21 November, 2018

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The Adrenalin Rush To Save The Wilpattu National Park

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass L. Usuf

Mass L. Usuf

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) a global monitoring body of internally displaced people worldwide estimates that as of February 2015, there are 90,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka. Most of them live in host communities and others in camps. Some cannot go back to their lands as it has been occupied by the forces.

In this thirty year old saga, the Wilpattu National Park, one of the few natural assets of this island, has taken center stage in the battle of righteousness. Protecting this 131, 667 hectares santuary including its fauna and flora is an absolute national imperative. The necessary laws are in place, the oldest among them being the Forest Ordinance No 16 of 1907. Civil organizations, conservationists, and environmentalists are the watchdogs.

Some elements of these watchdogs in collaboration with extremist organisations and there proxies have turned out to be diehard ‘actors’ in the cause of conservation. The National Park was previously dragged into controversy when reportedly the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) charged that Minister Rishad Bathiudeen had settled Muslims after clearing part of the land belonging to the park.

A disturbing concern however, is the eclectic approach of these ‘actors’ in their zeal to protect the forest. Are they sincere activists or pawns fulfilling a different agenda altogether? There have undoubtedly, been many instances of glaringly gross violations of our reserves. I shall rest my case only with one.

Why did not we see the “jathika vasthun surakimu” tamasha, when the Colombo Telegraph reported in September 11, 2014, as follows :

Wipattu“Sri Lanka Navy has forcefully acquired close to 900 acres of forestry located within the perimeters of the Wilpattu National Park to carry out constructions of a mega tourism project. According to information revealed by the officials of the Environment Conservation Trust, the land grab has been carried out by the SLN in the area located along the Northern border of the park, in the vicinity of the Mollikulam area. Presently, a large wall that is about nine inches in height is being built around the forcefully acquired land and its constructions have been completed so far for about 2 km along the Eluwankulama – Silwathura road that was also constructed by the SLN illegally.

What is even more damaging is that, 50 more acres of land in the national park have been impacted due to being cleared to obtain soil to build the massive nine inch rampart that is being built around the 900 acre land”.

Might is right

With my deep respect for the sincere protagonists of conservation, I wish to ask where were all these mushroom provocateurs ? Did they ask for the Initial Environmental Examination report or Environmental Impact Assessment report for the project as required under the National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980? Were these provocateurs not aware of The Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, No 2 of 1937, which states in Section 3A :

“No person shall, within one mile of the boundary at a National Reserve, construct a tourist hotel or provide any services or facilities similar to the services or facilities provided by a tourist hotel”.

Did not they know that the Forest Department policy statement says,

“One of the objectives of the National Forest Policy is:

To conserve forests for posterity, with particular regard to biodiversity, soils, water, and historical, cultural, religious and aesthetic values”.

At that time, might was right. None dare question. But, now, under the yahapalanaya all the minions and cowardly ‘actors’ like Rip Van Winkle have suddenly woken up and crying, “Save Wilpattu”.

Is it not ironical that these pretenders desire to protect animals and trees only from the Muslim IDPs. We generously rushed aid to Nepal but trample upon our own people in the backyard and are indifferent to the pain, suffering and hardship of humans. Even murderers and terrorists have a safe place to stay but those who lost everything for the sake of a unitary state is labeled and ostracized. Where have we gone wrong ?

LLRC Recommendations

Among the LLRC recommendations were the introduction of a uniform State policy aimed at resettlement of Muslim IDPs in host communities or in their original place of habitat. To introduce an assistance package including financial assistance for housing construction for Muslim Community in North and East. Take immediate steps to assist in rebuilding of the mosques, houses and schools destroyed or damaged by the LTTE.

As a Muslim Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, has a moral obligation to take care of the interest of his community. Being a conflict-induced IDP himself, he relates well to the woes of his people. The LLRC recommends settling them in their original place of habitat. To attach a racist tone to these returnees who have been suffering silently for several decades is both inhuman and callous.

Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing a press briefing, Thursday (7) May, said, “During the past few weeks, some have negatively reported on continued and illegal Muslim re-settlements in the Marichchikatti Grama Seva division which is outside the Wilpattu National Park,”. To establish his bona fides, he vowed to quit if they are proven. He even charged that a criticism campaign is taking shape against him.

