Government Achieves Unprecedented Land Rights Success without Revolution
Highlighting the initial success of the present government in in rescuing the country from bankruptcy, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also emphasized additional achievements such as the “Aswasuma” program benefiting 02 million people and salary increases for 1.5 million government employees.
The President emphasized that the government achieved significant progress for the country’s betterment in just two years with the support of a partial parliament. He encouraged everyone to contemplate the potential advancements the country could achieve with the backing of all parliament members.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks during a ceremony at Rangiri Dambulu Stadium this afternoon (05), where 10,000 freehold titles were awarded to farmers as part of the first phase of the Urumaya program.
The President highlighted that granting land rights to foreigners under the Government Land Ordinance Act would not have been an impediment to providing the same rights to the people.
As part of the 2024 budget proposals, President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s eighth proposal aims to grant full ownership of government lands to farmers, which were disposed of under the Land Development Ordinance Act of 1935 through permits and conditional grants.
Fulfilling a longstanding aspiration of the nation, the ‘Urumaya’ program, aimed at granting freehold rights to land, will be rolled out nationwide under the President’s guidance, benefiting an estimated 02 million farming families. The 2024 budget proposal allocates Rs. 02 billion for the ‘Urumaya’ program’s implementation.
Applicants seeking full ownership of land through the ‘Urumaya’ program will receive freehold titles in three main stages. To streamline the process and address community concerns promptly, a Urumaya National Operations Secretariat has been established under the Presidential Secretariat, coordinating relevant institutions.
Symbolically, President Ranil Wickremesinghe personally distributed land deeds to farmers.
Additionally, he inaugurated the ‘Centre of Excellence’ at Dambulla Stadium as part of the “National Cricket Development Pathway” program, designed to offer equal opportunities to cricketers with natural talents for national team representation.
Furthermore, President Wickremesinghe opened a new swimming pool on the stadium premises and actively observed the pool’s practical activities.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe inaugurated the innovative stadium lighting system.
Furthermore, during the ceremony, he laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Media Centre, the new auditorium, and the indoor stadium at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium and the ‘Centre of Excellence.’
President Wickremesinghe, addressing the ceremony, added:
“This is our homeland, the place of my birth, the nation that defines my heritage. Today marks a significant occasion as we gather to address a longstanding struggle faced by the people of our beloved nation—the quest for land rights. What we are witnessing today is a transformative moment, a revolution, as we grant land rights to 02 million individuals. This monumental step empowers our citizens to exercise control over their land without the need for constant approvals from authorities.
I urge everyone to cherish and safeguard this right, not just for themselves but for future generations. Let us capitalize on this opportunity for progress and development. While many parts of the world have witnessed revolutions to secure land rights, our country is distinguished by achieving this milestone without the need for such upheavals.
Many deemed this impossibility, but our government made the decisive choice. Specifically, those engaged in farming and those who have built houses will now hold the rights to that land. I extend my gratitude to all involved in agricultural activities. Your support in the last Maha and Yala seasons played a crucial role in revitalizing the country’s economy, leading to a successful harvest.
Additionally, I acknowledge those who have constructed homes on these lands. It is in appreciation of their contributions that we grant this freehold land right. This marks a historic moment, as even during the Sinhalese dynasty, there was no established deed system. Lands were allocated to the privileged and Nilames through letters, while others received land for cultivation without permanent deeds. The Waste Land Act designated all such lands to the government, leaving the people with nothing.
Mr. D.S Senanayake initiated efforts to allocate land to people for farming under the Land Development Ordinance Act of 1935. The Land Acquisition Act was utilized to acquire land for village expansion, but ownership rights were not granted.
Subsequently, settlements were established in arid regions, accompanied by the commencement of paddy cultivation. Mr. Philip Gunawardena introduced the Paddy Act to enhance paddy fields in the wet zone where the majority existed, facing considerable opposition. However, the initiative persevered.
During the Mahaweli movement, Mr. J R Jayawardena allocated additional acres to the people. We are now launching a similar program.
In the past, Mr. Gayantha Karunathilaka faced legal challenges when initiating this program, accused of introducing a new law. However, this time, I did not encounter such opposition. If the Government Land Ordinance could grant land to white individuals and provide free land rights to investors, there is no reason why the same rights cannot be extended to the general public.
