‘All parties should cooperate to end environmental destruction’

The recent televised telephone conversation that Deputy Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare, Ranjan Ramanayake had with the Divulapitiya Divisional Secretary over soil excavation taking place at Dunagaha turned into a hot topic in the media, with many alleging that the Deputy Minister’s language was offensive. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Deputy Minister Ramanayake said, he has already complained to the Bribery Commission against the Divisional Secretary and that he would not apologize to the Divisional Secretary or regret the manner he spoke to her under any circumstances. The Deputy Minister also called upon all political parties, including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to rally round irrespective of political differences, to put an end to this most environmentally destructive deed taking place in the country, including the Gampaha district.

Ramanayake told the Sunday Observer: “Even on Thursday, I visited Dehigahapallama and Akaragama areas. It was very obvious that the Divulapitiya Divisional Secretary has closely worked with the former political authority and politicians like, the UPFA MP Indika Anuruddha. When I visited Dehigahapallama area, I could see huge abandoned pits dug by some politicians in the Joint Opposition and crocodiles had also been kept in some of those pits. I am not against, if some innocent people cut some soil to put up a foundation for their house or engage in an excavation done by obtaining permission from the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau. But the unauthorised soil excavation is taking place in the Gampaha district with the backing of some politicians and 60 to 70 feet tall earth bunds have been created in certain areas in Gampaha district. In addition, huge abandoned pits can be seen in some areas such as Pitiwatta. As a result, farmers have faced immense difficulties in cultivating their paddy lands.

However, the Divulapitiya Divisional Secretary has turned a blind eye to this catastrophe taking place in Divulapitiya area over the past seven years. She says the Grama Niladari didn’t report this to her. But when we visited some soil excavation sites, the people told us that most of these unauthorised soil excavation sites are run by Grama Nilaradis. One such Grama Niladari has four trucks. The people go and complain about any illegal soil excavation to the Grama Niladari in their respective area. When the Grama Niladari is also engaged in such illegal activity, how can the people go and complain about it? Large scale corruption has occurred in Sri Lanka with regard to issuing various permits.

Accepted methodology

This Divisional Secretary should apologize to the people in this area for allowing to continue this racket over the past seven years. I also appologised to the people for not intervening to address this issue earlier. There is evidence that this particular Divisional Secretary has allegedly earned money in a fraudulent manner. Sometimes, permits have been issued to operate some stone quarries ignoring the accepted methodology. If the Divisional Secretary remained silent when this kind of massive illegal soil excavation, stone quarrying and sand mining were taken place, instead of saying “she should be hit by lightning”, what else tell her. Otherwise can we tell her “Budu Saranai” or “God bless you”. I do not regret over the way I spoke to her. I visited that area to sort out a problem faced by the people.

I should categorically say that my struggle is not against the innocent workers who work at stone quarries and get a daily wage of Rs.1000. My fight is against the corrupt businessmen who have earned billions of rupees from some stone quarries in a fraudulent manner.

Whatever Government comes to power, these corrupt businessmen keep in touch with the top officials and produce forged documents to obtain permits. As a result, the Government has lost billions of rupees be paid by these corrupt businessmen to the Government. Therefore, my attempt is to get back this money to the Government. In Meerigama and Rambutanwatta areas, a permit has been issued to transport 500 cubes of washed sand, but 50,000 to 60,000 cubes of sand have been transported. If somebody comes forward to speak against it or take photographs, they are shot and killed by the underworld. Already 48 people have been killed due their attempts to prevent these illegal activities. The family of a Joint Opposition MP in Gampaha district is mainly involved in this soil excavation racket. The people in certain areas in the Gampaha district have a severe shortage of water due to unauthorised soil excavation taking place in their areas.

I have already complained to the Bribery Commission against the Divulapitiya Divisional Secretary and the investigations have already commenced. I through a court order hope to get the details about the properties and the links she maintained with some corrupt soil and stone businessmen.

Abusive words

The Sri Lanka Administrative Service Association (SLASA) resorted to a protest requesting me to appologise to the Divisional Secretary. Actually, public servants can’t resort to protests in such a manner. Because on that particular day, they had reported to work and engaged in that protest by completely ignoring their duties to be fulfilled to the people.

They resorted to this protest on a working day, not a holiday. They displayed some placards and used even some abusive words against me. We have already found out who fund for their placards and that protest. We should also look into the conduct of the President of the SLASA as he too recommended Divulapitiya Divisional Secretary as a very clean public official. It seems the SLASA President has also attempted safeguard a corrupt public official.

This entire issue was dragged on and became a hot topic within the media circle due to my telephone call given to the Divulapitiya Divisional Secretary. The SLASA gave me four days to apologize to the Divisional Secretary and demanded that if I don’t do so, they would go for an islandwide protest. But I categorically said that I don’t apologize to her and prove that she is corrupt. After I made a complaint to the Bribery Commission, the SLASA has withdrawn their statement.

They said if my statement is so harsh, they don’t go for a protest. They said the President, Prime Minister and the Public Administration Minister expressed their regret over my statement.

Actually, none of them should regret over a statement made by me. I also told the President that I have no regret over that statement made and I will prove with evidence that this Divisional Secretary is corrupt. That is why all illegal soil excavation and stone quarrying were immediately stopped in Divulapitiya area.

I had to visit that soil excavation site at Dunagaha on January 26 and give that kind of telephone call to the Divisional Secretary as she had not fulfilled her duty properly. I gave that telephone call to her following the request made by the people, provincial politicians and religious leaders in that area.

There are some public servants who can be highly respected. But we can’t apologize to the corrupt public officials who have indulged in corruption and bribery. I vehemently condemn the conduct of such corrupt public officials.

Those who are involved in the soil excavation racket are very rich. They spend lavishly on various public events and influence even religious leaders. This is a very dangerous phenomenon. This is not just confined to politicians and Divisional Secretaries. Even some journalists, members of the public and religious leaders have also been given money by these business racketeers to speak on behalf of them. At present, illegal soil excavation, sand mining, stone quarrying, unauthorised reclamation of lands and fragmentation of lands take place in the Gampaha district.

Destructive actions

This is a billions worth business carried out by some politicians with the support of the underworld. Even the public officials are found to be innocent because they have only two options either to get the bribe and be quite or find fault with these corrupt businessmen and get killed. Therefore, the public servants have to select the first option to safeguard their lives. If a politician like me cannot find fault with these elements, how can an innocent public official find fault with them?

“I call upon all political parties including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to rally round irrespective of political differences to put an end to this most environmentally destructive actions took place in the country. We can separately continue our political struggle and it is a completely different story. But we should have a country to engage in politics. Therefore, we all should join hands to immediately stop these destructive actions.

“We can’t ban soil excavation, stone quarrying and sand mining. We need these materials for various construction purposes, but all these should be done according to an accepted standard. We are fully alert on these illegal activities taken place.

“I have also gained a huge public support to take deal with such illegal activities taken place. If any environmentally destructive activity is taken place anywhere in this country, I call upon the people to keep me informed on my mobile 077 3624927 or my residential address- A5, MPs’ Housing Complex, Madiwela, Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte.” 

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