Written by Lahiru Fernando
05 Dec, 2016 | 10:46 pm
Sri Lanka is fresh off a strike which hampered the daily transportation and day-to-day activities of the people.
December 5- Today, officials at the Dehiaththakandiya Divisional Secretariat staged a strike accusing Minister Daya Gamage of threatening the Divisional Secretary.
Shiromani Kumari (The Divisional Secretary) had made preliminary preparations to construct a building belonging to the Secretariat in a section of the park in the Dehiaththkandiya town centre.
In a turn of events, Minister Daya Gamage (Minister of Primary Industries) arrived at the location in the morning and ordered the activity be halted.
Min. Daya Gamage: “The people of Dehiaththakandiya called and informed us that a building was being constructed at a cost of 90 million rupees, without calling for tenders. The Divisional Secretary has taken a section of the park to construct this.”
Shiromani Kumari: “The legal matter had been concluded. When I arrived there, he said that this land cannot be granted to the Divisional Secretariat. The protesters gathered there applauded and I was faced with a difficult situation in attempting to carry out the duty of the state. So I returned to the office.”
The DS also added that the Minister, accompanied by a group, came to the office and spoke in a threatening manner, asking for her departure.
Other officials at the Secretariat said, the minister ‘kicked the seat of the Divisional Secretary and took the administration to the dogs’ and said ‘Do not interfere with the public service and administration.’
A group of Bikkhus led by the Sanghanayaka of the Ampara District, Venerable Giritale Gunananda Thera, arrived at the Ampara District Wildlife Office to meet the District Wildlife Officer and register a protest.
Reason? The failure to enforce forest conservation laws in the face of destruction wrought on the Wattamadu grasslands in the Bakpitiya Reserve, Thimbirigollewa.
However, the District Wildlife Officer evaded the meeting.
“The court issued an order prohibiting it — Given the order, why are you unable to arrest them?” questioned the Ven. Thero
The answer the Bikkhus received? “We are trapped in a position where we cannot implement this”
The Bikkhus then said if action is not taken over the matter, they will ‘tie themselves to the trees if need be in order to prevent the destruction.’
But the officer said “The police, the security forces, the Grama Niladharis and all the other officials are capable of taking action”
Although the Assistant District Wildlife Officer informed the Bikkhus that the Police have a responsibility to act to prevent the destruction of protected forest land, yesterday we brought you the story of what happened to the Police Officers, who were left hapless in the face of questions posed by unauthorized cultivators on the 3rd of December
A Police team led by the OICs’ of the Thirukkovil, Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil Police Stations, arrived at the location on Saturday- prepared to arrest unauthorized cultivators.
Incidentally, it was the Director General of the Forest Conservation Department that requested the Senior Superintendent of Police in the area to arrest those who were illegally using tractors to till this protected grassland.
The Akkaraipattu Divisional Forest Conservation Officer, who should have been at hand to assist the police, neglected that duty and instead sent a group of junior officers, who were incapable of accepting responsibility.
The unauthorized cultivators highlighted the character of the divisional forest conservation officer – “He took money and allowed us to do this”
The forest conservation officers who did turn up at the location did not have in their possession the order issued by the Kalmunai High Court, and affirmed by the Court of Appeal, prohibiting anyone from entering the grassland, let alone cultivating it.
The Akkaraipattu Divisional Forest Conservation Officer, only arrived at the location, when the police were preparing to depart. He did not possess any documentation pertaining to the Bakmitiyawa-Thimbirigollewa reserve, let alone the Court order prohibiting entry.
The secret conversation between the Divisional Forest Conservation Officer and the Chairman of the Organisation which is destroying this grassland, shows the extent of complicity in the destruction of the Wattamadu grassland.
In a backdrop where people from far off areas are destroying this protected grassland by buying off forest conservation officers, the dairy farmers who reside adjacent to the meadow have removed their cattle from the fields, out of fear that those who have no scruples with blatantly violating the law, may also steal their cattle.
> Minister Daya Gamage foils cabinet decision to return farmland in Panama & Shrasthawela in Ampara, to the original owners – Makes plans to construct a tourism hub instead.
> Minister Daya Gamage pressures the Forest Conservation Department into releasing 117 acres of land adjacent to the Buddhangala Sanctuary in Ampara, for industrial purposes.
> Minister Daya Gamage orders Ampara District Secretary to issue permits for his loyalists to excavate sand in the Gal Oya river.
> Minister Daya Gamage scolds the Lahugala Divisional Secretary in public for going against his wishes and delaying the acquisition of protected forest land in Panama and Shrasthawela.
> Today – Minister Daya Gamage scolds the Divisional Secretary of Dehiattakandiya in public.
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