Policy Note1

Source: CPA 2003, UNHCR 2003

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  • Note

Source: CPA 2003, UNHCR 2003.
Land access:

  1. Landlessness among IDPs and refugees:44 Many IDPs and refugees have been landless laborers or tenant cultivators prior to displacement, among them many Upcountry Tamils who settled in the North and worked as tenant farmers or laborers or Upcountry Tamils who became displaced during the 1977 and 1983 unrest who had encroached on state land in the North and East. It also includes the second generation of displaced persons who reached adulthood during the period of displacement, temporarily relocated or illegally relocated landless persons and settlers without documentation or encroachers (without political backing). Current resettlement and relocation policies45 advise that IDPs cannot be relocated on State land in any District other than that of their origin.46 However, many landless IDPs expressed the wish to be granted land in the area where they are currently residing. This applies particularly for IDPs in Vavuniya and Mannar.47

  2. Land access is severely restricted in some specific locations and areas due to landmines and Unexploded Ordinances: Landmines and Unexploded Ordinances (UXO) are lying in agricultural fields and paddy lands, the vicinities of residential homes, common places and shrub jungles. These mines pose serious threats to spontaneous returnees and prevent return of IDPs and refugees. Landmines and UXOs render large tracts of land unusable for agricultural cultivation and cattle grazing. It is estimated that approx. 900,000 mines are located in the North and East, especially concentrated in areas where military operations took place and along the lines of control demarcated by the conflict parties. Since mine clearance only proceeds slowly, right holders may be unable to access their property and land for a significant time into the future. For these cases, temporary and transitional accommodation needs to be provided until it is safe for them to repossess these locations.48

  3. Access problems and informal property rights relating to common-pool resources: Customary, informal use rights to common-pool resources, such as forests, lagoons, which are used for firewood collection, hunting, gathering and as grazing resources. These use rights often provide important livelihood sources for asset-poor households. These rights are in most cases not documented. At present, large parts of these areas are still inaccessible, partly inaccessible or civilians are reluctant to access these due to the pertinent mine problem, still pending security situation and increasing inter-communal tensions (in some areas of the East). Since it is mostly the marginal segments of a population who rely on such informal use rights, access restrictions may severely hamper their livelihood prospects.49 However, very little research is conducted on this and no reliable data available at present.

Governance issues:

  1. Existing laws in Sri Lanka create serious impediments in obtaining re-possession from long-term occupiers and may discriminate against those who had to flee and leave their property:50 In the case of disputes over private land, the Prescription Ordinance and the Primary Courts Procedure Act provide that if a person was in occupation of a property for more than two months and a dispute occurred in relation to possession of the property, the person who was in possession will be permitted by courts to continue in possession until they were ejected by an order of a District court by a regular action. Such Court rule may take 5-10 years. Prescription Ordinance states that obtaining a prescriptive title requires proof of undisturbed and uninterrupted possession for 10 years by title adverse to that of a claimant. Since many secondary occupants also do not have a place to go back (for example, if their land is located in a HSZ), an extra-legal mediated solution to the dispute may be difficult to obtain.51

  2. There has been concern that Permit title holders may lose their use right to land due to displacement. State land alienated under the Land Development Ordinance (LDO) as permit or grant which can be reverted back to the State if conditions stated in the permit or grant document are not met by the title holders. In particular, a grant can be cancelled if the Permit holder has not developed the land or for breach of stipulated conditions. Land converted into a grant title can only be taken back by the state under the Land Acquisition Act. Vulnerable under this legislature are Permit holders who were displaced before they could convert their title into a grant, landless who were in the process of Permit application or encroachment regularization when displaced and people living on leased out land. For the latter, it may be difficult to prove their occupancy of such land now because of lack of title and the difficulty to obtain other forms of proof. A Government Circular was issued in 2002 that forbids the cancellation of the Permits of displaced persons.52

