The Government’’ failure to appoint a National Land Commission (NLC) in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution has caused numerous obstacles and challenges in resolving land issues resulting in thousands of people suffering due to lack of an efficient system.
This was revealed at the TISL’s monthly ‘Sambhashana’ Panel discussion held in Anuradhapura on 28th June 2012 at the auditorium of the Central Bank’s Anuradhapura branch which was packed to capacity.
It was pointed out that according to the constitution, the NIC should be appointed with relevant officials and experts of the subject. One of the major responsibilities of the NLC is to compile a policy on land issues. But successive Governments have failed to appoint the NLC.
Due to this failure the Technical Secretariat on lands has also not being setup. Although eight Government institutions have the powers to deal with land issues, the lack of policy on lands has created huge problems for them.
Nimal Abesiri, Government Agent -Polonnaruwa, Asantha Gunasekara, Deputy Commissioner-General of Lands, Keerthi Gamage Deputy Chief Secretary – North Central Province, K.Ekanayake, Deputy Land Commissioner -Anuradhapura and Sumathipala Wahalawtta, former Land Commissioner – Southern Province were the panellists. TISL’s Shan Wijethunge moderated the discussion.
It was also revealed that more than four million complaints on land issues were being treated at the Land Commissioners Department due to the inefficient Jayabumi land certificate issue. In 1995 the government has issued one million certificates to the public under the Jayabumi programme.
The panelists also pointed out that the Land Development Act has to be amended as most of the contents are outdated not in keeping with the current structure in Sri Lanka. This has been pointed out to President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well when he visited Polonnaruwa recently, said Government Agent Nimal Abysiri.
Although Provincial Councils allege that they lack powers to settle land issues, the panellists explained that under the 13th Amendment certain powers were vested with them. But the Provincial Councils are yet to take over the powers they revealed.
They pointed out that land powers being vested with many institutions also created a host of difficulties for the public. When they have a problem they have to visit many offices to get their work done. It is very complicated and most of the poor people suffered as a result.
The Land Development Act has empowered two institutions, namely Divisional Secretariats and Mahaweli Offices to release land to the landless. But the two institutions have two different ways of doing it. This has led to a huge debate and has to be addressed soon. Further, they alleged that certain powers vested with these offices were handed over to the Forest Department creating confusion among public officials when dealing with land issues.
After the panelists made their opening remarks the floor was opened to questions and panelists had to handle dozens of queries by the participants.
The Sambhashana discussion coincided with the launch of TISL’s newest publication on land issues, in Sinhala and Tamil. TISL Chairman, M.D. Harold and staff members also participated in the event.