In Sri Lanka, land has been a critical factor in the ethnic conflict that intensified and resulted in the outbreak of a war that spanned over two decades. In a post-war context the Government, political parties, civil society and citizens at large are faced with an unprecedented opportunity to address the root causes of the ethnic conflict and long-term grievances faced by different communities.
The report titled “LAND IN THE EASTERN PROVINCE: POLITICS, POLICY AND CONFLICT” by CPA highlights the gaps and shortcomings in several areas including the existing Constitutional, Legal and Policy framework, the practical challenges to accessing, owning and controlling land, land disputes and conflicts as well as boundary issues between administrative divisions and current initiatives addressing landlessness and compensation/restitution. While profiling existing problems in the post-war context, through this report, CPA hopes to increase public understanding of the nature of the land problem in the East and to provide alternatives and solutions. The report is also meant to increase engagement of the public and policy makers on land issues; to ensure that future initiatives take into consideration present problems and to contribute toward a rights-based policy framework for land issues.
There are a host of recommendations which can be made with regard to each aspect of the land problem, but most importantly there has to be a two-fold transformation in approach. Firstly, the need for policy reform has to be acknowledged. There needs to be full implementation of existing provisions and amendments in the Constitution and ordinary law, as well as a comprehensive land policy introduced by the Government setting out State policy. Secondly, the focus has to shift from national level requirements of the State to a people-centric and community approach. This would ensure more responsive governance and strengthen the Government’s initiatives on re-building trust between communities, promoting development, strengthening peace in the East and in the country at large.