Restricting the powers of the Sri Lankan civil administrators on land rights

Philip Gunawardane, a name goes with land reforms
Land is a highly sensitive issue in the tiny island of Sri Lanka. The cause behind the three decade civil war was also the land ownership. The Tamil minority political movements claimed Northern and Eastern parts of the island their Homeland. Later, a map of a separate Ealam state was also drawn and bloody war was fought to win it and to defeat it.

Even in Southern parts of the island also, the government of Sri Lanka has effected several land reforms. One in late 1950s was aimed at strengthening the land rights of the tenant farmers. three quarters of the profit should go to the tenant farmer who cultivates the field, whereas the owner of the agricultural land gets one quarter of the profit according to the Paddy Lands Act No I of 1958. However, even more than 50 years later, there are around 250,000 tenant farmers in Sri Lanka where the government figures point to the availability of 1.8 million acres of agricultural land.

Interestingly, the Federal Party, the predecessor of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) voted against the 1958 bill with the United National Party (UNP). LTTE later fought a bloody civil war for the land rights of Tamils.

Later, 1972 Land Reforms Act restricted the individual land ownership to 50 acres.
Bandu de Silva wrote to The Island in 2008, "In the Eastern Province, especially in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts, one does not meet any problems in getting possession of state land or other owner’s lands transferred in one’s names through fraudulent transfers. There are expert Notaries Public who would prepare you a deed for any extent of land one wants and see that they are registered and go through without any hassle even in courts. A former Government Agent in Batticaloa confirmed that this was absolutely true. So today one speaks of land belonging to this community and that community but the truth could be something else!"

This idea can be mixed with a bit of racism but it unveils a sad reality that prevails not only in certain parts of the island.It is true that mass scale corruption takes place at the Divisional Secretariats pertaining to land. People obtain licences for the state land and later sell them at lucrative prices. I once met a man who was trying to sell such land in Matugama town at Rs. 70,000 per perches. I asked how the buyer can get the transfer done. He promised to get it done for the buyer.

This news story which I wrote to Colombo Page should be considered in this backdrop.

Sri Lanka government has decided to restrict the powers of the Divisional Secretaries over state land.
The Ministry of Land and Land Development says that the decision was taken due to the corruption suspected to take place in Divisional Secretariats.
The Ministry says that it has received a large number of complaints related to the corruption in transfer of land rights and distribution of government land to people.
Accordingly, the government has decided to create a new position of Additional Land Officer in each Divisional Secretariat. The position is to be held by an officer who has an expert knowledge on land issues.
Sources say that the President has also approved the proposal of the Minister of Land and Land Development Janaka Bandara Thennakoon regarding the measure, Ministry sources said.
I don't know what the Sri Lankan civil servants who are continuously losing their colonial time charisma think about this.

P.S.: Bandu Silva has written two articles on former Minister Philip Gunawardane with lot of information on 1958 Paddy Lands Act Read them:
A peep into the Paddy Lands Act, 1958 - 1
A peep into the Paddy Lands Act, 1958 -2

-Ajith Parakum Jayasinghe .


  1. ලබන්නා වූ අලුත් අවුරුද්ද ඔබ ට පවුලේ සැමට වාසනාව ගෙනේවා.....
    මම සමකය වටේ ලියන නලින්


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