By Ajith Siriwardana
State Minister of Inland Fisheries Industry, Sanath Nishantha Perera said last Tuesday that he would proceed with the project to construct a playground at Kadolkele mangrove in the Negombo lagoon despite objection from the Gampaha District Wildlife Officer.
He told a news conference that the Rs.1000 million project which involved dredging the Negombo lagoon, constructing a playground, roads, bridges and several other programmes had been delayed from 2014 as the Wildlife Department had not supported the initiative.
“I will proceed with the project without cutting down any tree in the mangrove. Rs.1 billion has been allocated for the project of which only Rs.300 million had been spent. None can obstruct the government’s development projects. State officials have been able to act firm like what happened in the case of the Gampaha District Wildlife Officer because there is a President like Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Relevant officials should act carefully when dealing with the fishing community considering their education and background. The Gampaha District Wildlife Officer escaped unhurt as I was there,” he said.
The press briefing was convened after a video containing the footage of the discussion in which several residents in the area verbally clashed with the forest officer asking her to allow the construction of the playground went viral on social media.
The proposal to construct the playground had been withdrawn following the strong stance taken by Gampaha District Forest Officer Devani Jayathilaka at a meeting chaired by State Minister of Inland Fisheries Industry Sanath Nishantha Perera last Monday.