Continued Rape of the Wilpattu National Park and Establishment of Unauthorised Settlements
Posted on April 27th, 2015

Mahinda Gunasekera

By E-mail
His Excellency, Maithripala Sirisena
President of Sri Lanka
and Minister of Mahaweli Dev & Environment
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Copy to: Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe   Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Your Excellency,
Continued Rape of the Wilpattu National Park and
Establishment of Unauthorised Settlements  

I am writing to bring to your notice the continuing rape of the Wilpattu National Park that is taking place at this very moment, whilst the authorities responsible for the conservation of forests and protection of the environment are hibernating in their comfortable offices in the capital city.  When this matter was brought up earlier by another group of concerned citizens with photo evidence, they pointed a finger at a minister of the state whom I believe was  Mr. Rishad Badthiutheen, as being the person responsible for the encroachment and  construction of houses for settling members of his community.  I note that Mr. Badthiutheen
is once again holding a cabinet rank in your administration as well.

I am giving below a link to a 5 minute 51 second video which shows the construction of roads and permanent houses within the Wilpattu National Park. This is a clear violation of the  existing laws relating to conservation of the limited forest cover in the island needed for climatic  reasons as well as provision of areas for our wild life to freely roam in safety as envisioned by our wise rulers from ancient times.   Please click on the link to view the video:
https://www.facebook.com/438356542898780/videos/636685536399212/?fref=nf

You will observe paved roads and permanent houses already in place, with road extension and house construction underway.  A board has been erected denoting this illegal housing project on encroached crown land in a conservation area as ‘JASSIM CITY’ comprising a total of 179 houses. The funding has been provided according to the signboard by Sheikh Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani Charitable Foundation based in Doha, Qatar.  Does the law allow foreign organizations to establish cities for members of a particular community on Sri Lanka’s sovereign territory involving the deforestation of national parks which are deemed conservation zones? Such funds should instead be direted to the government to resettle Muslims and others who were internally displaced in their former places of residence.

The usual reason given for such illegal action is that there has been a delay on the part of the government to re-settle members of the Muslim community who had been forcibly evicted by the LTTE from their abode in the northern province.  There were also over 27,000 Sinhala people who had also been evicted from the north by the separatist Tamil terror groups between 1971 and 1981, none of whom have been resettled by the state, except for a handful of about 25 families who have staked out their temporary homesteads in Navattakuly without any assistance from the state. The right of return of those who had been forcibly evicted by the Tamil terror groups who carried out ethnic cleansing of non-Tamils in both the north and east must be honoured by the government.

While there are an abundance of laws established in Sri Lanka, the failure to prevent wrongdoing is mainly due to the non-enforcement of the laws by the authorities concerned.  Could this be as a result of political interference which prevents officials from carrying out their entrusted duties? I have also been made aware of similar encroachments in the Eastern Province by members of the Muslim community into strictly conservation areas such as the forests surrounding the estuaries of waterways flowing to the sea, and even producing bogus deeds prepared by members of their own community working in the kachcheri or district office administering the area.  We are also aware of  the ‘Ashraf Nagar’ where 500 houses were built on land close to the Deegavapi Temple complex in
the Ampara district supposedly to house 89 Moslem families who had been displaced by the 2004 tsunami, nearly 30 miles inland from their original place of residence with funding from the Middle East.

I trust that you would initiate an investigation immediately and take appropriate action against who  so ever has had a hand in this unlawful venture to build unauthorized houses by encroaching into  conservation properties belonging to the state.  These houses have to give way to the preservation of the National Park, and steps taken to restore the forest cover without delay.  Notwithstanding  ethnicity, the government must uphold the law in order to win the trust and confidence of the people.

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera

Copies to: Senior officials of the Forest Dept. and Ministry of the Environment
”      ”    Sri Lankan Media

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