The two pronged strategy aims at taking the Minister head on via the electronic media and the muslim community using the social media. The deliberate churning out of racially provocative statements and inciting fears of demographic changes bears testimony to this.

Demography

A study of settlements in the North and East reveals, “trends where Sinhala politicians and Buddhist clergy have entered areas in the East and erected new buildings and fenced off land, intimidating minorities in the area and creating tension among the different communities, as well as reinforcing minority fears about the use of land to effect demographic change”. (Bhavani Fonseka and Mirak Raheem, Land in the Eastern Province – Politics, Policy and Conflict, CPA 2010)

In the North, “civil society organisations, the media and opposition Tamil political parties, such as the TNA, have also highlighted a series of concerns.

These include land grabbing, cultural colonisation through the erection of Buddhist temples and statutes, Military colonisation through the setting up of High Security Zones and military cantonments and Sinhalisation of a region that has been claimed as the traditional homeland of the Tamil People”. (Chamindry Saparamadu and Aftab Lall, January 2014 – Working Paper 10, CEPA)

Why is this adrenalin rush ? Is it because these people are Muslims or is it to settle an old score with Minister Rishad Bathiudeen or because these are genuine advocates of conservation? Whatever the motive, the IDPs continue to languish in their present state.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    12

    So let’s find out about this HON. Minster, Rishad Bathiudeen.
    He is most famous for threatening a judge when the case was going against him.
    Attacking Sri Ranga at Temple trees.
    He is nothing but a thug like Mervyn Silva.
    The question is, is he up to no good in Wilpathu? Yes, I have no doubt he is up to no good given his past.

    • 7
      13

      This is why Islamic thugs like Bathiurdeen sided with the Behapalanaya Hopper Conspiracy! To achieve their nefarious aims of forming the Sri Lankan chapter of IS.

      This man was a disreputable villain until Sirisena thuma offered him a cabinet portfolio and made him “acceptable”.

      He spends more time at the electoral commissin these days – discussing electoral rolls and registration – with our celebrated commissioner and his deputy Mohamed.

      Expect him to win big at the next election! Guaranteed!

    • 8
      3

      Mass L. Usuf

      “The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) a global monitoring body of internally displaced people worldwide estimates that as of February 2015, there are 90,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka. Most of them live in host communities and others in camps. Some cannot go back to their lands as it has been occupied by the forces.”

      Let’s be realistic and honest here.

      1.DOUBLE STANDARDS With Respect to Muslim IDPs.

      The issue of Muslim internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country has been highlighted by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

      He has warned that the Muslim IDP issue will get out of control if the matter is not addressed soon.

      He has stated that 100,000 Muslim IDPs continue to suffer as humanitarian agencies and even the Resettlement Ministry have turned a blind eye to their plight.

      According to Bathiudeen, priority was given to resettle some 300,000 Tamil war displaced people despite Muslim IDPs remaining in makeshift camps in Puttalam and Anuradhapura for 22 years when he was the Minister of resettlement.

      “Earlier we did not have any differences but the terrorists differentiated us and chased us away. When the war was over, all the Tamils were resettled but not the Muslims. The problem is these 100,000 Muslims are suffering a lot. Even from the Indian housing scheme, Muslims are not given their share. This is the correct time to clear the land issue,” the Minister has said.

      2. Why DOUBLE STANDARDS? Because they are MUSLIMS? Also ask why is that there is All this delay in settling the Expelled Muslims 6 years after the war Ended in the original home villages, and why is that they had to bring families from Hambantota into Wilpattu? Because Yala was cleared for the Mattala Airport?

      Forgotten People – The Evicted and Displaced North Muslims of Sri Lanka (English)

      Published on Jun 1, 2013 The Evicted and Displaced North Muslims of Sri Lanka. The expulsion of the Muslims and other nations from the Northern province was an act of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Tamil militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organization in October 1990. In order to achieve their goal of creating a mono ethnic Tamil state in the North Sri Lanka, the LTTE forcibly expelled the 72,000 strong Muslim population from the Northern Province.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JV60McNQ9o

      These Paras, Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils, are turning the Land of Native Veddah Aethho int the Land of DOUBLE STANDARDS.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_standard

      A double standard is the application of different sets of principles for similar situations.[1] A double standard may take the form of an instance in which certain concepts (often, for example, a word, phrase, social norm, or rule) are perceived as acceptable to be applied by one group of people, but are considered unacceptable—taboo—when applied by another group.

