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Environmentalists want road constructions and cattle grazing stopped in Flood Plains National Park



Seeks President’s intervention

by Ifham Nizam

Some environmental and science based organizations have sought President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intervention to halt road constructions and the practice of allowing cattle to graze in the Flood Plains National Park as it could aggravate the human-elephant conflict.

Flood Plains National Park is situated in the flood plain of the Mahaweli river and is one of the four national parks designated under the Mahaweli river development project.

Situated 222 kilometers from Colombo, the park is a rich feeding ground for elephants and also serves as an elephant corridor for the grey giants migrating between Wasgamuwa national park and the Somawathiya national park.

Chairperson, Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle of Sri Lanka, Supun Lahiru Prakash, said the Flood Plains are identified as national protected areas and is the home range for more than 30 per cent of Sri Lanka’s elephant population.

He said that by allowing cattle to graze on vital nutrients at the parks, elephants will be forced to raid crops.

“If this trend continues, it would be disastrous”, he warned.

There are moves to promote agricultural and other cultivation projects in the surrounding areas, he noted.

He urged President Rajapaksa to put an end to the proposed road development as it would destroy the Flood Plains National Park.

The Flood Valley National Park was declared on August 7, 1984, with the protection of the floodplain of the Mahaweli River, a unique ecosystem created by the Mahaweli, the longest river in Sri Lanka, as its main objective.

Another objective is to provide a habitat for many wildlife species, including wild elephants, which lost their traditional habitats due to the Mahaweli Development Scheme.

Covering an area of 17,350 hectares, the national park is home to beautiful landscapes and ecosystems. It provides prey for a large animal community.

According to renowned environment lawyer, Dr. Jagath Gunawardena, the area was declared a National Park under Section 2, subsection 1 of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO).

Therefore, any area declared under this section can have state land and land other than that of the state. According to Section 5, no person can enter or remain within a nature reserve except under the authority and in accordance with the conditions of a permit issued by the prescribed officer on payment of the prescribed fee. Section 6 refers to acts that are prohibited within a Strict Natural Reserve, National Park and other protected areas, he said.

Therefore, nobody will be allowed to destroy the land, make any forest clearings, clear or break up any land for cultivation, mining or any other purposes, fell, girdle, tap, burn or in any way damage or destroy any plant or take, collect or remove any plant, Gunawardena explained.

There are clear violations set out in Sections 5 and 6. If Section 6 is violated, a perpetrator could be arrested without a warrant and it is a non-bailable offense, he continued.

Public Service Trade Union Federation, Chairman W. H. Piyadasa said that Forest Department repossessed the land on court orders after reporting the construction of an illegal road from Manepitiya to Yakkugar through the Polonnaruwa Floodplain National Park and the illegal cultivation in the wildlife reserve.

Centre for Justice, Executive Director, Hematha Withanage has also taken up the matter with the President.

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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill



… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.



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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander



An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”



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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period



Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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