The Government’s two year plan to return private lands back to their original owners, for which the Prescriptions (Special Provisions) Act was passed recently, would result in mass evictions, thus potentially precipitating another humanitarian crisis and conflict.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs said that the those occupying private lands illegally in formerly war-torn areas would be evicted adding that they would have to seek redressal in the form of compensation from courts.

The government, however, acknowledged that the vast majority of those occupying the private lands in such a manner were themselves those who had been uprooted from their own lands and had settled down in the backdrop of the war.

The Government Agent of Mullaitivu, Roopavathi Ketheeswaran explained that they were yet to receive instructions from the government on the mechanism and how the process would be practically implemented.

Meanwhile, the legal academia highlighted that the retrospective application of the Prescription (Special Provisions) Act, No. 5 of 2016 and the fact that this was an Act sans any dispute resolution methodology (the relevant minister would have to create regulations) and systems was problematic as such would result in the creation of hitherto non-existent issues and conflicts amongst the Tamils.

Senior Lecturer at the Department of Commercial Law of the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo, Attorney-at-Law Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa said that since the government could not solve this issue through the courts, they were trying to squeeze this law into the legal system, which sets a bad precedent.

In most of the cases there are no deeds as they have been destroyed by the war. The courts operate on the basis of the rule of law and when a case comes before the Jaffna District Court, the Court will ask for evidence in the form of a deed and in the case of Thesawalamai there are three types of deeds, one per each kind of personal estate. The Thesawalamai Pre-emption Ordinance, No. 59 of 1947 is also applicable here,” he said.
Can they even give an affidavit attesting to the possession of land? There could be 10 disadvantaged persons including those coming from Canada and Australia fighting for Lot A in Wellamulliwaikkal. How long will the Court take to resolve the matter?” he queried. (AW and RLJ)