      The concept of a double standard has long been applied (as early as 1872) to the fact that different moral structures are often applied to men and women in society.[2][3]

      A double standard can therefore be described as a biased or morally unfair application of the principle that all are equal in their freedoms. Such double standards are seen as unjustified because they violate a basic maxim of modern legal jurisprudence: that all parties should stand equal before the law. Double standards also violate the principle of justice known as impartiality, which is based on the assumption that the same standards should be applied to all people, without regard to subjective bias or favoritism based on social class, rank, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age or other distinctions. A double standard violates this principle by holding different people accountable according to different standards.

    • 6
      7

      Your utterly bitter racist comments must be condemned in no uncertain terms.

      What is wrong in Rishad Bathiudeen (RB) coming forward as a Muslim to help resettle his own community brethren, when everyone else turned a blind eye to the displaced Muslims living as IDPs in their own land? The places allocated for such resettlements are government approved lands, and not forcibly occupied nor grabbed from jungle land. Being a responsible Minister of the previous regime and also this government, he is doing his part by negotiating with foreign NGOs to fund projects to provide basic amenities in order to make these lands and homes inducible by providing basic living standards to the returning settlers. He is not distributing these houses to his family members and his friends, nor is he helping himself, as many (so called Sinhalese Buddhist) politicians have done in the past, and are now under the spotlight. It must also be known that he is not accepting any payments to provide these free benefits to those people. In that case it is a selfless cause and act, for which he will be long remembered by his community, and that is enough for him to win in any election. He is a man truly worthy of his salt, and has earned nothing but high praise, backing and support from the Muslim community. He will earn the merits of these good deeds even after he passes on to the hereafter.

      If you want to talk about unlawful encroachment on wildlife land, there is plenty to right home about in the setting up and location of Mattala Airport, with it construction across the migratory path of birds, which have got sucked into plane engines, stray elephants found roaming on landing tarmac, purposely drying up of waterholes to prevent animals from gathering to supplicate their thirst, thus depriving them of the right to their jungle homeland, etc. First solve those crimes that were allowed to happen – man made environmental disasters. Those are worthier crimes to ensue, rather than criticizing one man for providing a dwelling places to those who once displaced and poor, a chance to live with dignity.

      • 5
        0

        I think the issue is that some people are not convinced that “The places allocated for such resettlements are government approved lands, and not forcibly occupied nor grabbed from jungle land”

      • 7
        4

        Without shouting and screaming at me, can you disprove my stated facts?
        He did threaten the judge and attacked a court premises when court decisions went against him.
        That proves that he is not someone who takes the law seriously, so its easy for such a character to break more laws and settle people illegally.

        His race and religion mean nothing to me. Its the same thing I say of Meryn Silva and Duminda Silva. All of them are thugs. Stop defending someone based on his/her religion. That is the bane of this country.

        • 4
          1

          Rishad Bathiudeen too has been at the receiving end many times simply for being Muslim, specially from the likes of BBS invading his Ministry on false pretext of searching for missing a monk. In the same vein, even Judges are not saint or Messiahs and they are also fallible since they are only human. In fact they have been known to act as lackeys of individuals who hold high positions in society, like Chief Priests and Govt Ministers. However, I don’t intend to defend his action of the alleged ‘stoning of the Courts’ incident, but surely there would have been some provocation that pushed him to this limit, which isn’t too clear in the public eye, for why he did it or what made him do it, although I do believe that sometimes you got to fight for your rights to be heard, or may be better ‘sometimes you got to fight to be a man’.

          Being a government Minister from a minority community, he will not succeed if he is trying to emulate Dr. Mervin or some of the other jokers in the pack, as you suggest. What is possible is he is trying to perform his duty to his community and the nation at large, as only he knows how, and that may not be the most refined way that you and many others have come to expect, specially with the biased and unfriendly media. But he has to work with whatever that has been allocated to him, and he is doing a difficult job under trying circumstances. He doesn’t deserve the brick-bats thrown at him by racist elements, which is the easiest way to get at him and throw him off-track with false allegations of land-grabs and illegal settlements.

