be given that extra push to get back on their feet.
Director, Centre for Women and Development, Saroja Sivachandran stated that many of these people who were given back their lands had no way of rebuilding their lives. “Lands alone will not help. Most of these people were from well-to do families. Now they do not have anything. The Government has to ensure that they are given the necessary backing for them to get back to the position they were in when they left their homes years ago,” she said.