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Kirielle asks President to visit his Hantane property and see if there has been any environmental damage

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella yesterday said that he was ready to give a land belonging to him at Hantana for an environmetnal project of the state and extended an open invitation to the President, government officials and media to come and see for themselves or to hold an investigation on the ownership of the land.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leaders’ office in Colombo, MP Kiriella said that the President at a recent meeting had spoken about the land in Hantana, claiming that none was talking about clearing forest in Hantana area by a senior minister of a former government. “Nobody talks about it because there was no environmental destruction. If there had been destruction of the environment, the media and environmental organisations would have already been there. I invite the President and his officials or any organisation with an interest including the media to come and see what really this is about,” MP Kiriella said.

 He said: This is a land of which the documents are older than 100 years. We have the ownership for 30 years and prior to that it belonged to white men for 70 years. Tea and pepper had been cultivated there but it had been abandoned for years in recent times, as I had no time to attend to them because of my active politics. The land comes in the area of Hantana Reserve that was declared in 2010. This is a land where tea and pepper had been cultivated about 90 years back. In the 1980s I even applied to cultivate tea to the Tea Smallholding Authority. Although the Hantana area was declared a reserve we do not lose our ownership. Any such land could be cultivated but it should be informed to the Hantana Committee under the chairmanship of the district secretary. When there was an agricultural drive under the present government, I instructed my family members to see whether we could start cultivating that land. They removed the shrub to enter the land and it is now being described as clearance of forest. Anyone has a right to enter his or her land in this country. None can prevent a rightful owner of a land entering his or her land and there is no need to get prior permission to it.

“I and my family members do full time politics so we are not disturbed by allegations, but there is a duty for the media to find the truth. There are 12 buildings in a land adjacent to my land and five of them have been constructed after 2010. Those buildings have not yet even been registered in the Pradeshiya Sabha and they do not even pay rates.

“Before 2015, I offered to donate this land to a bhikkhu from Weliweriya to build a monastery there. Ven Bhikkhu visited the land but pointed out that he would not have the environment of a temple there because there is a holiday resort in the adjacent land. I have no desire for this land which I have once offered to the Maha Sangha. We are a family that has thousands of acres of land. We still have Sannasa given to our great great grandfather Kirielle Jayasekera Mudiyanse by King Keerti Sri Rajansinghe in 1761 giving him 10,000 acres of nindagam for his services to capture several Dutch fortresses in the Southern province. My wife’s grandfather is the Mahawalatenna Rate Mahattaya of Balangoda who owned thousands of acres. Some of those lands were taken over by the government under the land reform laws leaving 50 acres. So we are not a family that has a craving for lands.

I am ready to discuss with the government to offer this land for an eco-sensitive project. There is no point in talking in air-conditioned rooms about environment protection. I therefore invite you all to come and see for yourselves the truth.

 

 



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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