          But in any case, he has still not been charged and put in jail for his alleged action of ‘stoning the Courts’, so he is still presumed innocent until proved guilty that he did it. According to Rishad, apparently he is not well liked by media personnel since friendly, as he is quite blunt in putting forth his point, and it is they who caused this commotion which had no truth who He is doing the best he can under the circumstances and the guy needs to

          • 3
            2

            Please do not REWRITE history, we have enough of that of the ancient past already, we don’t want to start re-writing the recent history also

            Rishad Bathiudeen apologized to the judges for the attack ! He accepted his guilt. Its unfortunate his supporters don’t seem to be able to accept it

            So by your argument, since judges ate fallible we should all take the law into our hands?
            So I can come by and attack you and then say “I was pushed to the limit”?
            By your argument then the vandals and thugs that attacked the courts in Jaffna are “justified”? NO they are not.

            Again I stress, let not one’s religion blind you to his/her faults, especially politicians.
            They will sell you to the highest bigger if they profit from it, even HON Rishad Bathiudeen,

    • 6
      1

      Robert

      You hit the nail on the head . This is a rare asset that all Sri Lankans – irrespective of caste,creed, or religion, should protect for future generations . We should not allow a primitive war lord to take the law into his own hands and go on a rampage destroying one on the most beautiful parts of this little island.

  • 11
    4

    Racism Racism and Racists. This is not going to go away from the Sri Lankan psyche.

    The fact is a great many people were evicted from Jaffna purely due to their religion. The fact is the war is over. Why these people were not settled back in their original locations is a question that is not been asked nor explanation provided.

    Why had these IDP’s had to be resettled at Wilpattu? Secondly why had settlers from Hambantota brought in to unsettle the Muslim IDPs.

    Basically racism is so entrenched in the Sri Lankan culture, every other issue is subservient to that emotion. Wilpattu be damned, racism will prevail.

  • 7
    5

    Might is right and manipulation is the modus operandi of the politician, police and the lawyers. The rule of law has been subjugated. Wilpattu is a national asset and the blatant distruction is unacceptable. Until the politicians and the officials responsible are made to account the injustice against the country will continue. Were was our great leader who claims to have the saviour of the country when this national asset was being destroyed under his watch?

  • 9
    4

    Mannar IDP were forcefully evacuated from their habitat by LTTE 25 years ago and they have the right to return to their land after the area has been cleared by Sri Lankan Army.

    Let us assume that these IDP have occupied the forest land. In this event SL Government shall provide their original land and repatriate them with all necessary facilities.

    If they have not occupied the forest land SL Government again formalize their land and clear the matter to all those who are concerned about the forest reserve.

    In either way the IDP have their inalienable constitutional right to live in their land with honour and respect.

    Let us not discuss whether Rishad is a thug or decent person. As the President said today we should approach this issue with humanitarian concern and resolve the resettlement of these IDP.

    Thank God we have a got President with a heart. May God strengthen him in all his endeavors.

  • 1
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 7
    3

    once upon a time, willpathu was a a jungle full of animals, but now, it’s a dessert[Edited out]

    • 5
      6

      “once upon a time, willpathu was a a jungle full of animals, but now, it’s a dessert[Edited out]”

      Once upon a time, the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, was a a jungle full of animals, but now, it’s a dessert, after it was occupied by the Paras from India.

  • 11
    2

    I said before only time Sri Lankan’s come together as one with single voice is when it is an issue with race/religion, there are some 500 tsunami houses built by Saudi government which is being left empty due to a case filled against allocation of houses to muslims of the area. JHU says it must distributed among all communities how ever the funding was to build houses for muslim victims. The point is why waste 500 houses ? why cant be an amicable settlement found and get on with it.

    Here again it is a similar situation, the muslims who have fled from their homes from these areas have been living in Puttalam with untold difficulties for many decades now they want to return back to their lands, all hell break out.

    All hell breaks out purely because they are muslims. If they are Sinhalese then there would have been no problem they will be welcome with berakarayo,

    This is our petty mentality, we find all avenues available for us to create conflict leaving aside all logical thinking aside. In other words we behave like dumb F***s when it comes to minorities.

    Till we get rid of this bloody superiority mentality we will be having eternal conflicts as we keep looking for reasons to create conflicts.