  3. Encroachment on state land has been common in the North and East (as it has in other places of Sri Lanka): A Government Circular issued by the National Land Commissioner requests relevant authorities not to regularize any encroachments that took place after the 15 June 1995. Part of the encroachment, often labeled “genuine” encroachment arises from the need of growing families to give land to their children or from displaced persons to find some place to stay. In other cases, encroachment has been politically supported by often unidentified forces, with the help or silent consent of Army and Police or the LTTE.53 Or militant groups have illegally alienated land to IDPs, for example in Vavuniya. If such encroachment raises issues of inter-ethnic concern, they are to be classified under Level (3) types of issues, since their resolution needs to be incorporated into a broad political settlement (see below).

  4. The LTTE has established an own administrative, legal and court system in the areas coming under its control. Land and property come under the purview of both the Government and the LTTE. In the LTTE controlled Vanni, land occupation is an issue resolved by the Government administrative structures along with the Tamil Eelam Police Force. Reportedly, IDPs occupying property are permitted to remain until the owners make claims for the property. Claimants first have to approach the Village Committees which operate in LTTE controlled areas. The Tamil Eelam police also attempts to resolve property disputes, failing which cases are filed in Tamil Eelam Courts.54 In the uncleared areas of the East, both, the courts administered by the government and the courts administered by the LTTE operate.55 This dual system of courts can create confusion amongst civilians regarding the effectiveness and jurisdiction of both. In some cases, a party that feels unhappy about the ruling of one system may resort to a ruling of the other system. Furthermore, some people have sought to receive property titles from both administrations.56 To some extent, LTTE courts are also approached by Tamils living in the cleared areas (which have been partially under control of LTTE during the night).57

A number of additional issues relating to land can create disputes over land, affect tenure insecurity or provide access problems, but these issues are common to all places in Sri Lanka and are not confined to the conflict-affected North and East. Among those issues are land fragmentation (subdivision of grants below stipulated limits), surveying costs, customary laws (e.g. Tessawalami Law for Northern Tamils, Muslim law) governing inheritance issues etc. Since these issues are not caused by or directly related to the armed conflict, they are not dealt with here.58 However, it is important to note that some of these issues may await resolution because the overall administrative management capacity to deal with these issues is weakened by the conflict, which may delay resolution of such minor disputes significantly, causing further resentment.
Inter-ethnic land disputes (Level 2 and Level 3 disputes)

When land disputes entail an inter-ethnic dimension, they easily become more protracted, because local disputes are often linked with broader inter-ethnic grievances relating to land colonization, armed conflict and suffering caused by the “ethnic other”. It is important to distinguish two different types of inter-ethnic conflicts:

  1. Level (2) types of conflict relate to inter-ethnic conflicts on a community or inter-community level, which may be solvable on a local or regional level through some form of negotiation between local or regional community representatives.

  2. Level (3) types of conflict can be categorized as highly politicized issues relating to broader territorial claims. Level (3) conflicts can only be solved through high-level negotiations between the conflict parties.

Some issues elaborated as Level (2) type conflicts may become politicized to an extent that they need to be categorized as Level (3) type conflicts. This may be the case if they are not appropriately handled on an inter-communal level and become a source of inter-ethnic grievances, which go out of hand or which are used by political spoilers to steer inter-ethnic resentment. Examples could be Sinhalese grievances about inaccessible land controlled by the LTTE or Tamil-Muslim grievances over land access, or disputes over religious structures.
Level (2) type land disputes

Level (2) type land conflicts largely relate to agricultural land and related use rights. Such conflicts involve persons from different ethnic groups and often relate to different user rights, such as the right to cultivation, the right to irrigation water, the right to by-pass land in order to access own land etc. Since agriculture is still the backbone of the economy in the North and East, such disputes, if remaining unresolved, can unduly delay economic recovery of the North and East and make many people unable to undertake their livelihood activities. Many, though not all of these, inter-ethnic disputes are located in the East. Often, such disputes continued to aggrieve the communities throughout the period of armed conflict, but only after the ceasefire agreement did they come to the open and some of them turned violent.

