The army has released a section of the High Security Zone (HSZ) situated in Ariyalai east between railway tracks and the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road. Army headquarters has authorised the release of 103 acres of cultivable paddy fields on the recommendation of Jaffna Commander Major General G. A. Chandrasiri.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee which represents all INGOs including UN agencies has confirmed the release of land in its latest bulletin.
A senior army spokesman based in Jaffna said the 73 families would be benefited. `We have already given them access to their land. They ll be issued special identity cards,` he said.
Ariyalai is situated in the area controlled by 51 Division deployed in the town and its adjoining areas. He said the return of the civilians would be subject to strict surveillance as part of the security measures to thwart LTTE infiltration.
Responding to our queries, the official said that the release of land had not been on a court order. He said people tend to mix up the release of Ariyalai paddy fields with an ongoing case over cultivable land within the Palaly HSZ. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said the armed forces had initiated discussions with the Government Agent of Jaffna and the judiciary to explore ways and means of facilitating the return of civilians. But this wouldn t be at the expense of security of the strategic bases, he said. Northern Naval Area Commander Rear Admiral Tissara Samarasinghe and Major General Chandrasiri are involved in the ongoing deliberations.
The official said that gradual easing up of restrictions would largely depend on the support received from the civilian community. Emphasising the importance of thwarting LTTE attempts to cause trouble in the peninsula, he commended the civilians for protecting electricity transformers at the risk of their lives.
The LTTE recently damaged several electricity transformers as part of their efforts to harass the Jaffna administration.