    • 3
      2

      Afzal
      We need to have a majority of lions in Wilpattu. They need to be better than Mr Bathiudeen’s ways.

      I suggest to bring Hampanthota Mayor.

    • 8
      4

      Afzal

      “All hell breaks out purely because they are muslims. If they are Sinhalese then there would have been no problem they will be welcome with berakarayo, “

      You hit the nail in the head here.

      It is called DOUBLE STANDARDS. It is really appalling as to what is happening to the Tamil Speaking Northern Muslims.

      First they wee victims of war crimes committed by LTTE.

      Then they are victims of DOUBLE STANDARDS by the state. They cannot go back to their Lands and homes.

      Expose these Double Standards.

  • 3
    0

    This is another case of encroachment in Wilpattu. Website gives pictures etc.BBS, AND THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAS ONLY SEEN THE RESETTLEMENT OF THE MUSLIMS. PLEASE READ THE ARTICLE BELOW FROM THE PEOPLES ALLIANCE FOR RIGHT TO LAND. IT SEEMS HVA FARM IS CLOSELY CONNECTED TO DERANA CHIEF.

    Peoples Alliance for Right to land.
    http://www.parlsrilanka.org/issues/agriculture/item/159-hva-farm-project
    HVA Farm Project,

    Please read the article in the above web site. I am quoting from this article
    “HVA Farm project is in operation in a span of 335 acre forestland in Weerakulicholei-Eluwankulama Proposed Forest Reserve, Thabbowa Sanctuary and Raalmaduwa- Achchimalei Archeological Sanctuary (Fig. 3.0 a)”—————————-
    Laws Violated

    o According to the Land Development Ordinance No. 19 of 1935 and its amendments, before releasing a land over 50 acres in area for an agricultural activity, project approval should be obtained from all the relevant state institutions. But, operations of the H.V.A. Farm are being carried on unlawfully in the absence of such approvals.
    o According to the regulations of the Forest Conservation Ordinance as finally amended by Amendment Act No. 56 of 2009 ownership of forest lands under the control of Department of Forest Conservation cannot be transferred to a private owner. Forest lands have been assigned to this company violating these regulations.
    o According to the Gazette Notification bearing No. 1020/21 dated 27th March 1998 published under the provisions of the Northwestern Province Environmental Statute No. 12 of 1990, it is compulsory to obtain written recommendation from the Northwestern Environmental authority prior to commencement of a non-forest related developmental activity in a forest land exceeding one hectare subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment Process. But, the Environmental Impact Assessment Report produced for this purpose is incompetent and the scope covered is inadequate. But Northwestern Environmental Authority had granted recommendation to the project based on this EIA Report. The H.V.A. Farm project had been unanimously denied by the Land Use Committee of the Puttalam District in 2003 which constituted of all the relevant government officers. Moreover, the Supreme Court ordered to provide an alternative land for the project in order to relocate. Disregarding these facts which elucidate the harmful nature of the project, land in the custody of the Department of Forest Conservation has been released for the project activities against the prevailing laws of the country.

  • 0
    0

    I welcome and fully endorse the statement made by AFZAL above it is all because of Muslins as he said. Some Racist neo-Facists elements do not like Mslims peacefully the whole body of those are being filled with racism and this route of cancer has spread within their blood. Lot can be said if a person with good intention listen to others views and comments.

  • 0
    0

    whats inherently wrong here is the fact that we are creating a settlement where there has been no such human habitation in the history of Srilanka.we must find settlements to the huge number of Srilankans chased out of the norther Srilanka by LTTE.
    BUT THAT SHOULD NOT BE DONE IN A PLACE WHERE ONE OF OUR LAST REMAINING WILDERNESSES IS SITUATED.
    this is utter stupidity and goes against the very principles of ecology protection.the displaced population must be resettled. and if we care to search there is plenty land in and around Vavunia or many other regions of the North where this can easily be done. and it would raise no opposition from the community there as all these unfortunate Muslims were inhabitants of the Northern province.taking race and religion in to this calamity is improper .
    what the nation is facing here is both a humanitarian and an ecological issue.various actions to ruin the jungles of the Northwest occurred during the previous 5 years. the reasons why there was little protest by the people during ‘that time’ should be extremely obvious to the writer.

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