Kirielle asks President to visit his Hantane property and see if there has been any environmental damage

Lakshman Kiriella

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella yesterday said that he was ready to give a land belonging to him at Hantana for an environmetnal project of the state and extended an open invitation to the President, government officials and media to come and see for themselves or to hold an investigation on the ownership of the land.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leaders’ office in Colombo, MP Kiriella said that the President at a recent meeting had spoken about the land in Hantana, claiming that none was talking about clearing forest in Hantana area by a senior minister of a former government. “Nobody talks about it because there was no environmental destruction. If there had been destruction of the environment, the media and environmental organisations would have already been there. I invite the President and his officials or any organisation with an interest including the media to come and see what really this is about,” MP Kiriella said.

He said: This is a land of which the documents are older than 100 years. We have the ownership for 30 years and prior to that it belonged to white men for 70 years. Tea and pepper had been cultivated there but it had been abandoned for years in recent times, as I had no time to attend to them because of my active politics. The land comes in the area of Hantana Reserve that was declared in 2010. This is a land where tea and pepper had been cultivated about 90 years back. In the 1980s I even applied to cultivate tea to the Tea Smallholding Authority. Although the Hantana area was declared a reserve we do not lose our ownership. Any such land could be cultivated but it should be informed to the Hantana Committee under the chairmanship of the district secretary. When there was an agricultural drive under the present government, I instructed my family members to see whether we could start cultivating that land. They removed the shrub to enter the land and it is now being described as clearance of forest. Anyone has a right to enter his or her land in this country. None can prevent a rightful owner of a land entering his or her land and there is no need to get prior permission to it.

“I and my family members do full time politics so we are not disturbed by allegations, but there is a duty for the media to find the truth. There are 12 buildings in a land adjacent to my land and five of them have been constructed after 2010. Those buildings have not yet even been registered in the Pradeshiya Sabha and they do not even pay rates.

“Before 2015, I offered to donate this land to a bhikkhu from Weliweriya to build a monastery there. Ven Bhikkhu visited the land but pointed out that he would not have the environment of a temple there because there is a holiday resort in the adjacent land. I have no desire for this land which I have once offered to the Maha Sangha. We are a family that has thousands of acres of land. We still have Sannasa given to our great great grandfather Kirielle Jayasekera Mudiyanse by King Keerti Sri Rajansinghe in 1761 giving him 10,000 acres of nindagam for his services to capture several Dutch fortresses in the Southern province. My wife’s grandfather is the Mahawalatenna Rate Mahattaya of Balangoda who owned thousands of acres. Some of those lands were taken over by the government under the land reform laws leaving 50 acres. So we are not a family that has a craving for lands.

I am ready to discuss with the government to offer this land for an eco-sensitive project. There is no point in talking in air-conditioned rooms about environment protection. I therefore invite you all to come and see for yourselves the truth.

(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)