The Sri Lankan military has begun the process of gradual withdrawal from civilian properties under its occupation in the Jaffna peninsula.
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on a visit to the Northern Province, told journalists after unveiling a memorial at the Elephant Pass on Friday that the military would withdraw from the properties.
The continued occupation by the military has been a matter of concern to the Tamil parties and the civilians. They have been demanding that the owners be given back their properties.
After the military took control of Jaffna town and the peninsula from the LTTE in 1995, the forces had taken over several buildings. Some are in the heart of the town and hence Jaffna came be called a garrison town.
The contention of the Tamil parties has been that a sense of normality can be restored and confidence built among the civilians only if the military vacated the private buildings.
Meanwhile, the Defence Secretary at a special function unveiled a memorial to mark the capture of Elephant Pass by the armed forces in January last year.
Elephant Pass, the bottleneck gateway to Jaffna peninsula, fell into Army hands on January 9 within days after the LTTE lost Kilinochchi, the administrative capital of the outfit. The Elephant Pass Army camp was captured by LTTE on April 20, 2000.
It is the second such memorial to be erected by the Sri Lanka military in the northern province after the military defeat of the LTTE in May last year. The first one was inaugurated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in December at Puthumathalan, where the last phase of the battle was fought.