New national parks declared

Friday, 24 January 2020

The Government declared areas in Chundikulam, Delft Island, Adam’s Bridge, Kotuaththawala, Kayankerni, and Madu Road as national parks.Moving the motion in Parliament yesterday, Environment and Wildlife Resources and Lands & Land Development Minister S.M. Chandrasena stated that some of these new national parks were longstanding sanctuaries with high biodiversity and historical importance.

“Chundikulam, which was considered as a national sanctuary since 1938, was alleviated as a national park that contains over 27,500 acres. The biodiversity in Chundikulam attracts migrant birds. Permanent structures were removed in converting it to a national park from a sanctuary,” he explained.

Minister Chandrasena said that the Madu Road that surrounds Mannar, Mulaitivu, and Vavuniya was a sanctuary declared in 1968. Identifying its biodiversity, the Government has elevated it as a national park. “There are considerable numbers of wild elephants roaming Madu Road Sanctuary and an elephant pass is also found through the Madu Sanctuary. It is confirmed that different species including leopards, deer, and bears live in the Madu sanctuary because of its favourable conditions for mammals. So, we had to remove certain agricultural lands and villages to safeguard it as a national park,” he said.

“Historically important Delft Island is high in biodiversity. An area of 1846 ha in the Southern part of the Delft Island is reserved for wild horses. The Adam’s Bridge Marine National Park, which looks like a chain, is made up of small islands with sand dunes of different sizes. Part of it is found within the Indian Territory and identified as the Gulf of Mannar National Park. This is the inter boundary national park of Sri Lanka. Millions of migratory birds use these islands for nesting,” the Minister noted.


Rauff urges Speaker to investigate recent media report on his arrest

MP Rauff Hakeem yesterday requested the speaker to conduct an investigation on the recent media report that said a complaint had been lodged with the Police Headquarters calling for his arrest.

MP Hakeem made this request raising a privilege issue in Parliament yesterday.

He said that on January 18, several newspapers carried a main news item of a complaint at the Colombo Police Headquarters made by Major Ajith Prasanna calling for his arrest.

He added that the complaint was based on the television news item on October 23, 24 and 25, 2019 that showed video clips of his visit to a hospital to inquire after Rowland, the brother of the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday terror attack Zahran in 2017, and that he (Rauff) ought to be questioned in this regard.

He added that it was incorrect. In the aftermath of Easter Sunday attack, numerous interrogations were carried out by the CID and the TID on multiple dimensions of the suicide terror attacks carried out by Zahran Hashim and Rilwan and few others.

In addition to this, related reports were also prepared by the Parliamentary Select Committee and a Presidential Commission until this day.

“I could endorse that neither myself nor my party members have been accused of any alleged links with these terrorists,” MP Hakeem said. “In the wake of the presidential election in 2019, many vicious theatricals were staged to implicate me with these terrorists to cause disrepute and disharmony. At this instance too, I have spoken in Parliament and in media conferences clarifying my position and dispelling baseless accusations.”

He added that he had explained the circumstances of his visit to the hospital in the Video clip earlier. “It happened in the aftermath of M. L. A. M. Hizbullah’s defeat at the General Elections in 2015. I noted in the so called video that Zahran too has been seated amidst those crowds gathered that day that protested against Hisbullah’s appointment to the SLPA national list.

“Moreover my meeting with those injured in the hospital, post August 22 incident was open public event and was not a clandestine secret meeting. I visited the hospital in the presence of DIG Batticaloa, other police officers and media personnel,” MP Hakeem said. “Unfortunately nobody knew that anyone of them who were in hospital was a terrorist or potential terrorist at that time. I strongly assert with absolute conviction and sincerity to my conscience the fact of having had no such knowledge about them myself,” the MP said.

He said further that some TV channels are repeatedly showing this video of his visit to Katankudy with different harmful opinions, disrupting community peace and tarnishing his character with no conscience or sense of remorse. It is done by some persons using the media as cats’ paws to defeat me at elections.

He demanded that the Speaker take immediate steps to investigate these allegations against him. He added that he will extend his fullest co-operation in that regard.

Bomb blast at Shahrukh Khan’s 2004 concert in Colombo

United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Udaya Gammanpila denied any knowledge of the claim by United National Front (UNF) MP Ranjan Ramanayake that he knew who was behind the bomb blast at the musical concert of Indian actor Shahrukh Khan held in Colombo in 2004.

Gammanpila was participating in debate on the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in Parliament yesterday.He said that he only knows as much as what the public knows regarding this incident.“Ramanayake had said in Parliament that people should ask me about the culprits behind the bomb blast at that concert. I only know of the rumours about the incident just like everyone else. If I know anything more, I will inform the authorities,” he added.

“Ramanayake said on January 21 that he recorded his phone conversations to catch thieves. But his leaked conversations tell a different story. What he has done was to intimidate the judges, conspire to send certain MPs to prison and leak sensitive information pertaining to Police investigations. His leaked conversations clearly indicate that he is a liar. It is not evident that he tried to catch thieves when we listen to these leaked conversations. Ramanayake should be given the Best Actor Award for his speech on January 21 which comprised utter lies,” he said.

Legal action over renting building in Rajagiriya for Agriculture Ministry

The Agriculture Ministry is taking legal measures against renting the building in Rajagiriya for the Ministry for Rs 2.3 million per month during the former UNP led government, which is a massive corruption, Agriculture State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake said in Parliament yesterday.

