Army rejects claims of land grab

The Sri Lanka army denied claims by minority Tamil political parties that it was taking over civilian land in the north by force.

Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya insisted that most of the land which was occupied by the military during the war with the Tamil Tiger rebels, has been handed back to the civilians.

A key Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, staged a protest rally in the northern town of Jaffna on Tuesday against the alleged land grab by the military.

The protestors handed over a petition to government officials in the area demanding that the army vacate the civilian owned land.

“We have vacated most of the private lands and we are paying rent for whatever civilian land we are occupying. There is no so called land grab taking place. More than 56 percent of the land which was occupied by the army has been vacated after the war,” Wanigasuriya told Xinhua.

He also said that the military had requested for government land to relocate some of the remaining army camps in the north.

The military spokesman however said that the army will be compelled to remain on some civilian property for which compensation will be provided to the owner.

Under local laws the government can acquire land for development purposes and some private land surrounding the only airport in Jaffna is expected to be acquired as moves get underway to expand the airport.

The military defeated the Tamil Tigers three years ago after 30 years of war in the north and east of the island and the war affected areas are now being developed and normalcy restored.

However allegations of human rights abuses continue to haunt the army and a European human rights group recently raised fresh allegations saying women and girls in the north are being abused by the military.

Wanigasuriya however rejected the allegations and said that the international community should not fall prey to such claims which are not based on facts. (Xinhua)