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Land grabbing of indigenous people: CEJ contemplates legal action

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by Ifham Nizam

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) is contemplating legal action against what it called ‘land grabbing of indigenous people’.

Urging the Mahaweli Authority to stop the illegal seizure of lands, CEJ Chairman, attorney-at-law Ravindranatha Dabare said the unhealthy trend could lead to soil erosion and especially the blockage of many waterways.

“We will face some critical issues if that happens”, he warned.

He said the Rambakan Oya and many tributaries have already been blocked. “What they are doing is completely illegal”.

He said these resources don’t belong to the government, Mahaweli Authority or the officials in charge. These are resources that belong to the people of the country.

“Nobody has the legal right to plunder these resources and destroy hundreds of trees, some of which are centuries old.

The length of the bund of Rambaken Oya reservoir is 1,225 meters. The irrigation area is 1,968 acres. The reservoir has a water capacity of 45,500 acre feet. The catchment area is 12,800 hectares. Around 3,500 acres are cultivated during the Yala and Maha seasons and the length of the field canals supplying water alone is more than 78 km.

The leader of the Veddah community, Uruwarige Wanniyelatho said he had earlier heard of the destruction being caused to their traditional homestead, but didn’t believe it was actually happening.

“Some people even came to my house and informed me of the plunder that was going on. Generally, I don’t give credence to hearsay. I accompanied the CEJ Chairman and have now seen with my own eyes the degradation that’s being done”, he noted.

“Everything I heard about is true. The surrounding forest is ready to be cleared. Already, a vast area has already been cleared. However, these lands that people grab and clear today are originally those of our people”, he said.

He said that “Seethala Wanniya”, “Gorikana” and “Pollebadda” were native lands his ancestors occupied. “Now, when our people go to the forest to collect material to build a house, collect fuel wood or bees’ honey, they immediately take legal action against them. But, when large scale companies destroy thousands of acres of the forest, nothing is done”, the chieftain complained.

He added: “This forest is not something only indigenous people and animals want. Forests and environment are things that everyone wants, everyone including the tiny ants and insects that we don’t even see. The whole world is talking about natural disasters caused by environmental destruction. The destruction here is happening before our own eyes. This cannot be allowed to happen. This is our heritage, our lands and our culture. They must be protected. It is our responsibility to protect it for future generations”.

The Rambaken Oya Reservoir receives water from the foothills of this forest. So, when these farming activities take place, the water source will be polluted by fertilizers and pesticides used in cultivation, he asserted.

“The poison will then enter the Rambakan Oya reservoir, which provides drinking water. We have experience. The Mahaweli movement started in the 1980s has created kidney patients in the Mahawali C area at Girandurukotte. Today, people in those areas go to kidney clinics the way children go to school. If these projects implemented, we will suffer the same fate, he warned.

Therefore, this cannot be allowed to continue. The authorities should stop this. Otherwise, I will go to the court with the Center of Environmental Justice on behalf of my generation and my homeland to stop this destruction”, Wanniyelatho said.



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Sajith says ‘super’ PM has failed, SJB ready to take over govt.

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Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa has said that his party is ready to accept the daunting challenge of re-building the country.

Premadasa, who is also the Opposition Leader, has said that the SJB is capable of restoring the economy to pre-2019 status within five years. The declaration was made at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, on Monday (27)

The SJB won 54 seats, including seven National List slots, at the last parliamentary election in August 2020.

Demanding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down without further delay, the SJB leader launched a scathing attack on UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Those who claimed Wickremesinghe was a ‘super’ PM capable of performing economic miracles had to eat their own words, he added.

Having mismanaged the national economy thereby causing unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, some ministers undertook foreign jaunts at the taxpayers’ expense to beg for fuel and gas. Alleging that the government was trying to deceive the masses struggling to cope up with a severe shortage of almost all essential items, the SJB leader reiterated his call for President Rajapaksa and Premier Wickremesinghe to step down.

Of the 54 member parliamentary group, three lawmakers, Harin Fernando, Manusha Nanayakkara and Nazeer Ahamed have accepted ministerial portfolios while another MP, Dayana Gamage switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

SJB leader Premadasa said that under his leadership there wouldn’t be space for waste, corruption and irregularities. The former UNP Deputy Leader offered to lead the country at an event held to announce the setting up of a unit to work out a national consensus regarding just solutions for political, economic and social issues, Matara District MP Buddhika Pathirana heads the unit. (SF)

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House sittings expected to be cancelled coming week

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (28) told The Island that the Parliament wouldn’t be able to meet next week due to the disruption of fuel supply.

Speaker Abeywardena said that he couldn’t visit his Matara home for want of fuel and many lawmakers experienced the same problem. The Matara District MP said that he had been compelled to stay at his Colombo residence.

Parliament was earlier scheduled to meet from Tuesday to Friday. Last Week the Opposition boycotted the Parliament. After the Opposition announced its decision, the Parliament announced sittings wouldn’t take place as members were unable to attend due to fuel shortage (NP)

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Lankan envoy to Lebanon calls on UNIFIL Head

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Ambassador Karunaratne with Major General Aroldo Lâzaro(pic courtesy Foreign Ministry)

Sri Lanka Ambassador to Lebanon Shani Calyaneratne Karunaratne paid a courtesy call on Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Aroldo Lâzaro at the Head Quarters of the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) at Blue Line, in Naquara, on June 21, 2022.

They discussed matters of mutual interest which included increasing Sri Lankan troops at UNIFIL. The Force Commander stated that the Sri Lankan troops are respected for their outstanding professionalism and thanked them for their contribution to the UNIFIL for the past 11 years. Contingent Commander of 13th Force Protection Company (UNIFIL) Sri Lanka Lieutenant Colonel Nayan Samarakoon, and Attaché (Administration) of the Embassy Priyantha Dasanayaka also participated in the meeting.

The Ambassador was accorded a Guard of Honour and an inspection of troops and armored vehicles. A k9 demonstration and a concert by the Sri Lanka Army Calypso band was also held.

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