The rulers of this country have no concern regarding the environment, the irregular development that has been carried out by governments during the past 3 to 4 decades have started falling on people’s heads at present says the Member of the Central Committee of the JVP Parliamentarian Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa.
This was said at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP at Pelawatta today (8th) morning. The Member of the Central Committee Samantha Vidyarathna and former JVP Local Government Councilor and the convener of Organization to Protect Kelani River Basin Asitha Niroshan also participated.
Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa addressing the media said, “After this government came to power many decisions regarding local and foreign investment projects that are proposed as necessary for development are taken by the economic management committee. This committee takes decisions and approves projects without any environmental survey or adhering to the advice of the Central Environmental Authority or Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation that decide whether a project is congenial to the masses and the environment. As a result crises have developed at various places. People have commenced struggles to save their lands and environment. The irregular development that has been carried out by governments during the past 3 to 4 decades has started falling on people’s heads at present. This is confirmed from the incidents at Meethotamulla, Meeriyabadda and floods in Kelani Valley. People are being buried and are dying. We of the JVP have taken a special interest in these incidents. We have decided to expose the environmental destruction being carried out by handing over thousands of acres of lands from Monaragala and Badulla districts to companies and draw the attention of the country to it.”
Sugar cane syrup is sweet for rulers & companies but it is bitter for masses – JVP CC Member Samantha Vidyarathna
Mr. Samantha Vidyarathna speaking at the press conference said, “This government is attempting to bring a project the previous government brought to Wellassa Binthenna in 2006 and was unsuccessful. By now cabinet approval has been taken to cultivate sugar cane and arrangements have been made to lay the foundation stone for the factory. In December 2006 then Minister Milroy Fernando had cabinet approval to hand over 65,000 acres from Uva-Wellassa to Booker Tate Company in Britain. It is the same company that opened the Monaragala, Pelwatta sugar factories. In 2006 a people’s campaign began against handing over lands. During the 2006 – 2007 period the government had taken steps to hand over 65,000 acres of lands from Bibile, Medagama, Madulla, Badalkumbura, Rideemaliyadda, Meegahakivula, Lunugala, Kandaketiya, Padiyathalawa and Mahaoya areas. A massive protest erupted against this move. Scholars and intellectuals signed public petitions. We, as the JVP, held a day’s debate in Parliament. It was Minister Dharmadasa Banda who was in charge of the project. The project that was halted then has been given life again.
The local agent of this project is I.M.S. Holdings, the same company that was involved in the project previous time. However, the government is making an attempt to conceal the involvement of Booker Tate Company in the project. The project proposes cultivation of sugar cane, Guinea grass and forming milk villages. Instead of the 65,000 acres proposed in the first project this time it is proposed to have 62,500 acres. Companies in Thailand and China too are mentioned. In the earlier project it had been proposed to include lands from Nilgala reserve, Galoya reserve and Maduruoya reserve. Now, Galoya and Nilgala have been dropped and lands will be made available from Maduruoya reserve.
Due to agitations the government had to pay attention. Committees were appointed to make investigations. A field survey was conducted in March, 2006. According to this survey the request by I.M.S. Holdings to have lands from Nilgala, Galoya an Maduruoya was rejected.
However, 373 acres from Maduruoya reserve that was proposed to be given then has been included in the new project. The officials of Forest Department refused to allow this land to be included in the project. However, the government has compiled various reports in a bid to lease out the lands. No money has been received for the lands given to Dole company in the USA.
The aim of the project is to make farmers labourers in company lands. Sugarcane plant needs a lot of water. Having large sugarcane plantations will create shortage of water to the area. Sugar cane may be sweet to the rulers and companies but it is bitter for the people.”
Responding to questions posed by journalists Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa said, “The mandate received by this government was to punish fraudsters and the corrupt. FCID was established according to the mandate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena received. It helped in the investigation process. Initially the FCID worked efficiently. However, at present it has been affected due to political interferences. Filing cases against fraudsters and the corrupt got delayed. Documents regarding certain fraudsters were taken to the Prime Minister’s office. Now the political influence has intensified and there is an attempt to close it down. The government, without stopping at that, has started slandering the officers that served in the FCID. The government has cast aside the mandate it received and is moving on a path of its own.
When the government came to power it said it would minimize waste. It criticized the fleet of about 1500 vehicles former President had. They also talked about the burden of the massive cabinet of the former President. However, the present government on several occasions has presented supplementary estimates to bring down vehicles for ministers. Once Rs. 1190 million was allocated in a supplementary estimate to bring down vehicles for ministers. On another occasion another Rs.570 million was allocated. Now, again a supplementary estimate for Rs. 330 million has been presented to buy vehicles for a few more ministers. Earlier, Rs. 600 million was allocated to bring two bullet proof vehicles for the Prime Minister. Rs.600 million was again allocated to get down vehicles for the President. This government too suffers from the same vehicle craze the former government had. The government that hesitates to give Rs.100,000 compensation for a death at Meethotamulla spends millions to satisfy its vehicle craze.
We don’t say an MP should use a three wheeler or a bullock cart. Every MP is given a permit to import a luxury vehicle. Despite having such vehicles they want to spend Rs. 30 to 45 million of public money to get down luxury vehicles. The Prime Minister always talks about the debt burden. The Minister of Finance spends millions to publish advertisements to make people aware of the debt burden. However, billions are spent to bring down vehicles for ministers. This waste cannot be stopped until ministers’ vehicle craze is cured.”