Shenali D Waduge
The acting Prime Minister is once again trying to carry out the project entrusted to him – his vision was to destroy agriculture, transfer agricultural land and see farmers in jeans. He even promised the farmers of Polonnaruwa chewing gum and gold chains in 1999. This was the Parakumba era that Ranil wanted to create! Imagine King Parakramabahu in jeans! Giving land is nothing more than a subtle inducement to sell the land given to farmers by the state to cultivate it. The land ends up being sold to strangers or enemies. When food is no longer produced in Sri Lanka, it’s a lottery for importers. It puts an end to any self-sufficiency program but opens the door to false Western financing under the pretext of resuscitating agriculture. We have inherited land and resources, passed down from our ancestors, only to see them siphoned off as intended. The end result has an impact on Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. If those living on state land allocated to farming do not wish to continue, they should be told that they can leave and that the land can be given to someone who wants to continue farming. State land cannot be transferred to private ownership, which ultimately results in the sale of state land, which is a violation of the principle of public trust, because a government is only the custodian of the land and not the owner to transfer ownership to anyone.
State lands are not for sale – State lands cannot be rented
84% of land in Sri Lanka is held in trust by the state. A government is only the guardian of the earth. This means that a government has no moral or legal right to sell the land. The government can only lease the land. Therefore, the government cannot grant title to state land and it is an illegal act that can be reversed through legal channels. Also constitutionally, the government cannot confer title to state lands in private hands (local or foreign).
This is the golden rule.
Get the farmer to do what the government can’t do!
Given this scenario – What the government is cleverly trying to do by giving title to state land is to get the farmer to sell the state land because the government cannot sell the land directly state.
State land ownership cannot be granted to a segment of the population
State land belongs not only to this generation, but also to future generations
We value what has been passed down from our ancestors.
Farmers are only a segment of the State (People)
A government cannot give part of the state title deed ownership of the land
This violates the fundamental right to “equality” for all, clearly established in Article 12(1)
If a government transfers ownership of state land to farmers, then it must give title to state land to all 22 million people and include provisions for state ownership for future generations. This is something that cannot be done, which is why a government cannot give ownership of state land to a segment of society or sell state land except to lease it.
Farmers are in debt
If farmers are in debt, it is because they have taken out loans and they cannot repay the loans.
This means that without a title deed, they were able to take out loans.
This negates the claim of those who promote the need to have title to land to obtain loans and that without title to land they cannot take out loans.
State banks and private banks provide loans and have done so for decades.
Banks will provide details on how they provide loans to farmers.
Indebted farmers receive title deed
Silent Message – Leave State Land + Abandon Agriculture
A farmer in debt and holding a title deed is a step to encourage him to give up farming and give up his land. The result is suppressed by a campaign to project the idea that the government is doing the farmer a big favor by giving him title to state land.
Six dangerous scenarios are created by handing over title ownership.
- From being a farmer living on state land, once given the title deed of this land, he becomes a private landowner and the State washes its hands of any responsibility or assistance towards him.
- The farmer may then be incentivized to sell land that he now owns – this money will invariably be split among a large family living on acres of state land. In the end, he may not have much left.
- A farmer who has lived on state land with his family for generations after selling newly owned land will be asked to leave the land with his family.
- This farmer and his family will have to find an alternative place to live and support – the government is under no obligation to help
- Imagine if 50,000 farmers were given title to state land and incentivized to sell their land, leaving farmers and their families with no land to live on, no house to live on, no livelihood? Look at the end result of giving title ownership!
- If farmers obtain ownership of state land – All citizens also have the right to demand ownership of state land title deeds. This will set an ugly precedent and undesirable problems for Sri Lanka.
What are the options
Covid and the current economic crisis have shown us that we cannot rely on importing food. We have to grow our own food and we have to protect Sri Lanka’s food security.
Farmers cultivate on state land.
The government must provide all assistance to all its departments and officials to help farmers and agriculture.
If the farmers got into debt, the government should work out a relief program for them after checking why they got into debt.
If farmers need training in modern farming methods, it must be given to them.
If the farmers cannot sell their products because of the third party mafia, the government must stop it and act quickly.
Farmers must be seen as essential to Sri Lanka’s self-sufficiency. No government can allow farmers to farm alone with difficulty without help. The problem is mainly due to the lethargy of the governments and the inefficiency of the civil servants in charge of helping the farmers. These officials need to be changed and governments need to focus on a proper national plan that is practical and not just nice on paper.
If a farmer does not wish to continue farming – the solution is not to give him a title deed to state land (with an ulterior motive of having the farmer sell the land), but to offer him an alternative :-
- He can quit farming – but in doing so, he and his family must leave the state land and find another means of subsistence and this land will be given to a farmer wishing to cultivate
- He can be helped with loans and continue to farm on leased state land (the government should also consider canceling old loans)
When foreign governments and international monetary organizations ask a government to privatize state lands and allow foreign ownership, a government must think of clever ways to give up state lands. Offering title ownership is that nifty plan.
Farmers must look beyond the joy of owning a piece of paper to the greater dangers that await the farmer and his extended family who lose state patronage after becoming private landowners. Politicians and activists aware of these dangers need to explain to farmers the end result.
Shenali D Waduge