Land Issues in the Northern Province: Post-War Politics, Policy and Practices

6 December 2011: Land Issues in the Northern Province: Post-War Politics, Policy and Practices by Senior Researchers Bhavani Fonseka and Mirak Raheem at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is the most recent endeavour by CPA to critique and provide alternatives to land and related issues in the post-war Northern Province in Sri Lanka.

Download the report as a PDF here.

The report examines the dynamic nature of land in the North, exploring issues such as governance, development and the role of marginal groups and their relevance to land in the area. The report also documents key trends such as militarisation, centralisation, politicisation and the ethnic dimension in relation to land. Beyond the war-affected areas, issues such as landlessness, competing claims and acquisition of land for development and public purposes all make clear that there is a need for policy reform which can define the post-conflict context in Sri Lanka.

The context in the North has dramatically changed over the last two and a half years since the war ended and the report attempts to capture some of these key changes. With the end of war, large areas are being demined and significant numbers of people have returned to their places of origin amidst high levels of militarisation, increased assistance and development programmes and significant political developments. As returnees and other war-affected communities attempt to rebuild, they have attempted to regain control over and claim ownership to their land. The Government has also made clear its interest in acquiring land for national security, development and other public purposes. The report highlights that land has re-surfaced as a central problem on the post-war agenda, especially given the situation regarding land ownership and control in the North, the high instances of lost documentation, mass displacement and secondary occupation, landless populations, and military occupation of land and involvement in land administration.

The report sets out key areas that need further attention and highlights ongoing processes for policy change. After a three-decade-old war, many changes have taken place where reform is needed to address present needs and grievances and avoid future disputes. The Government is engaged in an-ongoing initiative to address some of the key issues with respect to land in the North, the content and implications of which are discussed in this report. While welcoming moves for reform, CPA hopes such moves are done in a transparent and participatory manner, with the involvement of communities and local actors, and in keeping with principles such as equity and conflict sensitivity.

The report makes a strong case for reform, but the process through which such reform is introduced and implemented also needs consideration. CPA hopes the findings in the present report will inform stakeholders and the public of the issues in the area and create a constructive dialogue on resolving land and related issues in the North.

To obtain further information regarding the report and other initiatives related to the topic, the following persons can be contacted-

Bhavani Fonseka- [email protected]

Mirak Raheem- [email protected]

Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) was formed in 1996 in the firm belief that there is an urgent need to strengthen institution- and capacity-building for good governance and conflict transformation in Sri Lanka and that non-partisan civil society groups have an important and constructive contribution to make to this process. Focusing primarily on issues of governance and conflict resolution, CPA is committed to programmes of research and advocacy through which public policy is critiqued, alternatives identified and disseminated.

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