Wijeyadasa takes felling of 67,000 trees to HRC

President’s Counsel Wijayadasa Rajapakha yesterday complained to the Human Rights Commission against State Resources and State Enterprises Development Minister Dayashritha Tissera and Renewable Energy and Environment Minister Susil Premajayantha over the move to fell 67,132 trees.

The other respondents cited in his complaint are Secretary to the State Resources and State Enterprises Development Ministry W. M. B. U. Dissanayake and Secretary to the Renewable Energy and Environment Ministry S. S. Miyanawala.

The UNP parliamentarian, in his complaint, has said the trees were to be felled to raise money as several plantation companies, coming under the purview of Enterprise Development Ministry, namely Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB), Elkaduwa Plantations Company, and State Plantations Corporation, had defaulted remitting EPF and ETF dues of the employees along with their gratuity payments amounting to Rs 1.74 billion.

A decision has been taken to fell the above metioned number of trees in plantations belonging to the above mentioned institutions in the Matale, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy districts and Cabinet approval has been sought.

The petitioner had said that such acts would lead to severe environmental damage, including global warming leading to melting of the glaziers which would result in a large number of islands being wiped out.

It said the above mentioned districts were facing the threat of land slides and the areas which had been earmarked to fell those trees were plantations situated on the slopes.

'These trees acted as a buffer to protect the areas from soil erosion and due to ignorance and arbitrary acts of wrong doing the country would have to pay for it while their actions would lead to increase the risk of earthlsips in the Central highlands.

"The issue arose because all three institutions were making heavy losses.

"While the plantations run by the private sector were making profits due to proper management the institutions managed by the above mentioned ministry were making losses due to mismanagement, corruption and waste.

"The officers attached to these institutions, the particular minister and the government should take the responsibility for the debacle and it is a severe crime that it happened due to the inefficiency of those responsible.

"This was happening while the Environment Ministry and other organisations protecting the environment were working together with international organisations to protect the environment and Sri Lanka had entered into several treaties and conventions in protecting the environment and had been a participant in many such events.

"In such a situation it is sad that one government Ministry which was meant to protect the environment was contributing to the very destruction of it.

‘If the State Resources and Enterprise Development Ministry is unable to fulfill its responsibilities what they should do is not destroying the natural resources which protect the environment but to improve the loss making institutions and make them profit making ones by handing over the management of such to capable persons.

"If the present government continues to appoint inefficient, unqualified, political henchmen to top positions in these institutions with the objective of holding on to power and not appoint qualified and suitable persons to such posts it would not be surprising to see that the government not only fell those 67,100 trees in the Central Hills but even Sinharaja rainforest and other resources would be sold to other countries," the petition said.

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