Says 73 families squat in Wilpattu “due to necessity to survive” and have agreed to move out soon
Minister Rishad Bathiudeen yesterday said that the Wilpattu squatters at Marichchikattu arrived there due to their great necessity to survive and allegations made against him were totally untrue.
“A total of 73 families who were left in the lurch have put up temporary huts on the borders of the Wilpattu National Park out of great necessity to survive. I stress that the allegations made against me are totally untrue,” said Bathiudeen, addressing a press conference held in Colombo last afternoon.
Present with Bathiudeen were MP Hunais Farook, Mannar District Secretary S. Ketheeshwaran) and Wildlife Dept. Director Samarakoone.
“I have called this press conference in response to certain allegations levelled against me by Bodu Bala Sena to the effect that I have made settlements inside the Wilpattu National Park for the IDPs. The allegation of BBS is that the JASIM city housing scheme has been constructed as an Arab colony within the boundary of the Wilpattu National Park is clearly a lie and I categorically reject them,” Bathiudeen asserted.
The Minister stated that the housing scheme is located in the Marichchikattu GN division which is outside the Wilpattu National Park and that
this was evident in the DS letter and the Survey Plans and all inhabitants thereof are IDPS.
“The question is, who are these IDPs? They are Muslim IDPs, evicted from this same Marichchikattu area by the LTTE in 1990. As you may already be aware, Muslims were forcibly evicted from the Northern Province in 1990 by the LTTE for the simple reason that we did not lend support to the Eelam cause. Over 100,000 Muslims had to leave their places of origin within two hours’ short notice and languish outside the northern region for more than two decades. I was also one of the IDPs. I had to flee with my family at a young age as a result of the sudden evictions by the LTTE,” he said.
The Minister stated that in 2009, after the conclusion of the war, 300,000 Tamil IDPs were given priority in the resettlement and as the Minister of Resettlement at that time he was responsible for the resettlement of those IDPs. However, re-settlement priority had to be given to Tamil IDPs who were immediately displaced at the last stages of war. The Muslim IDPs who were previously displaced were termed protracted IDPs.
“Thereafter when the time came to settle the Muslim IDPs who are now termed ‘protracted IDPs’ we were confronted with numerous issues such as landlessness and requirement of shelters due to 22,000 houses belonging to Muslims having been demolished or partly damaged and given the non-availability of other basic and infrastructure facilities on account of the fact that all such facilities existent at the time of eviction including 79 mosques and 60 schools had been destroyed.”
Listing out the reasons these protracted Muslim IDPS who were previously living in their own lands and houses prior to eviction had been rendered landless, he cited occupation of lands by others after their eviction, taking over of lands for security purpose, loss of documents to prove ownership and land becoming forest consequent to protracted non-habitation.
“In 2012, as per the terms of the LLRC recommendations, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) appointed a committee to identify lands for the landless. They identified lands in Marichchikattu, Palakuli and Karadikuli, which is explained in the letter of the Divisional Secretary of the Musali Division. It should also be mentioned here that there are about 73 families whose original Marichchikattu area lands have been taken over by the Navy for security purposes and the families are unable to resettle in them as a result of this. Then the officials of the Divisional Secretariat identified alternate lands for these IDPs in the Marichchikatti area. However, this alternate land proposal was objected to by the Army despite the fact that there is no security establishment in proximity to the alternate lands referred to above.”
For the Protracted IDPs, the deprivation of their original lands as well as the denial of the alternate lands have caused unreasonable delay in their resettlement and heavy suffering for them and their families, the Minister asserted.
Given this situation, he said these 73 families who were left in the lurch have put up temporary huts on the borders of the Wilpattu National Park out of great necessity to survive.
“They are not inside the National Park, but they are in the border area of the park. They also claim they inhabited this area prior to their eviction by LTTE in 1990. However I am pleased to inform you that during my meeting with them, they have assured me that they do not have long-term settlement plans to settle in this border area and they are prepared to leave their present dwelling as soon as they are given alternate land. I stress again that the allegations made against me are totally untrue. I must state here that I am one who loves wildlife and the forest and the nature. Today’s presentations with survey plans and documentary evidence show not even an inch of Wilpattu National Park has been encroached upon either by me or any of the IDPs.”
Bathiudeen said the Bodu Bala Sena which started its maiden public batting against Muslims with the Halal issue has been taking on different issues at different times all of which are aimed at attacking Muslims.
“In our view the purported issues the Bodu Bala Sena raises from time to time are all non-issues. They are excuses for the organisation to execute its agenda, the main part of which is spreading hatred against Muslims in Sri Lanka with ulterior motives. The Bodu Bala Sena has made it a habit to engage in falsehood which culminated in its reference to non-existent Quranic verses where the BBS said that Muslims are supposed to spit three times at food before serving it to non-Muslims. Last week they repeated this when they stated that the Quran directs Muslims to grab lands and property through deception and cheating. I strongly condemn the BBS for the repeated utterances of falsehood against the Quran and demand that they reveal the objectives behind the utterances of these falsehoods, the benefits expected to derive from such utterances and the force behind it. We also call on the Police, the Minister of Buddha Sasana and the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka to pay attention and take steps in this regard.”