sanctuary raid:Two suspects remanded
The two suspects arrested recently with two
bulldozers during a raid at the Somawathiya
Sanctuary were remanded till November 2 by the
They were arrested by the officers attached to the
environmental unit of the Hingurakgoda Police
together with Wildlife officers.
The suspects were taken into custody on a tip-off
received by Sisira Kumara de Silva, Deputy Director
of Wildlife in charge of the Mahaweli Zone.
The raid was conducted in the Kaakan Kathuodi area
and the two suspects were detained for bulldozing 35
acres of land inside the sanctuary.
The two were identified as Jayaweera Pathiranalage
Jayantha Pushpakumara and Wijekoon Mudiyanselage
Wijekoon Bandara. They are residents of
Madurupitiya, Loluwagoda and Dumbaramana, Ratnapura
According to De Silva the duo had been clearing the
land for paddy cultivation.
Environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardena told The
Nation that such illegal activities have been
happening within the Somawathiya sanctuary since
early this year.
“I must say that such kinds of actions are taking
place under the protection of politicians. It is not
just for paddy cultivation but there is illegal
timber felling as well, which were also reported
from Wilpattu and Udawalawe National Parks last
week,” he added.
Meanwhile, commenting on the same issue, the
Director General of the Department of Wildlife
Conservation, Ananda Wijesooriya, said that
Somawathiya was recently declared a national park
and before that it was a sanctuary.
“During the war the grounds were used by the Army
and it curtailed the use of these grounds by the
general public,” said Wijesooriya.
He said that no demarcations of the grounds have
been done so far and once the boundaries are
properly demarcated taking action against illegal
activities would be much easier.
“In addition to being a national park Somawathiya is
a historic religious area much visited by pilgrims.
Their numbers have been increasing since the
restoration of peace with the crushing of the LTTE,”
According to Wijesooriya, absence of proper
boundaries has prevented these areas being regularly
used by those who have lived there for generations.
“The survey department has already been informed of
the need to demarcate the boundaries of the national
park which we hope will be done during the first
half of next year,” said Wijesooriya.
The raid was carried out under the guidance of
Deputy Director Forestry, Department of Wildlife
Conservation, P.B. Jayatissa and ASP in charge of
the Hingurakgoda area W.J.N. Senarathne.