Land grab in Ridiyagama

19 October 2016 12:08 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Certain lands said to belong to National Livestock Development Board (NLDB) are not owned by the Board. In fact some of these lands are still said to belong to the Land Reform Commission. Despite directives to hand them over to the livestock development board, it has been alleged that no handover has taken place. In addition lands that belong to the Land Reform Commission too are being used by the NLDB. 1033.5 hectares are presently used by the Bopaththalawa farm, 210.2 hectares by the Diagama Farm, 20 hectares by the Karandagolla Farm, 1,510 hectares by the Ridiyagama Farm, 220.5 hectares by Weerawila Farm, 7 hectares by the Welisara Farm, 340 hectares by the Kottukachchiya Farm, 6.5 hectares by the Marawila Farm, 1,148.8 hectares by the Polonnaruwa Farm, 2,266.4 hectares by the Kandakaduwa Farm, 20.2 hectares by the Helamada Beduma Farm,799.3 by the Nikaweratiya Farm, 97 hectares by the Haragama Farm, 413.8 hectares by the Welikanda Farm, 1002.7 hectares by the Oyamaduwa Farm and 632.7 hectares by the Parasangaswewa Farm. All these lands belong to the Office of the Land Commissioner. The NLDB had informed of this situation to the Commissioner General of Lands. However no action has been taken thus far.   


In addition 391.5 hectares of the Millewa Farm, 206 hectares of the Kotagala Farm, the ownership belong to the Land Reformation Commission. The records maintained at the NLDB indicates that in spite of the payment of the assessed value of these lands no action has been taken to vest these lands accordingly. It is also revealed that some of these lands are to be leased out on lease terms.  

 
There are lands where directives had been issued by the former President as well intimating them to vest these lands with the National Livestock Development Board. These include 265.6 hectares in Galewela, 389.2 hectares in Bingiriya, 551.8 hectares in Narangalla, 371.2 hectares in Melsiripura and 241.7 hectares in Deduru Oya Beduma.   


466.4 hectares in Dambadeniya had been vested in the National Livestock Development Board by Gazette notification of 173/9.1981-12-31. Under the same Gazette 601.2 hectares to the Bingiriya farm,174.9 hectares to the Biriyatenna, and 25 hectares to the National Livestock development board centre had been vested under same Gazette. Another 368 hectares to the Horakelle Farm, and 472.1 hectares belonging to the Divulapitiya and Pannala Divisional Secretariats had been vested under Gazette notification 206/15.1982-03-20. 161.1 Hectares in Melsiripura Ragedara Beduma, and 130.3 hectares in Badalgama Farm had been vested under Gazette 173/9.1981-12-31. Added to this 0.1532 hectares of land in the Narahenpita head office property had been purchased on cash basis. The Deed number of this transaction is 91-184-11-15 and 196.1993-07-09.   
Even though the National Livestock Development is said to own lands it appears they do not possess them. However under various reasons these lands had been vested with people. Some others had been vested on political reasons. Some others had been forcefully acquired by people.   


This situation led to the issue of a special circular dated 03 February 2010, from the Presidential Secretariat. This circular numbered SP/RD/02/10 issued to the secretaries of all ministries clearly stated the manner in which state lands should be administered.   


But the National Livestock Development Board openly flouted these regulations and were engaged in a land grab. This is amply displayed by their leasing of 27 acres of the Ridiyagama Farm coming under Ambalantota Divisional Secretariat in the Hambantota District according to their whims and fancies. Ridiyagama Farm which had 1510 hectares had to part with 500 hectares for the Hambantota Ridiyagama Safari Park, while another section had been acquired by people. Now the farm is left with only 900-1000 hectares. A former manager of this farm had spearheaded the leasing of 50 acres of this farm land in violation of all regulations. When proceeding from Ambalantota to Ridiyagama Farm one would notice a tank. The 50 acres of very fertile land known as Kandakella facing the tank had been declared as a barren land and allege attempts were made to lease it out in a fraudulent manner.   


The secret deal on this particular land dates back between 2010-2013. First an application had been made to obtain 30 acres from the Kandaketiya Land for growing plantain trees on a lease basis. Three years after that a request had been made for another 27 acres. 


W. Gunasena a resident of No 228 In Embilipitiya Road Sooriyawewa who cultivated plantain trees in the 30 acres made this request for the additional 30 acres on a lease of Rs 10,000 per acre. This request for permission supported by former manager of the Ridiyagama Farm M.W.S. Premarathne had been forwarded to the Deputy General Manager of the Livestock Board, referring to purported instructions given during a visit on 04/11/2013 by the latter to this farm. This former manager had been very forthright in highly recommending the cultivator.   


While this matter was in the process a letter dated 15/11/2013 addressed to the General Manager of the Livestock Development Board under the signature of Deputy General Manager, Zone 4, Manager Siriyapatha Farm, Administration Office , with a copy to the Manager of the Ridiyagama Farm, requesting for approval to lease out 50 acres from the same land to the same cultivator.   


The General Manager of the Livestock board by his letter dated 01/12/2013 addressed to the Manager of the Ridiyagama farm rejected this application stating that as there exists an issue regarding the unauthorized cultivators in this land, it is not proper to allow this lease.   


However without the least consideration for this refusal by the General Manager, 27 acres of this land had been leased out to the said Gunasena under an agreement entered unto under the lease allowed hitherto for three years from 06/11/2013 to 06/11/2016.Bypassing the regulations 27 acres had been leased out against the authority of the Livestock Board. Suspicion had arisen about the commission paid to the relevant officials in this maneuver. It was revealed that an officer concerned had purchased a land from the filthy lucre earned by him over this deal. An examination of the documents reveal that the transaction had been completed before seeking permission. In this transaction at Rs 10,000 per acre, for the 27 acres a sum of Rs 810,000 had to be paid as lease amount. Only Rs 540,000 had been received up to 20/11/2013 as verified from the investigations done by the Livestock board.   


A circular number SP/RD/02/10 dated 03/02/2010 under the signature of, Lalith Weerathunga the then secretary to the President had been issued outlining the manner in which to administer the lands belonging to the state. This circular had been sent to all secretaries of ministries and on the same day under the signature of the senior assistant secretary of the Livestock Board the contents of this circular had been forwarded to all institutions under the National Livestock Development Board. According to the instructions contained in this circular no land can be leased out without the permission of the President. While this is so the big question is how did the Kandakella portion of the Ridiyagama farm was leased out. Attempts made to recommence an internal investigation in the Livestock board had been thwarted by some officials in the audit department. There is also information that subtle moves were made to hide important documents connected with this transactions by several officers and also the evidence of under hand dealings are now surfacing. While the law is clear on this issue and the several circulars issued as guidelines the state bureaucracy seems to be very active. There is also information to believe that certain officers who had benefited from this unscrupulous dealings are having a gala time. 

 

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