Minister takes up dispute over Mullaitivu air base with President

By Shamindra Ferdinando


The military-held civilian owned land would be released wherever possible, authoritative security officials told The Island yesterday.


They were responding to ongoing protests in Mullaitivu demanding the immediate releasing of Keppapulavu land in one-time LTTE bastion.


Prisons Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister D.M. Swaminathan has made representations to President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the commander in chief of the armed forces, on behalf of protesting Keppapulavu residents.


Attorney-at-law Swaminathan has requested President Sirisena that Keppapulavu land be released as soon as possible to facilitate resettlement of the displaced. Subsequent to the meeting between President Sirisena and Minister Swaminathan, the former has taken up the issue with Army Chief Lt. Gen. Crishanthe de Silva.


“His Excellency the President spoke to the Army Commander and the Army Commander had assured that he will release the subject land very soon,” Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 14) issued shortly after Minister Swaminathan met President Sirisena.


Although, the previous government had constructed a model village for those whose land were taken over for security purposes, protests continued over a period of time. Since the change of government in January 2015, they have stepped up protests leading to Minister Swaminathan taking up the contentious issue.


Since the successful conclusion of the war against the LTTE in May 2009, the previous government had been gradually releasing land in various parts of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, including the Jaffna peninsula.


A senior military official emphasized that those who had been demanding accountability on the part of the military in respect of alleged atrocities and troop strength down to the bare minimum in the two provinces didn’t even acknowledge the sacrifices made by the armed forces in their fight against terrorism. The undeniable truth is that eradication of the LTTE in May 2009 made return of land for civilian use possible,” the official said, adding that attempts were being made to cause friction between the military and the civilians. The official said that various interested parties had been working overtime to undermine post-war military-civilian relations. President Maithripala Sirisena, himself is on record as having said that some northern politicians had interfered with resettlement plans.


Military pointed out the area called Keppapulavu is in fact the SLAF base in Mullaitivu. At the end of the Vanni offensive, the SLAF established bases at Iranamadu and Mullaitivu, formerly used by the LTTE. An authoritative SLAF official said that as far as they were concerned the SLAF Mullaitivu had been set up in land belonging to the forest department. “Of course, there is now a dispute and high level discussions are underway in this regard.”


The official said that there were runaways at Iranamadu and Mullaitivu. Responding to a query, the official said that some land that had been held by the SLAF was released though fresh protests erupted recently.


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