Although it appears that the State Lands (Special Provisions) Bill is progressive and people-friendly, in reality it is attempt by the government to allow foreigners to buy lands in Sri Lanka, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said today.
He told a media conference that the proposed Bill would allow people to trade in any state land after title deeds were issued to them and added that giving ownership of state lands to squatters is a good move but in reality may result in negative repercussions.
“From the time of colonization schemes in the Gal Oya and the Mahaweli Zones, state lands were given on a permit. After the demise of the permit holder, the land becomes the property of his son or wife and remains in the family and used for agricultural purposes. But when ownership of the land is given on a deed, the land can be sold and used for a different purpose other than for cultivation,” the MP said.
He said this Bill was a condition laid down by the US for the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) grant of US$480 million.
"When the Bill was first presented to the Cabinet in June, 25, President Maithripala Sirisena proposed a set of amendments. But the Bill has now been gazetted without these amendments. Several FR petitions have also been filed against the Bill in the Supreme Court," the MP said.
He said it was highly detrimental to national interests to give opportunities to foreign powers to have direct ownership of Sri Lanka’s lands and assured the support of the SLFP if the amendments proposed by the President were incorporated in the Bill before its passage in Parliament.
“We have no objection to the US. We treat the US as our friend. But this Bill is an act of folly on the part of the government to satisfy the US to obtain the MCC grant,” the MP said. (Sandun A Jayasekera)