The COPE Chairman instructed the Lands and Land Development Ministry Secretary R.A.A.K.Ranawaka to conduct a formal investigation at the Ministerial level and submit a full report to the COPE Committee within a month and to take immediate action to rectify this situation.
These facts were disclosed at the COPE Committee meeting held chaired by Prof. (Prof.) Charitha Herath recently (17) to examine the Auditor General’s reports for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 and the current performance of the Land Reforms Commission.
The COPE Chairman pointed out that the extent of lands acquired during land acquisition by the Land Reforms Commission established under the Land Reforms Act No. 01 of 1972 and the lack of accurate data on the lands which were disposed by each government during the period was a serious concern. It was revealed that the
Commission now owns nearly 1.7 million acres of land and that value is not accurate. The Secretary to the Ministry of Lands and Land Development pointed out that this was due to the lack of proper surveying during the acquisition of lands and the transfer of lands under various governments.
The Committee pointed out that since it is essential for the Commission to have accurate data as well as valuation on these lands which are the main assets of the
Commission, it is essential that the lands be properly assessed and a definite document with a basis be prepared in this regard. The COPE Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to prepare an expeditious program and inform the COPE Committee on the possibility of using modern drone technology for this purpose.
The Committee stressed the need to digitize the data on these lands using modern technology. The committee pointed out that it would solve many problems, including
various irregularities, and instructed the Secretary to intervene immediately.
The Chairman of the Land Commission stated that some files pertaining to the acquisition have been lost. It was revealed that nearly 200 such files have been lost.
The Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to look into this matter immediately. The Committee emphasized the need to rectify this situation as land grabbing by people has become a serious problem instead of putting it to more effective use. It was also revealed that out of the lands acquired under the Land Reforms Act of 1972-1974, there are 260 unoccupied 50-acre lands due to non-submission of plans and declarations.