Fears have been expressed that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement Sri Lanka is intending to sign with the US may in the future pave the way for large scale land disseisin and colonisation in North and East in the guise of privatization.
The Oakland Institute’s new report, Driving Dispossession: The Global Push to “Unlock the Economic Potential of Land,” sounds the alarm on the unprecedented wave of privatization of land under the proposed MCC agreement. According to the report, in Sri Lanka, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government entity, is targeting state land – it intends to map and record up to 67 percent of the country to “promote land transactions that could stimulate investment and increase its use as an economic asset.”
This has created a risk of large extent of land being acquired by the private sector. What should be noted here is that initially this plan will be implemented in 28% of land extents of 7 Districts. The seven districts are Anuradhapura, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurengala, Matale, Polannaruwa, and Trincomalee. However, as per this agreement, 68% of land which are underutilized are to be brought under this project.
As lot of underutilized land and unused land are found in the Northern and Eastern areas, there is a chance of the districts in the Northern and Eastern provinces being largely included in the plan, when the plan is further enlarged in the future. Because of this, a danger is looming, where large extents of ancient lands of Tamils being disseised again through privatization, under this agreement, just like a massive amount of land Tamils were robbed in the guise of development and large scale colonisation effected in them after independence in 1948 in the eastern province.
“We agree that there are very legitimate causes of concern for the North and East in particular given the history we know of colonization and dispossession”, commented Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute and the lead author of the report.
Just like the Sri Lankan Governments received large amount of money from foreign countries and International Development Organizations, under the guise of large scale irrigation schemes, in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, and undertook Sinhala Colonization , the Government could also get large amount of money from private sector under this agreement. At the same time, it is feared whether this is an intrigue to grabbing Tamils’ land and establish Sinhala Colonies under the guise of establishing industrial estates and infrastructures, after acquiring the lands of Tamils through private sector.
Implementing this compact can also lead to artificial price increases affecting (Tamil) people’s access to land in their areas.