CPA – Commentary on Land Circular 2013/01

by Centre for Policy Analysis, Colombo, March 12, 2013

 Commentary on Accelerated Programme on Solving Post Conflict Land Issues in the Northern and Eastern Provinces 

In January 2013 the Government issued a new circular titled Accelerated Programme on Solving Post Conflict State Lands Issues in the Northern and Eastern Provinces- Land Circular 2013/01 (herein referred to as the Circular), which is the most recent effort by the Government to address land problems in the North and East. The Circular sets out a process to be implemented over two years to identify and address problems relating to State land in these two provinces. The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has prepared this short note to highlight key issues and concerns relating to this Circular and its implications if implemented.

CPA has engaged in research and advocacy on land rights and related issues for over a decade, documenting developments and providing recommendations on land and related issues both in terms of the war and the tsunami. In the post-war context, CPA has critiqued and advocated for reform in the existing legal, policy and administrative structures, including with regards to the previous Land Circular (2011/4), so that problems on the ground and grievances of affected communities are addressed.

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…Problematic aspects in the previous Circular that were highlighted by CPA including the Land Commissioner General issuing a circular relating to both state and private land and military involvement in civilian administrative duties have been omitted in the new Circular. The Circular does respond to some of the complexities of the ground, including the difficulties in proving ownership and the need to recognise the competing claims of original claimants and those who have encroached or are occupying someone else‟s land and have developed these lands. The Circular however, needs to be supplemented by other processes, some of which are detailed below.

Although the Circular is an improvement from the previous one, there are provisions which lack clarity and are ambiguous. The Circular states at the outset that it is to apply only to state land and is to be implemented in 2013 and 2014, ensuring a narrow focus and application. What has been kept out of the Circular is the time period available for applications to be made, time to be taken to decide a matter and whether there will be an appeal process, in the event an individual feels unfair treatment with the process provided in the Circular. Furthermore, while the Circular explicitly states that it deals with issues related to state land, there is reference to private land under which deals with „lost lands.‟…

The Circular seems to indicate that if private land or lands distributed under state grants are „lost‟ for „development activities’ or when „other people have permanently settled‟, then an acquisition process is to commence. Is the Circular implying that the reasons given above are to be now considered a „public purpose‟?

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