Sept 19, Jaffna: Sri Lanka Army has no plans to take over lands belonging to civilians in Jaffna, the major city of the Northern Province as some parties have claimed, the visiting UN team was told.
Commander Security Forces Jaffna (SF-J) Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe has told the visiting United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) team that the Army has already handed back a majority of the land to their owners and the owners of other houses the military currently occupying are paid rent until they are released in future.
"We have no plan of acquiring civilians' lands to establish military camps in Jaffna. Army has already earmarked government lands for that purpose," he has said
"However, the government will acquire some lands needed for the expansion of the Palaly airport and the Kankasanthurai Harbor after paying compensation to legitimate owners," he has added.
When the UN team led by Hanny Megally, Chief Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa Branch of OHCHR called on the Commander on Monday (17), he has apprised them of the profile of Jaffna, history of the separatist conflict and devastation caused by the LTTE to the lives and property.
Speaking of reducing troop presence in the peninsula, General Hathurusinghe has said that a large number of soldiers recruited for the Army to fight the three-decade long war have to be housed in the country and Jaffna is also a part of the country.
Nevertheless, the number of troops present in Jaffna is much lesser comparing to some districts in the southern part of the island, he has noted.
He has told the OHCHR officials that the Army has launched a number of community welfare programs soon after the country was liberated. Livelihood activities for Ex-LTTE combatants, housing project for destitute families, scholarships for students from low-income families are a few among them.
Megally has expressed his appreciation to the SF-J Commander for educating them with a comprehensive presentation on the present situation in Jaffna and for their commitment to achieve a sustainable peace.
The team is to offer advice and technical assistance to the government on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as required by the US-sponsored UN resolution adopted at the 19th session of UNHRC on March 22 this year.
The UN team has also met Jaffna Bishop Most Rev. Fr. Dr. Thomas Saundaranayagam and the Government Agent S. Arumainayagam during their stay in Jaffna.