Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena
Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena to return 600 acre land to rightful owners in Jaffna on Pongal. Picture: Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena speaking at BOAO forum for Asia.IANS

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will hand over deeds for 600 acre land in Jaffna to their rightful owners on Pongal, ie, 15 January.

The tracts of private land in northern Sri Lanka had been under the control of security forces till now. Also, land in the eastern province held by the military will be handed over in the next two weeks.

Sri Lanka had been embroiled in a bloody ethnic war from 1983 to 2009 between rebel groups and the army, leading to the death of 1 lakh people. The incumbent president had been elected because of his promises to rehabilitate the displaced people and cleanse the state machinery of corruption, which previous president Mahinda Rajapaksa left behind.

Elaborating on the plans to rehabilitate displaced people in the next six months, Sirisena — who has been in power for almost a year — on Sunday told AFP a task force to deal with the problems of displaced people would be formed, and 1 lakh people still living in refugee camps would be given land to build homes. He said people displaced from the northern and eastern provinces and the northwestern coastal region of Puttalam would be given land.

"It is an ambitious target, but I will see that all the internally displaced people are given land to build homes. I am setting up a mechanism to complete this process within six months," said Sirisena.

During his visit to Jaffna in December, he found that 1,300 families had been living in refugee camps for a quarter of a century due to the war.

"This is an unacceptable situation. I want to end this problem once and for all," he told AFP. "For many people, the main issue was lack of land and that is something we will resolve in the next six months."

The Sri Lankan president, will also invite proposals for a new constitution to ensure that the country doesn't relapse into war.