Landmark legislation

Published: Sunday 31 August 2003

-- Sri Lanka's Land Ownership Act, which would entitle more than a million landless people in the country to state land grants, has finally been given cabinet approval. The bill will be presented in the Lankan parliament soon.

The cabinet nod was delayed because President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had put a spanner in the works by objecting to a number of provisions in the bill. One of the sticking points related to the stipulation that necessitated the lands minister's signature on all title deeds. She had insisted that a panel be formed to take a decision. The issue was resolved after it was decided that the deeds would contain the signatures of the President as well as that of the lands minister, Rajitha Senaratne.

According to Senaratne, land distribution will start from the divisional secretariat level. Grants will be vested in the land commissioner and a land committee appointed by the ministry. "The panel will go through each request thoroughly to make sure that the lands go to the correct applicant. The act also stipulates that the applicants who submit wrong information and obtain land unlawfully should be subjected to one year's imprisonment and fined," he said.

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