The overall picture of these inter-ethnic conflicts relating to land is very complex and place-specific. Most of these Level (2) type conflicts go beyond inter-individual conflicts and involve whole communities or groups of people. Still, there is no comprehensive assessment of all such inter-ethnic disputes throughout the North and East. The following schematic description of typical land conflicts is therefore not comprehensive for the whole North and East.
Land tenure and property rights:

  1. Inter-ethnic disputes over water allocation in irrigation schemes: Disputes over water resource allocation is a common feature in many irrigation schemes. These disputes largely occur between upstream farmers and so-called tail enders (downstream farmers). Upstream farmers can partially or completely negate downstream farmers their entitlements to water by allocating more water to their own fields as agreed in the water distribution regulations or by completely blocking the flow of water to downstream farmers. If such water blockade is executed during crucial periods of the cultivation cycle, this can seriously harm the yields of downstream farmers. In most major irrigation schemes in the East (Kantalai, Allai, Gal Oya), it is usually the Sinhalese settlers who were colonized upstream and Tamil and Muslim settlers were settled downstream. Thus, Sinhalese settlers control the flow of water in these schemes. There have been reported disputes in most irrigation schemes of the East, because upstream Sinhalese farmers have denied appropriate water allocation to downstream Tamil and Muslim farmers.59 In Muttur area, Trincomalee district, after the ceasefire agreement, when Tamil-Muslim tensions increased, Tamil farmers threatened to interrupt the flow of water to downstream Muslim fields.60

  2. Inter-ethnic disputes over competing land uses: these disputes often occur due to competing land use claims between land users of different ethnic origin. Often user rights over land are informal. For example, there is a prominent conflict in Amparai district around Wattamadu tank between cattle owners and paddy cultivators over the use of land either as grazing land or as cultivation land. In this case, the majority of cattle owners are Tamils and most cultivators are Muslims. After the ceasefire agreement, this conflict has emerged into the open and has been relabeled as an inter-ethnic conflict.61 There are also inter-ethnic land disputes between Tamil and Sinhalese and Sinhalese and Muslims.62 Often, such disputes arise because one party has encroached on land with the silent consent of one of the conflict parties. Increasing land scarcity along the coastal zone in the East makes such disputes over competing land claims more likely to arise. For example, there are some conflicting claims on land due to alternating use of land by Sinhalese and Tamil residents during periods of ethnic disturbances, where one group occupied or utilized land previously held by the other group. Such grievances are particularly prominent in highly disputed areas.

  3. Fishing landing rights: These disputes are between fisher folk of different villages and between local and migrant Sinhalese fishermen, particularly in Mannar, but there are also issues on migrant Sinhalese fishermen in the East. In Trincomalee, migrant fishermen received preferential treatment by the navy for fishing rights during the ongoing armed conflict. In Mannar, Sinhalese fishermen have returned after the ceasefire agreement and this has increased the pressure on fisheries resources.63

  4. Inter-ethnic land transfers: inter-ethnic land transfers in the last years have played an important role to increase inter-ethnic tensions, in particular between Tamils and Muslims along the East coast. Often, such land is sold when a particular ethnic group faces economic hardship or feels insecure in a particular location. Tamils in the East, particularly in Batticaloa and Amparai districts have voiced concern about Muslims buying land in this manner. Many Muslims have invested profits in fixed property and have managed to acquire large tracts of lands from Tamils adjacent to or enmeshed in larger Muslim settlements.64 Tamil tenant cultivators in Muttur have tried to intimidate Muslim land owners with the threat of involving the LTTE.65

  5. Land disputes between returnee and secondary occupants being from different ethnic groups: This returnee problem is particularly acute in Mannar, where still many Tamil IDPs occupy land left by Muslims who fled to other locations.66 Such disputing claims easily get linked with broader inter-ethnic grievances and stereotypes of the “ethnic other” and are breeding grounds for ethnic tensions.

