Source: Kearney and Miller (1987), calculated from Department of Census and Statistics, various years. Note that the 2001 Population census was not being conducted in most districts of the North and parts of the districts of the East.
*Amparai and Mullaitivu have been carved out as separate districts after independence.
Table 3: Ethnic composition of Batticaloa and
Amparai district populations (percent)
Sri Lanka Tamils
Source: see Table 2 17. A number of studies have underlined the link between land colonization and increasing ethnic grievances in the North and East.10 Donor agencies have also become more critical about their own involvement in financing such schemes, in particular in the case of Mahaweli.11 Grievances related to land colonization overshadow many land-related disputes and conflicts to the present day and land disputes in the North and East in the current (semi-) post-conflict and post-tsunami situation need to be understood in the context of this historical legacy of disputed claims to territories and control over state land in the North and East. Devolution of powers
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was introduced in 1987 in an attempt to devolve and delegate certain powers of the government to the provincial councils. This was seen as an important step to accommodate concerns of Tamil and Muslim politicians for ensuring a larger control of provincial authorities over land use policies in the North and East. The 13th amendment has not yet been effective in decentralizing powers over land alienation. The amendment categorizes subjects as Provincial Council List, Reserved List and Concurrent List subjects, falling under the purview of the Provincial Council, the Central Government and both respectively. However, the government keeps overriding powers over provincial councils in all matters. Rights in or over land, land tenure, transfer and alienation, land use, land settlement and land improvement fall under the purview of the Provincial Council, however, all state land continues to vest in the Republic and the Provincial Council can only alienate land under the seal of the President. Furthermore, land alienated under inter-provincial irrigation and colonization schemes remain under the purview of the Central Government. Furthermore, the government has alienated large tracts of state land in the Northeast Province to central government agencies, such as the Ports Authorities, which are outside of the administrative control of the provincial council.
The National Land Commission envisaged in the 13th amendment has not been appointed leaving many responsibilities unclear between Central Government and Provincial Councils. Since 1990, the Northeast Provincial Council (NEPC) has no elected Council, and subsequently, the Governor who is appointed by the President holds wide-ranging powers. Control over finances and staff continue to depend on decisions of the central government, which makes the 13th amendment in large parts of land administration in the North and East ineffective. In addition, the administrative capacities of Provincial Land Commissioner and Divisional Secretariats have been weakened during the ethnic conflict due to acute staff shortage.12 IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON LAND
19. The extent of human suffering caused by the conflict has been very high and includes loss of lives, physical injuries and disabilities, displacement and loss of means of livelihood through the destruction of the physical infrastructure and productive assets in the affected provinces. It is estimated that over 65,000 people have lost their lives and double that number have been disabled due to the war. UNHCR estimates that approx. 900,000 people have been displaced due to armed conflict, of which 380,000 have returned since the ceasefire agreement.13 According to a Comprehensive Needs Assessment Survey carried out in 2003, a total of 326,000 houses have been fully or partially damaged (World Bank, 2004b). While it has not been possible to carry out comprehensive household surveys in the Northeast during the conflict, it is likely that the poverty conditions in these regions are far more severe than in other parts of the country (World Bank, 2003a). The loss of economic assets due to displacement and conflict is colossal and in many parts of the CAA the population needs to restart their livelihoods from scratch (Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2003).
Dynamics of the armed conflict
20. The dynamics of the armed conflict have differed geographically: while in the North, military contestation after 1995 took place along clearly defined fortified lines, the East was affected by more guerrilla type contestation with changing boundaries of military control between the two conflict parties. In the North, Jaffna peninsula has been heavily contested in military terms, especially after 1995 until the Sri Lankan armed forces regained control over large parts of Jaffna in 1996. In these militarily contested areas, large tracts of land are mined, destruction is severe, also in the urban outskirts of Jaffna. In the East, the spheres of control in the East differed during day and night with the army controlling the major towns and roads during the day and the LTTE being in control of large parts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa during the night. Rural areas have been the main area of military contestation with the LTTE staging military attacks from their basis in the interior spaces under its control. Urban areas have been largely under control of the Sri Lankan armed forces, though the LTTE used to extract taxes from the population in the night. The East had also been a theatre of inter-ethnic violence on community level between Tamils and Muslims as well as Tamils and Sinhalese creating deep-rooted suspicion and resentment between the three ethnic groups.14
These military dynamics have had implications for changes in land use, land rights and land access for the North and East respectively. In the North, the major challenge is the large-scale displacement of people from Jaffna and the ways how to deal with return of displaced after the ceasefire agreement. In the East, a major concern is related to agricultural production, which was restricted in some areas due to limited access to cultivation land, especially those lands located in highly disputed areas. Also, the multi-ethnic settlement patterns of the East have been vulnerable to inter-ethnic tensions and violence after the ceasefire, since livelihoods of different ethnic groups are closely linked, especially those of Tamils and Muslims.15 Decline in agricultural land use
21. The regional economy in the North and East is largely agriculture based and land use plays a major role in the economic recovery process. The majority of the population in the conflict-affected North and East derives their livelihoods from agriculture and fishing. On average agricultural activities contribute to almost 40% of the total income of rural households in the North and East with rice being the dominant crop accounting for 44% of the cultivated area whereas higher value crops, such as fruits and vegetables, are only of minor importance. In comparison, agriculture contributes in average only 8% to the incomes of rural households in the Western province and 22% to the incomes of rural households in the Central provinces (World Bank, 2003b).
Table 3: Change of Extent Under Agriculture by District in the Northeast – 2002, 1982