‘Patriotic Muslim Collective’ protests against environmentalists demanding preservation of Wilpattu

by Dasun Edirisinghe

A group of people calling themselves Patriotic Muslim Collective (PMC) demonstrated yesterday opposite the Centre for Society and Religion in Maradana against a media conference conducted by environmentalists against settlements in the Wilpattu National Park.

Environmentalists accused the protestors of being led by Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, while protestors claimed that they wanted to start their livelihoods in their native lands adjacent to the Wilpattu National Park.

According to the PMC, they did not encroach on the buffer zone of the National Park, but only resettled as they were forced to vacate the lands due to LTTE terrorism.

Addressing the media conference, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice Hemantha Vithanage said that they would file legal action against the Wildlife Conservation Department, Forest Department, Mannar District Secretary, Central Environmental Authority and Minister Bathudeen against settling people after destroying the forest in the buffer zone of the Wilpattu National Park.

He said that they had already drafted the petition and it would be filed in court within the next few days.

Director of the Environment Conservation Trust, Sajeewa Chamikara said that more than 2500 acres of land in the buffer zone of the Wilpattu National Park had been destroyed so far.

He said that the deforestation had been stopped on the orders of President Maithripala Sirisena, but the infrastructure facilities including pipe borne water and electricity were being provided by the relevant authorities.

Chamikara said they expected to handover a detailed report regarding the deforestation of Wilpattu shortly to President Sirisena as he was the subject Minister of Environment.

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