Land access:

  1. Land access in inter-ethnic areas:67 In the agro-economic system of the East, the place of residence and the place of agricultural land use (farming, cattle grazing) are often located in different locations. This is particularly the case for Muslims who are often residing in market towns, but possess land in areas adjacent to Tamil settlements. In times of inter-ethnic tension, Muslims are reluctant or unable to access their fields. Many have abandoned these fields or sold them for a low price to Tamil farmers, for example in Muttur area.68


  1. Disputes over religious symbols: Some inter-ethnic disputes have also arisen around religious symbols. In 2002, Tamil-Muslim riots emerged in Muttur after 14 Christian crosses erected on a hill top in the vicinity of Tamil and Muslim villages.69 In Uoosimookanthural (Mannar Island), disputes between Tamils and Muslims erupted over a permanent structure erected for a church.70 More recently, there has been concern among Tamils and Muslims over Buddha statues being built on public grounds in Trincomalee town and in Pottuvil, Amparai.

  2. Resentment towards increasing power and influence of Muslim politicians in allocation of state land (Amparai): Both Sinhalese and Tamil politicians have expressed growing concern about the influence of Muslim politicians in alienating state land and allocating state welfare resources to Muslims at the expense of Tamils and Sinhalese.71 Sinhalese politicians are expressing concern about organized efforts of local Muslim politicians in the Amparai area to acquire state lands.72

  3. Biased or ineffective administrative rulings on inter-ethnic land rights disputes: Whenever there is an inter-ethnic dimension to a land dispute, the local administration is largely unable to implement current land laws, for example against illegal encroachers or farmers diverting water illegally in irrigation schemes. This is particularly so when these farmers are backed by powerful groups, such as Buddhist monks, military and police in the case of Sinhalese or LTTE in the case of Tamils. Overall, Muslims are in a comparatively weaker position; however, Muslims also had some administrative strongholds in the Amparai district and have used this partly in favor of their community. Lack of transparency and accountability nourishes suspicion between the ethnic groups when state land is alienated to landless of one ethnic group. This is particular of concern in multi-ethnic areas, such as Mannar, Batticaloa, Amparai and Muttur.

Level (3) type land disputes

Level (3) type conflicts relate to broader territorial claims of the different conflict parties and ethnic groups and are of such scale that their resolution or containment requires high-level negotiations. Some of these negotiations may be possible prior to a final peace agreement; others will only be part of a final settlement between the conflict parties. Although Level (3) type conflicts are linked with broader territorial claims, they relate to land resources, which are fundamentally required for civilians to pursue their livelihoods.
Land tenure and property rights:

  1. Inter-ethnic land transfers of land and property, particularly in and around Trincomalee: There are reports about encroachment of residential land in Trincomalee, where Sinhalese took over property left by Tamil owners during the armed conflict, often being encouraged by unidentified segments of the security forces.73 There are also concerns among Tamils about encroachment of Sinhalese farmers on abandoned Tamil land and paddy fields, for example in Pankulam, where land abandoned by Tamils is cultivated by Sinhalese farmers with the consent of the security forces.74 Trincomalee district is of particular concern due to its strategic location at the transition between North and East, the harbor and Trincomalee being the provincial capital. A major concern of Tamil representatives is their fear that some nationalist segments of the Sinhalese political constituency may attempt to use such encroachments for gradual changes in ethnic composition, especially in Trincomalee town.

