SL Forest Department seizes permit lands of 600 Tamil families in Madu

[TamilNet, Saturday, 18 August 2018, 23:10 GMT]
The SL Forest Department has started to grab the lands of more than six hundred Eezham Tamil families, who have been residing in their permit lands for more than three decades in Madu Divisional Secretariat division of the district of Mannaar district. The grounds had been appropriately allocated to the families through Land Kachcheari forty and fifty years ago, and many of the families have seen their third generation in the residences located in the lands. However, the SL Forest Department, which comes under the direct rule of the occupying unitary state in Colombo, has systematically deployed Sinhala forest officers and field assistants from South to seize the lands of Eezham Tamils, say grassroots activists in the division.

The Divisional Secretary of Madu division is fully aware that these lands belong to the people. However, he is unable to help them as the Forest Department thoroughly disregards every rule, grassroots activists at Kugnchuk-ku'lam village told TamilNet.

The same type of land grab is also reported in the three neighbouring villages, Periya-mu'rippu, Thampanaik-ku'lam and Pa'n'na-vedduvaan.

Informed Tamil officials also confirmed the land grab and said there was no Gazette notification over-riding the lawful ownership of the lands provided to the people through Annual Permits and Land Development Ordinance (LDO) Permits.

The Sinhala Forest Department officers, when confronted by the people on the ground, claim that they have a particular instruction to seize the lands where trees are found above 3 meters in height.

However, no regulation states AP, or LDO permit-lands cannot have trees above 3 meters in height, the activists in Kugnchuk-ku'lam said.

Every family has its residence, a plot for agriculture adjoining the house as well as pockets of lands with shrubs and trees.

Many of the families are in possession of lands at the extent of one acre per family, lawfully provided through AP or LDO permits.

The Forest officers who attend the monthly Divisional Coordinating Committee meetings avoid direct responses to questions on the topic, a Tamil official commented.

The Divisional Secretary is responsible for protecting the lands provided to the people. When he is unable to stop the menace of the SL forest officers, there is no way out for them.

The Sinhala Forest Department officials frequenting the area put GPS-fitted borderstones without prior notice, encircling the residential and agricultural lands of the people.

These days, many people have chosen to stay at home without going to work to prevent the SL Forest Department guards from putting such borderstones around their premises, the Tamil villagers said.

The Sinhala officers and guards are operating with a particular anti-Tamil mindset. They have been trained to perceive the Tamil villagers as their enemies.

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