Today, we are granting free land rights to everyone using the same ordinance that facilitated land allocation to investors. No legal hurdles need to be overcome again. This program is historic and revolutionary. Land rights have only been granted in Asia by Japan and South Korea, and today, the people of our country have acquired this right.
I have instructed the swift implementation of this initiative in every divisional secretariat. I urge all Members of Parliament to unite without party distinctions for the success of this endeavour.
It must be acknowledged that the current government in Sri Lanka is unprecedented, with individuals from various parties coming together to take on responsibilities during challenging times. Despite the complexities of forming a government with contributions from different parties, we faced the task of rebuilding the country.
While our nation is gradually recovering, I recognize the hardships endured by the people. Efforts have been made to provide relief through programs such as the ‘Aswesuma’ program and salary increases for government employees. Emerging from a state of bankruptcy, the next step involves granting free land rights to the people. Despite economic challenges, undertaking these initiatives raises the question of what cannot be achieved in the future with a strengthened national economy.
Continuing on the path we have embarked upon, there is the potential to achieve a 5% economic growth in 2025. Our collective efforts, transcending party politics, have contributed to the success achieved so far. I urge everyone to unite in carrying forward this work, keeping the future of our people in mind.
We have already granted land rights to 02 million people and provided benefits to another 02 million, along with salary increases for 1.5 million. The development of the tourism sector has also created new income streams. If such significant accomplishments can be achieved with parliamentary unity, envision the possibilities if all members collaborate. This is the direction we must take.
Anticipating further legislative measures to foster the country’s development, let us advance together. An extensive agricultural revolution is underway, transforming the landscape through agricultural modernization.
We must avoid falling into debt again and prevent becoming a nation of beggars. Safeguarding our pride is crucial, and we must embark on this journey together. Today, each one of you is a stakeholder in this country. I encourage everyone to act with pride and wish you all the best.
Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena acknowledges the historical significance of the city of Dambulu and its role in preserving the country’s heritage. This presents an opportunity to bestow the ‘Urumaya’ that began with the struggle to overcome such challenges upon 02 million people. In achieving the President’s objectives, commendable efforts were made by all officials, including the Minister of Lands.
Highlighting the unparalleled historical importance of Dambulu, enriched by landmarks like Dambulla and Sigiriya, the Prime Minister emphasizes the responsibility of recipients of government land to contribute to vital tasks, particularly in ensuring food self-sufficiency. Today, we are commemorating our rich heritage. This is a source of pride for our land.
During a period when people across the country were grappling with food shortages, the farmers, with the President’s invitation and intervention, played a crucial role in restoring self-sufficiency to our nation. As recipients of government land, it is expected that you will vigorously continue these vital tasks. The responsibility lies with all of you to wholeheartedly commit to this cause. Do not underestimate the significance of the deed you receive today.
Minister of Tourism, Lands, Sports and Youth Affairs, Mr. Harin Fernando, paid respectful homage to past land ministers, notably highlighting the efforts of Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka. In 2015, Minister Karunathilaka proposed a cabinet paper advocating for land rights for the people, a vision that, though unrealized at the time, has now materialized under the leadership of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Minister Fernando proclaimed today as a historic day that merits a place in the records of the country’s history.
On that day, Mr. D.S. Senanayake solidified the land rights of the country’s people, and later, Mr. J.R. Jayawardena recognized the significance of granting land rights to the citizens.
This can be noted as a unique instance when freehold land was acquired. I extend my gratitude to all those who devoted themselves to this historic endeavour.
The event was attended by Religious leaders led the Maha Sangharatna, Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Prasanna Ranatunga, Tiran Alas, Douglas Devananda, Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Pramita Bandara Thennakone, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Rohana Dissanayake, Chamara Sampath Dasanayake, Members of Parliament Janaka Bandara Thennakone, S. M. Chandrasena, Vadivel Suresh, Vajira Abeywardena, Gayantha Karunathilaka, Nalaka Kottegoda, UNP Chief Organizer of Matale Priyan Wijeratne, Governors including Central Province Governor Lalith U Gamage, senior Adviser to the President on National security and the chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake, Land Commissioner General Bandhula Jayasinghe, Director General of Trade Unions to the President – Saman Rathnapriya and a large number of officials, including Ministry Secretaries, Provincial Secretaries, District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries, and land title holders.