July 24, Colombo: Sri Lanka Army says that it has gradually returned a large extent of land to the original owners after reducing the size of army camps in Jaffna.
Military Spokesman and Ministry of Defence, Media Center Director Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said the land occupied by the Army now has been reduced to 6,500 acres from the original 26,000 acres.
He said nearly 20,000 acres of land has been returned to the owners after dismantling around 200 military camps.
The Spokesman noted that most of the returned land was earlier occupied by the LTTE for their military purposes after taking them over from the people by force.
However, he said it is necessary for the military to continue to maintain army camps in certain selected areas in the Jaffna Peninsula for national security as security is a matter that cannot be neglected.
Rejecting the reports that say the government is taking over the land to set up a new camp in Atchchuvely, the Spokesman said the Atchchuvely camp was in operation since 1995 and it is one of camps that the military has decided to retain in the peninsula.
He explained that the part of the land where the Atchchuvely camp is located is owned by the state while the rest of it is owned by nine individuals and none of them are displaced persons.
The Spokesman said the government is prepared to provide compensation to the owners.
The owners had earlier agreed to receive compensation but due to political pressure from Tamil politicians the public has held a protest recently when Army officers went to survey the land, Brigadier Wanigasooriya said.
Speaking of a similar incident happened in Mirusuvil, where the Sri Lanka Army 52nd Division Headquarters was situated, the Spokesman said there also the owner changed her mind about receiving compensation from the government for her land after political pressure.
He pointed out that those lands were earlier occupied by the LTTE by force and without any payments to the owners,
"However, as a state military force the Army had taken measures to provide compensation to the owner of the land and acquire the land complying with legal requirements," Brigadier Wanigasooriya said.