By Kamanthi Wickramasinghe
The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) filed a Writ application in the Court of Appeal against revoking of Circular No. 05/2001 dated 10.08.2001 and Circular No. 01/2006 dated 17.05.2006.
The circulars were revoked by way of Circular MWFC/1/2020 dated 04.11.2020 titled ‘Managing Other State Forests’ by the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation with immediate effect.
The petitioners claim that the Secretary has no such authority under the Forest Conservation Ordinance or any other written law to issue such a Circular. Therefore the petitioners seek Writ of Mandamus and Certiorari against the respondents – Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, Forest Conservator General, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Attorney General under Article 140 of the Constitution.
The petitioners further state that although Circular No. MWFC/1/2020 has listed out areas that should be excluded when releasing other state Forest lands for economic and other purposes, it is not comprehensive enough to control the damage. “As a result many forest areas around the country for example in Pollebadda- Maha Oya, Lahugala, Nilgala and many other areas have been grabbed already,” said CEJ’s Executive Director Hemantha Withanage.
“These forest lands serve as the connectivity between protected areas, linking Reserve Forests with national parks and are commonly used as corridors for animals to travel between ecosystems.