Sri Lanka Cabinet must immediately introduce laws to protect land from being registered fraudulently after annulling Caveats
Globally, there is a hurry to grab land & resources and it is a factor that any Third World country/Govt must be aware of. On the guise of development and aid, international agencies try to push their plans via $ carrots. These programs are often binding of countries to allow access to external persons & provisions to even own data. Future interventions will be via ownership of data and conquering by computers than sending foreign armies. This implores governments to not only secure the country’s data systems but also protect the citizens land rights.
Bim Saviya Fraud Deeds & Protecting Our Land
Bim Saviya better known as Act 21 of 1998 was an Australian law enacted in 1858 when British immigrants conquered Australia declaring the land of the people as Res Nullius – no man’s land.
Why has Sri Lanka introduced this law?
Act 21 is a cut & paste of the Australian, without any stake holder involvement simply because World Bank recommended it & international aid agencies gave funds to implement it.
Governments agree to anything for funds
International aid agencies use a country’s need for loans as a carrot to plug programs beneficial to them. World Bank introduces Bim Saviya & Aid Agencies agree to fund its implementation. MCC came to be introduced to Sri Lanka in the same scenario with millions shown as a carrot. MCC selected Bim Saviya as part of its land project as it was part of an overall global land grab plan by international aid agencies. Bim Saviya had nothing advantageous to Sri Lanka and it was to take over 100 years to fully implement. Performance Report of Bim Saviya by the Commissioner General of Land Title Settlement for 2018 clearly establishes this. But international agencies introduced Bim Saviya with a purposeful intent and whether it is MCC or another aid program, bim saviya will play a key role as it is advantageous for external parties & fraudsters & not genuine land owners.
Bim Saviya is a foreign law, given with foreign funding imposed on us demanding that we remove our existing own laws & follow a foreign land law. Bim Saviya allows foreign aid agencies and foreign parties to be given access to all land records with absolute grant of intellectual property rights of the e-register.
Sudden decision by cabinet to remove Caveat
With a nod, the Cabinet removed the caveat provision inspite of numerous committees discussing how to amend existing land laws etc.
The news reported that Last wills can be attested by the Public trustee without lawyers.
Bim Saviya removes the judicial powers and the lawyers work relating to court actions regarding writ applications.
Owners have no remedy to be informed if forged deeds are getting registered Legal profession and lands in the country are facing revolutionary & shocking changes & as a result it is more than possible that condominiums will come up on lands belonging to innocent people forged and taken as Bim Saviya prevents recourse to the law to regain the land rights.
Where is the Land Reform Commission?
The Justice Ministry has commenced numerous committees to propose reforms to land laws in Sri Lanka without turning to the already available Law Reform Commission who are tasked to do just that. While all these discussions are taking place the Attorney General’s Department and the Land Ministry are busy writing new laws and making changes. A communication fallacy certainly prevails. By the time the discussions by Justice Ministry committees conclude the AG’s Dept & Land Ministry would have already implemented their own land reforms which can be contrary to what the Justice Ministry is proposing or completely opposite to what the Land Reform Commission would propose!
While all this is taking place, our learned cabinet without notice to the committees or public are able to completely annul statutory laws as was done with the caveat.
- Cabinet must annul Act 21 of 1998/Bim Saviya
MCC declares the project of transferring from deed to bim saviya will cost GoSL millions & MCC was to grant funds to transfer just 10 out of the 45 land registries to bim saviya.
- Cabinet needs to annul – Section 33 of Act 21 of 1998 which reduces the power of the judiciary to entertain cases from those affected by land fraud.
As perSection 33 – a Bim Saviya certificate entered into the e-land register by a forged party will make him/her the original owner of the land. The aggrieved original land owner cannot seek court intervention to regain the land and property. He has to be happy with compensation given by the Registrar who maintains a statutory Assurance Fund.
- GoSL does not need to borrow millions to please foreign organizations & their program recommendations.
GoSL has no money to create an Assurance Fund to compensate land owners who find their lands fraudulently taken from them.
- Cabinet is bound to protect land rights of Citizens
With Cabinet suddenly repealing caveats, the Cabinet is now bound to secure the land rights of owners.
How can Cabinet solve land fraud & protect land rights of citizens?
- Revive Deed System & Annul Bim Saviya.The Deed system complies with the Constitution of Sri Lanka & Section 23 of the Electronic Transaction Act of 2006 which prohibits fully automation of Land Transactions. Thus, the owners deed must remain with owner while the owner’s registration number will operate the e-register.
- Cabinet nod to protect owners unable to put caveats as GoSL has removed caveat registrations. Just as cabinet has given the nod to do away with the caveats which is a boon to the fraudsters forging deeds, the cabinet must now give the nod to stabilize the rights of owners to prevent land fraud. The cabinet must immediately consider registering the owners identity and photos of owners as required by the Financial legislations of the Central Bank.
- GoSL must amend Registration of Documents Ordinance Section 7 & make the registrar responsible to accept only original deeds & reject forged deeds. A new law has been introduced for Trust Deeds so laws to safeguard land owners for Other Deeds has to be immediately implemented.
- Implement the Central Bank Financial Transactions Act– Cabinet passed the Central Bank Financial Intelligence Unit proposed Regulations for Land Transactions. The Financial Transaction Act 6 of 2006 statute specifies how to identify land owners to prevent forgery and how to prevent money laundering. In the recent gazette of 21 April 2017 (2015/56) there is biometric or photo identity at the time of signing deeds which should be archived so that CID has better evidence than mere witnesses who say they know the owner. Witnesses to deeds is a poor & outdated identification system as they could also be dead or not in the addresses stated in the deeds.
- Continue with existing deed system with improvements– With the COVID crisis engulfing Sri Lanka, the GoSL is in no position to be bearing the cost of Bim Saviya which will take 100 years to implement according to the report of theCommissioner General of Land Title Settlement in 2018. When the deed system already exists there is no requirement for Sri Lanka to adopt a new foreign land law that was developed for Australia by immigrants to replace the laws that existed by Natives.
- Amended Trust Ordinance Section 19A / Act 6 of 2018 prevents fraud & money laundering – all land owners must be entitled to this privilege as they cannot depend on the notary. Central Bank monitors all Trust Deeds. A Trustee shall keep records of all such information as may be prescribed, on the identity of the following at the time of creation of an expression of Trust under Section 6 & every3 months these are verified & updated.
- Trustee himself
- Co-Trustee (if any)
- Author of the Trust
- Anyone engaged in the execution of the Trust in the capacity of an agent, a legal representative, a manager, an investment advisor or a tax advisor, an accountant
Amended Trust Ordinance Section 19C holds all responsible for land transaction & if found guilty by a Magistrate, is liable to a fine not exceeding Rs. 200,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both (fine & imprisonment)
- Remove practice of accepting illegible signatures of owners in deed system. Land owners must identify themselves & their signatures must be valid to make a deed valid.
The Central Bank has prepared the necessary laws for Trust Deeds. The same security & safeguard provisions must be applicable to all land transactions by the GoSL. The Cabinet must immediately provide a solution having suddenly removed the caveat without alternative option for genuine land owners wishing to secure their land via a caveat.
It is unfortunate that the legal fraternity of Sri Lanka are not coming forward to point out the discrepancies and the volatile situation arising out of impulsive short-sighted advice given to the Government/Cabinet by “advisors” unaware of the problems likely to arise out of annulling statutes via a sudden cabinet proposal.
Shenali D Waduge