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Sri Lanka has already prepared the E-Land Register – We do not need MCC $67m Land Project

Sri Lanka has almost completed the E-Land Register.Do we need MCC funds with demands that require constitutional changes?This supposed ‘gift’ comes with a set of conditions & pre-conditions that even warrants the MCC Compact to be passed by Parliament & made into domestic law. The MCC demands include ownership of Sri Lanka’s intellectual property rights, immunity from our law for US citizens, exemption & privileges to even former staff of MCC, exemptions of taxes & duties. The MCC even demands to pass all Sri Lankan governmental duties vis a vis MCC Compact to a private company – MCA-Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. Such drastic changes for a $67m land project that demands major constitutional and administrative changes by Sri Lanka is too dangerous to even consider. We do not need to proceed with MCC Land project because we already have the solution.

Sri Lanka has already prepared the e-land registry for 20 land registries feeding all of the deed information to the computers.This ongoing process will soon complete the balance registries.

Thus, the allocation of MCC Funding for only 10 land registries in 7 districts from deed to title registration on an e-land register operated & owned by the MCC is a venture that is pointless and a waste of time, money & effort to covert an existing deed system into an 19thcentury Australian title registration system.

This Australian title registration system will make deeds redundant and will repeal Roman Dutch Law operating in the country as well as co-ownership & repeal inheritance laws where shared are owned by children. The Torrens Title Registration system or “Bim Saviya” the local name given to it will also repeal prescription & history of our lands & personal laws that govern different ethnic groups. Most importantly, it also removes the access to court for those affected by land fraud to regain ownership of any fraudulently acquired lands.

We do not need to continue with the $67m MCC Land Project because

  1. The Land Registrar has an e-land register already in operation. There is no requirement for another MCC owned & operated e-land register under an Australian Law (Bim Saviya) which invalidates existing deeds of owners & creates a new title registered certificate.
  2. The deeds of 20 of total 45 land registers have already been scanned and entered into the e-land register. The major districts have all been finished by Sri Lanka. Only the smaller districts need to be completed and can be done by the end of the year.
  3. The 2006 Electronic Transaction Act Section 23 clearly states that Land Transactions SHOULD NOT be made FULLY AUTOMATED.The owners deed will remain with owner, the owner’s registration number will operate the e-register. A land owner does not require to replace his/her deed with a 12 digit number.
  4. It has taken 12 years to transfer 600,000 blocks of land from deed system to Title Registration. The MCC agreement states it will take 20 years to deliver to 5million beneficiaries. The MCC Compact agreement & Funding is only for 5 years. Who is going to fund the Title Registration for the rest of the blocks & remaining 16million beneficiaries? Is this the loophole to permanently stay in Sri Lanka?
  5. At the above rate of converting to the new law it will take 100 years or more to complete the transfer of 8.5m blocks of land deeds to title registration. The entire judicial process of adjudicating legal rights to land of 8.5million owners in the country are to be handed to a non-legal organization called the Commissioner of Title who are clueless about land law & without legal background or legal staff. This vacuum is already causing severe inconvenience to the cases in progress. The Commissioner of Title states he finds difficulty in coming and completing the cases. Refer 2017 Title Commissioner’s Report.
  6. The process of transferring State Land to title registration will also pose numerous issues as will the transferring of Temple Lands & Kovil Lands to title registration system.

We already have an existing deed system which is being modified and modernized by the Ministry of Lands. What is lacking & needs quick remedy is to implement laws that are necessary to protect owners from fraud. MCC Land Project does not address this. 

The Trust Ordinancehas been amended to register the owner’s photographs and signatures to identify owners before land sales etc. The extension of this law to all land transactions will give Sri Lanka a fraud free electronic land register continuing the deed system already in place.

Most importantly, in continuing with the deed system, we are complying with the Constitution of Sri Lanka & the Electronic Transaction Act which prohibits fully automation of land transactions vide section 23 of Act No 19 of 2006.

The MCC controversial clauses together with the requirement to transfer deeds to title registration is a headache Sri Lanka does not need to venture into when we already have the solution before us.

In short, we do not need the MCC Land Project and MCC & US Government can utilize this $67million for the covid-19 efforts in US.

Shenali D Waduge



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