Permission for Rishard Bathuideen to clear the Wilpattu jungle had been given in 2012 by Basil Rajapaksa, Leader of the House Public Enterprises, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister, Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament yesterday.
“This happened in 2012. Basil Rajapaksa, on the instructions of the then President, Mahinda Rajapaksa gave 2,800 acres to Rishard Bathuideen. This is now being publicized as a project carried out by our government. That’s wrong. It was done by the previous government,” Minister Kiriella said.
He was responding to a point of order raised by UNP Ratnapura district MP, Hesha Withanage, who demanded that a full-day debate be allocated on the Wilpattu deforestation issue.
“This is a national issue and media reporting on the issue is biased. According to the media reports and what is being peddled in social media, it is our government that had given permission for the clearing of jungle. That is not the truth”, the MP said.
“If we are given an opportunity to debate this in the House, we could produce documents to prove who had given Minister Bathuideen permission in this regard”, he further said.
Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri: The Wilpattu deforestation issue is not only an environmental problem but is rapidly turning out to be a political one. It has the potential of instigating one community against another. Destroying the environment is a serious threat and surely be a problem for the future generations.
“But for the present generations, there is another problem because this issue has been capitalized on to promote communal disharmony. We have to take action to tell the nation truth”, he said.
Leader of the House said that the government could allocate a date for a debate on the issue.
(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)