The State Minister said the lawyers are studying the matter in detail before filing the case. He added that is a corruption and a deliberate fraud and the measures will be taken to penalise all including officers and the politicians who involved in it.
He said that this government did not need to continue with this corruption and added that the ministry was shifted to a government building at 8.37 am yesterday (23). He added that the rest of the offices will be shifted soon. He said the rented out building had not done any good to the farmers. He was responding to a supplementary question by JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake in relation to a question by MP Hesha Vithanage in the round of questions for oral answers.

MP Dissanayake said that during the previous government, the building owned by husband of film actress Sabeetha Perera was rented at Rs. 21 million plus VAT. He added that altogether the Ministry had to pay Rs. 23 million a month. He asked if the government will take measures to stop it.

Legal action should be taken against Wilpattu deforestation – Nalinda

JVP Parliamentarian Nalinda Jayathissa yesterday urged the government to take legal action against those who cut down a section of the Wilpattu forest. He said that even though the Wilpattu forest had been gazetted, its destruction is evident now.

He was speaking in the debate on four orders under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in Parliament yesterday. He said that in 2007 flood, the Kalu River mouth was excavated and it resulted in the Calido Beach sea erosion causing an irreparable and irreversible damage.

The government abolished the licence system for transporting soil and sand and it accelerates the environment pollution as mining sand has been increased. He added that environmentalists have warned of this issue beforehand. Some forests have been taken for development projects although some have been gazetted, he said.

The elephant-human conflict has intensified. Over 361 elephants and 100 people died in the conflict last year. The government must provide a permanent solution to this issue, he said.

Pinnawela revenue fast dwindling
State Minister of Ports Development Kanaka Herath said Pinnawala was once a prominent tourist destination which drew over 37 per cent of tourists. He said that it was pathetic that such a prominent tourist site earns around only Rs. 476 million in revenue in 2019.

He was speaking in the debate on the presentation of four bills under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in parliament yesterday.“In 2016, Pinnawala raked in a revenue of Rs. 838 million, in 2017 it was Rs. 728 million and in 2018, 692 million. Since 2016, its revenue has been reducing gradually. One of the main reasons for the dwindling revenue is stopping feeding milk to the baby elephants. It was the main attraction drawing tourists to Pinnawala. However, two years ago in 2017, it was stopped for some reason.”

He said there were no baby elephants under the age of five in Pinnawela that led to stop the milk feeding. Herath added that due to the actions of the previous government, today it has not been able to find an elephant calf less than five years of age to be sent to Pinnawala. “Despite many inquiries from the ministers of the previous government, they failed to give us an acceptable response. Since 2015 to date, not a single elephant calf has been born there. The youngest calf at Pinnawala is six years old. In another 60 years, if this situation is not rectified, this facility will have to close.

In response, former Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said that the female elephants at Pinnawala are ageing and when he tried to find a solution to this issue, several parties had protested against him. He said that if a solution to this problem is not found, Pinnawala will have to close down, as pointed out by State Minister Herath.

Minister Herath said that as a solution to this issue, orphaned elephant calves or young elephants could be provided to Pinnawala. “We will have to formulate a proper reproduction mechanism and may have to introduce a wild elephant even and achieve this goal. I appeal to the Wildlife Minister to take proper measures to resolve this issue, otherwise, we will lose the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in another 50 years.”

He said that as a solution to the cruelty being leashed upon elephants during elephant rides, elephants from Pinnawala could be used for elephant walks where the tourists could walk the elephants. He also noted that previously, university students from other countries used to come to Pinnawala and do voluntary service for around six months, but that too had now stopped. Therefore, he suggested that this programme be re-implemented.
With regard to the proposal to shift the Dehiwala Zoo to Kesbewa, he urged the Wildlife Minister to take measures to implement a proper system that would ensure a good experience for tourists visiting the zoo. “Otherwise, the visitors to the zoo would blame the authorities,” he said.

Steps should be taken to protect black leopard
The Government should take measures to protect the recently spotted black leopard which was believed to have been extinct in the Central Hills, United National Front (UNF) MP Ajith P. Perera said in Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the debate on orders under the Flora and Fauna Ordinance Perera said, “We should be happy about discovering them. Now we have a huge responsibility to protect them. Some other countries give these types of rare creatures military protection when they are spotted. Not only that, our media should do their reporting with a responsibility,” he said.

He urged the government to consider the human-elephant conflict as a national problem.

The MP also pointed out that the Government’s decision to liberalise permits to transport sand, soil and granite is abused by racketeers.

“This decision has triggered illegal mining activities even in environmentally sensitive areas. Customers have not benefitted by this decision either, because prices of sand, soil and granite have not reduced. There should be a control over this situation. Otherwise, we will have to face bigger problems in the future,” he added.

Previous government took forest land for projects

The Thera made this observation yesterday in Parliament joining the debate on four orders under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.

“Winds from the Tibet-roof touch tops of the central mountains in Sri Lanka bringing in rains and if the forest cover on the top of the mountains were removed, we would not get the rains,” the Thera said.

The Thera said the country traditionally spared the mountain tops. |But people had changed it now and this situation must be reversed,” the Thera said.The Thera appreciated the gazzette presented by the government.“We have to take measures to protect our wildlife,” the Thera said.