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Alliance challenges Sri Lanka’s land circular in court

Sri Lanka: The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) challenged Sri Lankan government’s new land circular in court. The circular contains a provision to temporarily suspend all distribution of land in North and East Sri Lanka unless these are for national security or development projects.

The Hindu reported that National List MP, M.A. Sumanthiran filed a petition in the Court of Appeal through his Attorney-at-Law, Moahan Balendra, seeking an interim order restraining certain respondents including the Land Commissioner General from acting upon the Land Circular No. 2011/04. The new circular exclusively deals with land in the Northern and Eastern provinces. It requires all persons in the North and East, including private landowners, to submit ‘ownership application forms’ disclosing all details of their land.

Under the circular, all landowners of the North and East, including private land owners such as the petitioner are required to furnish details to the relevant Divisional Secretary or Assistant Government Agent, through the Grama Niladari, within two months. The Land Settlement Department thereafter issued a public notice requiring all landowners in the Northern and Eastern provinces to submit their details on or before November 20, 2011.

The petition also says the provisions of the Registration of Title Act No. 21 of 1998 have not been complied with. For instance, no cadastral survey has been conducted in the Northern Province prior to issuing the public notice calling for details on private lands. The consequences of not furnishing such details are unknown. Hence private landowners stand to lose title to their lands if they fail to furnish details within two months.

The challenged circular provides that competing claims to state lands in the North and East would be decided by two Committees of Inquires and special mediation boards. The committees include military personnel in their membership, such as the Area Civil Coordinating Officer and a representative of the relevant Security Commander. Nominees of the police or of the three armed forces are appointed to an Observation Committee, which is established to assist the Committees of Inquiry.

Source: The Hindu