By Rathindra Kuruwita
The Ranil Wickremesinghe administration was attempting to create a cheap labour force needed to facilitate the implementation of neoliberal economic policies, by amending` land laws, Chinthaka Rajapakshe, Convener of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said commenting on the scheme to grant outright ownership of land to one million people.
“Providing land deeds may look like a progressive move but we have to look at the reasons. On the one hand there is a serious crisis in the rural economy; created by the policies of successive governments, especially the present administration. On the other hand, large multinational companies have made small time farmers bankrupt and are buying off their agricultural land. There is also an attempt by the government to create a land bank. The only thing that has held back these predatory companies and the neoliberal economic policies are the so-called antiquated land laws. By giving desperate people, an asset that they can sell the government has ensured that these lands will be sold off.”
He said that in a recent study they had looked at all documents approved by the Cabinet between January 2015 and April 2019 on land reform, recommendations given by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the government on the land rights of the people and bi-lateral trade agreements between Sri Lanka and other countries had the potential projects that would deprive the people of their land rights.
“What is obvious was that the government wants to create a land bank that are not bound by any laws. The government has promised a lot of powerful entities access to our land and it also wants to create a large pool of cheap labour to be exploited by multinationals. This can’t be done as long as people have land and the government is creating an environment where people will sell off the land they had been using for decades. That’s why we oppose these evil mechanisms.