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By 2017-12-25

by ravi ladduwahetty

The Government will soon take legal action against Minister of Industries and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, who has been accused of causing destruction to the Wilapattu National Park.

UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, who is also the Minister of State for Environment and Forestry, whose Ministries are headed by President Maithripala Sirisena himself, told Ceylon Today that he and the Ministries were awaiting the reports to take legal action against his Cabinet colleague.

If anyone has done any wrong, irrespective of how powerful they are, legal action will be taken, he said.

This follows the Ceylon Today Lead story of Saturday's Edition (23) quoting Environmentalists claiming that the Auditor General, Gamini Wijesinghe, who investigated their allegations of deforestation and illegal encroachment into forest reserves in Wilpattu, has confirmed their worst fears in his report on the issue.

Amaraweera added that the country's legal systems and the judiciary was more powerful and important than mere collective Cabinet responsibility.

"There is no issue of Cabinet responsibility here. Why, even the top most Ministers of this Government and even the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were sumoned to the Special Commission probing the Central Bank Bond scam," Amaraweera said.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale, when contacted, said that she was helpless as Justice Minister and it was a matter for the Courts to decide. If anyone presents the facts to Courts, then the legal machinery will take its course, she said.

She also said that it was up to the Department of Wild Life and the Forest Department to take the requisite action in this regard.

Meanwhile, Director of the Environmental Conservation Trust, Sajeewa Chamikara, when contacted, said that Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe also made use of the data which the ECT had provided him with and it was part of a very independent audit that he had done for his department which published the report.

He said that Bathiudeen had cleared as much as 3,400 acres, violating the National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980 and the Forest Conservation Ordinance of 2009. Of the 3,400 cleared acres, 1,200 had been taken for illegal settlements and there were buildings and structures on 600 acres, he said.



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