  2. Sinhalese encroachment close to military camps:75 There is increasing concern among Tamils about Sinhalese unofficially settling, with help or consent of security forces, along army camps. Especially unofficial settlements of Sinhalese along the main road from Habarana to Trincomalee and in the fish market area in Trincomalee have created resentment among Tamils, because they are seen as calculated attempts to disturb the ethnic ratio or demography of the region.76 There are also reports that agencies, such as the Mahaweli Authority, have given lands in the East to people with no reference to previous ownership or occupancy.77

Land access:

  1. Land inaccessible for Tamil farmers located in high security zones and land or property occupied by military: Tamil grievances are particularly high regarding the High Security Zone (HSZ) in Jaffna, which occupies large tracts of fertile land, religious grounds and residential lands.78 In addition, there are other places in the North and East, where the Sri Lankan security forces occupy land and property for buildings, fortifications and bunkers. While the army has vacated some buildings and lands since the ceasefire agreement, there are still a lot of places and properties occupied by the security forces. This issue is politically highly charged, in particular in Jaffna due to the large extent of land occupied by the security forces. One report notes that in some cases, the army in Jaffna has been conciliatory and has allowed owners to check properties, but the policy appears to be ad hoc, not based on clear, transparent criteria.79 Army occupation of land is a serious impediment to resettlement and return of displaced persons, particularly in Jaffna and Mannar.80

  2. Land inaccessible for Muslims in LTTE controlled areas:81 In the area under its control in the North and East, the LTTE has taken over large tracts of abandoned land, mostly belonging to Muslims. The land has been subsequently given to families of LTTE cadres, been rented or used by LTTE to host administrative structures. Partly, it appears that some abandoned land is also occupied by LTTE camps. The LTTE also seems to have allowed displaced persons living in uncleared area to settle on other people’s land. In Batticaloa, land belonging to Muslims is being farmed by the LTTE or by local farmers with the consent of the LTTE. This issue has become a high-level source of contention between the Muslim and LTTE leaders and high-level negotiations have been carried out in 2002 and 2003. Although some agreements have been signed between LTTE and Muslim representatives, it appears that up to present, there has not been a retransfer of lands to Muslims on a larger scale in the East.82

  3. Land inaccessible for Sinhalese located in or close to LTTE controlled areas (border villages):83 Some Sinhalese border villages are located close to LTTE camps. Therefore, Sinhalese farmers are reluctant to return to their villages or to cultivate fields located at remote places.84 There are also some conflicting claims on land due to alternating use of land by Sinhalese and Tamil residents during periods of communal disturbances.85 Overall, Sinhalese farmers are increasingly concerned about their future under an LTTE dominated administrative structure of the North and East. Also, there are complaints from Sinhalese farmers that the provincial land administration would delay distribution of land titles to farmers in Sinhalese border villages, because the provincial administration is dominated by Tamil bureaucrats.


  1. The central government has alienated large tracts of land to government corporative bodies:86 In Trincomalee, large tracts of land have been alienated to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. Such land lies outside of the administrative powers of the provincial administration. On some of these lands, for example along the Trincomalee-Batticaloa road87, Sinhalese mostly from outside the district have unofficially and illegally settled with the support of unknown forces. This encroachment continues since the provincial administration is unable to take action against encroachment, which is silently consented by the security forces.

  2. Devolution and administrative powers over land administration: The distribution of administrative powers over state land has been an important issue in all negotiations between Tamil and Sinhalese representatives since the 1950s. As it is currently ruled according to Annexure 2 of the 13th amendment, the provincial council is in charge of state land administration, but there are some, important, exceptions: Land coming under inter-provincial colonization schemes are governed by the Central government, which is economically most important land, since most major irrigation schemes are inter-provincial. The President retains the overriding powers for land alienation (Article 33(d) of the constitution).88 In addition, the Annexure suggests policies regarding ethnicity distribution in land colonization schemes. The disputes between the conflict parties is about who has effective administrative power over state land alienation.

