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Sri Lanka releases army-controlled land in Northern Province

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

Sri Lanka's new government has released 570 acres of privately-owned land in the Tamil- dominated Northern Province that were until now held by the army, as part of a reconciliation with the minority community.

Sri Lanka Army's Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said that privately-owned land held by the military in Jaffna Peninsula's Valikamam sector was released to the charge of the chief administration officer there.

The district secretariat office will formally hand the land over to their rightful owners, Jayaweera said.

The government of Maithripala Sirisena, which was elected in January, has released 1,000 acres of land since March-end as part of a move to reconcile with the Tamil population.

Thousands of war-hit Tamils in the province have been demanding that their land be released so that they could return to the place where their homes once stood.

During the separatist conflict, which began in the mid 1980s, the army acquired civilian-held land for military purposes to fight the LTTE, which had by then stepped up its bloody campaign for a separate Tamil homeland.

Since the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, the government came under international pressure to return the civilian property. Thousands dislocated during Sri Lanka's brutal war still live in camps for internally displaced persons.

Additionally, pressure was also mounted to demilitarise the north to restore normalcy for the Tamil population.

The government has, however, resisted calls for scaling down military presence citing national security imperatives.

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First Published: Sun, April 12 2015. 19:57 IST