by Zacki Jabbar
The government says that only 600 acres of state land and not 100,000 acres from Muslims settled close to the northern border of the Wilpattu Forest Reserve, have been acquired by the President’s March 24, Gazette notification.
Acknowledging the crucial contribution of the Muslim community to electing Maithripala Sirisena as President, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said at a news conference on Friday, that some Muslims had distorted the facts about Wilpattu.
Jayasekera claimed that Muslim settlements including places of religious worship and private lands had been protected by the said Gazette pertaining to 600 acres and not 100,000 acres contrary ot claims made by some Muslim organisations.
Meanwhile, Muslims who were driven out by the LTTE from the North in 1990 and settled in lands bordering the Wilpattu Forest Reserve, continue to protest, saying that many of them have been unfairly evicted.
They say that the LTTE permitted them to take only cash or jewellery worth Rs. 5,000.” All our other assets were acquired by the Tigers.”
The Sports Minister said that forest cover stood around 25 percent and it had to be protected.
The President’s Gazette had, he explained, brought together scrub jungle in the Marichchikadi, Karadikkuli, Mavillu, Weppal and Vilaththikulam villages under the Conserved Forest Project.
Jayasekera assured that a just solution would be found to the issue of internally displaced Muslims.
Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faizer Musthapha said that the President’s Gazette issued in the national interest would not be rescinded, but outstanding issues could be sorted out through discussions.