  3. Boundary redrawing of districts and divisional secretariats: District boundaries and delineation of divisional secretariat divisions have been changed several times in the past. In most cases, such redrawing carved out an ethnically homogenous area from a larger administrative entity into a new one. The founding of Amparai district out of Batticaloa district in the 1960s is the most prominent one, but there have been a number of other administrative boundary reforms, especially on divisional secretariat level. In recent years, such changes have mainly been done in Amparai district to create ethnically homogenous divisional secretariats. Boundary changes have caused serious concerns among representatives from different ethnic constituencies. However, it is important to note that especially in the Amparai district, it is difficult to construct ethnically homogenous divisional secretariat divisions due to the mixed settlement patterns.89

  4. Militarization of administration in some parts of the North and East: In the highly disputed areas, e.g. under Weli Oya schemes, and through the establishment of home guards in Sinhalese border villages, there has been a militarization of Sinhalese civil society in these locations and of the administrative powers. Similarly, the growing power of the LTTE as administrator in uncleared areas has given special weight to military organizational structures. There have also been signs of increasing militarization of Muslim youth in the East. Such militarization contravenes transparent and accountable governance of land administration matters.

  5. Strategic (militarized) settlements in the North and East established during the mid 1980s:90 With the escalation of the conflict, strategic settlements were implemented in the Eastern Province under the Allai, Kanthalai and Mahaweli irrigation schemes. Most prominent is the Weli Oya scheme, as part of Mahaweli L System. This scheme covers parts of Trincomalee, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Anuradapura districts, but the area allocated to this scheme was declared a special zone governed by the Anuradapura District authorities. Tamil representatives have perceived these Sinhalese settlements as a strategic move to disrupt the settlement pattern from North to East through an establishment of a militarized Sinhalese settlement corridor.91 In part, there has been displacement of Tamil villages for the inception of these settlements.92 These settlements will be high on the agenda in any political settlement between the conflict parties.93 Sinhalese settlers from these border villages and settlements often complain about lack of security due to threats from LTTE, partial inaccessibility of their fields etc.94

ANNEX 2: Mechanisms for Addressing Land and Conflict in the North and East of Sri Lanka

In this annex (Table 8), different strategies for addressing land issues on the three levels of conflict (Table 4, Table 7 and Annex 1) are suggested. These suggestions are based on the following premises:

  1. Level 1 type conflicts about inter-individually disputed land rights claims (e.g. boundary conflicts, no action policies against illegal encroachments, secondary occupants) are expressions of the volatile security situation and the dynamics of the post-conflict situation, which overextend existing governance structures and administrative as well as judiciary capacities.

  2. Level 2 type conflicts (e.g. local conflicts over land, which become communal, e.g. Tamil-Muslim tensions in the East, land disputes between Sinhalese and Tamil farmers, ethnically biased water distribution in irrigation schemes) have the potential to instigate local and regional inter-ethnic tensions and thus disturb the peace process. They often arise from local mismanagement and biased governance of land allocation and restricted land access.

  3. Level 3 type conflicts (e.g. encouraged encroachment on Trincomalee-Colombo road, take over of abandoned Tamil land by Sinhalese, Muslim land by LTTE or Tamil farmers, administrative responsibilities between centre and province) are considered to be highly politicized, of a significant geographical scale and have become part of the political stakes and “emotional” core issues in the conflict. Such land issues require a political settlement and will have to be resolved through high-level negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

Furthermore, we have distinguished issues relating to three categories: land tenure and property rights, land access and governance (see para 27f.).
Table 8: Mechanisms for Addressing Land and Conflict in the North and East

Level 1 type

Level 2 type

Level 3 type

Land tenure and property rights:

Fast track mechanisms to resolve inter-individual land disputes and to relieve existing administrative and judicial bodies from burdens created by the post-conflict situation.

Fast-track mechanisms may include:

  • temporary extra-judicial mechanisms to complement court system in resolution of land issues pertaining to post-conflict or post-tsunami issues, especially relating to IDP return or relocation (see UNHCR proposals on this, UNHCR 2003, 2005).

  • Mediation Boards, which have been established by the government. However, in the North and East, these are only working in a few areas and there are questions about their political credibility.

Note: Such fast-track mechanisms are temporary and do not solve deeper rooted structural causes of conflict or governance failures.

