Lanka to return military-held land seized from Tamil civilians

Lanka to return military-held land seized from Tamil civilians

Lanka to return military-held land seized from Tamil civilians

Sri Lanka will return by 2018 all military-held land seized from Tamil civilians during the nearly three decades long civil war with the LTTE, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said today.

"Last week the military released 701 acres of land to the District Secretary of Jaffna, out of which, 201.3 acres were handed over to their original owners on June 25," Samaraweera said while addressing the 32nd UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.

All military-held lands owned by Tamil civilians will be handed back by 2018, he said.

"The Government has clearly instructed the military that all the land obtained from civilians must be released latest by 2018, and that the owners of whatever land that may be required for national installations or development purposes would be fully compensated," he said.

Samaraweera also assured a fair trial for victims of rights abuses.

"I can assure you that the mechanism that is finally set up will be one which has the confidence of the stakeholders, especially the victims, with fair trial and due process guarantees," Samaraweera said.

Reconciliation does not happen at once, overnight. It requires effort, hard work, commitment, and careful, continuous, concrete action. It is not an end that can be reached where no further work is required, he added.

Samaraweera said his government was dealing with the serious and controversial issue of setting up a judicial mechanism with international assistance.

"Sri Lanka is no stranger to international assistance and participation with many investigative and forensic experts having worked with us in the past. Of course, there are varying views on the nature, level and role of international participation," he said.

Both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have publicly declined to have foreign participation in then accountability mechanism.

Samaraweera said Sri Lanka was committed to implement the co-sponsored resolution of 2015 to protect the dignity of State, People and Security Forces, we will implement the proposals with patience, discipline and restraint.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister refuted the allegation of slowness in the process of accountability.

The Government recognises that, in order for the transitional justice process to be effective in achieving the desired objectives, the necessary mechanisms should be properly sequenced, integrated and coordinated, he said.

Several confidence-building-measures such as the release of Tamils-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January as part of efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of civil war with the LTTE that claimed more than 100,000 lives.  

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