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News  


 

Somawathiya sanctuary raid:Two suspects remanded

By Sarashi Samarasinghe

The two suspects arrested recently with two bulldozers during a raid at the Somawathiya Sanctuary were remanded till November 2 by the Hingurakgoda Magistrate.
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 respectively.
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,” he said.
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.