Note: Establishment of fast-track mechanisms would require a consensus of major stakeholders, including the parties to the conflict, the provincial administration, the central government to gain legitimacy in its decisions.

Note: Establishment of fast-track mechanism, if substituting the judicial system, would need to be enacted through legislation and it would need to be clarified how such fast-track mechanisms relate to the existing judicial system (would aggrieved parties still have the right to bring their case to court?).

Note: To gain credibility, fast-track mechanisms need to be transparent about criteria and processes of dispute resolution. This will counterbalance the current culture of clientelism and ethnicism.

Land tenure and property rights:

Inter-communal mechanisms of mediation and communication. Sometimes, such mechanisms, e.g. peace committees, have been established, but are often defunct, especially after a period of non-violence.

Important stakeholders include:

  • influential and accepted actors, such as religious leaders, in negotiations,

  • combatant parties and police, which should be consulted, but not get directly involved in negotiations,

  • a neutral facilitator (e.g. inter­national ombudsperson?) may be helpful if accepted by all parties to the conflict.

Note: Such mechanisms to be effective need to be able to establish legitimacy for their decisions and to be considered as representing the different parties to the conflict.

Note: Existing committees and mechanisms need to be analyzed for potential political or ethnic biases before they can be strengthened and capacitated for conflict mediation.

Note: In case of unequal power relations between different ethnic groups, an outside ombudsman may be needed to level the playing field and allow fair negotiations.

Note: Combatant parties and politicians should be incorporated beforehand to grant their support, but they should not become involved in the actual negotiation processes, which should remain confined to local leaders and representatives.

Note: It needs to be established how binding agreements found through such committees are for all involved stakeholders, including government authorities in charge of land administration.

Land tenure and property rights:

High-level negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

Land access:

Gathering more comprehensive data on the exact scope, the location and the effects of land access issues, such as second generation landlessness, land mines problems and access problems to common-pool resources. Incorporate these concerns in overall local, regional planning frames.

Note: Mapping out major access problems, in particular informal user rights, for each district may be important data for district framework planning and coordination of agencies’ projects.

Land access:

Ensuring continuation of those inter-communal mediation mechanisms may help establish more trust on inter-ethnic relations so that access to their land is ensured for all ethnic groups continuously.

Note: Peace committees would need to get more pro-actively involved in improving inter-ethnic relations in order to deal with access problems to land and resources.

Note: Most of these access problems require political stability to become redundant, because they require rebuilding of inter-ethnic trust on community-level.

Land access:

In general highly sensitive and neither LTTE nor Sri Lankan armed forces have shown willingness to address the core issues, but localized negotiation with persons-in-command my allow some low-profile pragmatic solutions.


Encourage the government to clarify the regulations concerning secondary occupancy (see UNHCR proposals), and improve the enforcement of such regulations vis-à-vis political interference, militants etc.

Investigate the establishment of regional, ethnically neutral clearance mechanism (e.g. boards of appeal) for aggrieved parties to address and clarify the enforcement mechanisms of such boards vis-à-vis respective government agencies.

Governance issues

Strengthen the operative capacities of these inter-communal mechanisms to substantiate their legitimacy, credibility and leverage power vis-à-vis spoilers, local politicians and biased administrators.


High-level negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

Tsunami-specific issues:

Ensure transparency and accountability in

  • beneficiary selection in land and housing allocation,

  • framework planning of relocation (who is located where and according to which criteria?).

Establish independent boards of appeal for aggrieved parties and clarify their enforcement mechanism vis-à-vis other governmental agencies.

Tsunami-specific issues:

Ensure transparency and accountability in

  • beneficiary selection in land and housing allocation,

  • survey conflict-affected and tsunami-affected IDPs and apply the same eligibility criteria to both,

  • framework planning of relocation (who is located where and according to which criteria?).

Establish independent boards of appeal for aggrieved parties and clarify their enforcement mechanism vis-à-vis other governmental agencies.

Tsunami-specific issues:


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