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* ACMC leader Bathiudeen requests President to probe alleged Wilpattu deforestation, Easter Sunday attacks
Fri, Dec 6, 2019, 10:49 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 06, Colombo: Leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Parliamentarian Rishad Bathiudeen has called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint Presidential commissions to investigate the Easter Sunday attacks and the alleged destruction of the Wilpattu National park.

In a letter to President Rajapaksa, MP Bathiudeen said certain groups using various media outlets are engaged in leveling "baseless and unfounded allegations" against him for narrow political gains and to fan "communal flames".

"Among the most prominent false allegations aimed at me were clearing the Wilpattu Forest Reserve to settle Muslim refugees and maintaining links with Easter Sunday bombing terrorist Sahran," the MP said.

He said the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to investigate Easter Sunday Attacks cleared him of any wrongdoing with regard to the Easter Sunday attacks.

Regarding the Wilpattu issue, MP Bathiudeen pointed out that the original lands where the refugees lived had turned into forests after abandoning the lands for 30 years and the lands were declared as Forest Reserves by the Forest Department. However, the Task Force appointed by the then President Mahinda Rajapakse managed to identify original Muslim owned lands that later became jungles and methodically and legally took action to resettle them in such lands.

The MP said despite the clarifications, some groups continue to level allegations causing problems and urged the President to take necessary action to appoint an independent Presidential Commission to investigate and uncover the truth behind these false allegations and also to identify individuals responsible for destruction of Wilpattu forest.

Following is the full text of the MP Bathiudeen's letter to the President:

Appointment of a Presidential Commission to Investigate Allegations on Wilpattu National Forest Reserve and Easter Sunday Terrorist Bombings

I, with the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) and its supporters, wish to sincerely congratulate Your Excellency on the achievement of being elected as the seventh Executive President of Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka. However, it is with deep disappointment and sorrow that I inform Your Excellency that certain groups of Sri Lankans are actively engaged in fanning communal flames and working for narrow political gains by leveling baseless and unfounded allegations against me - a leader of a recognized political party in Sri Lanka - among the general public using various electronic, print and social media outlets.

These groups were actively engaged in making such allegations against me when I was a Cabinet Minister in the previous government as well. Among the most prominent false allegations aimed at me were clearing the Wilpattu Forest Reserve to settle Muslim refugees and maintaining links with Easter Sunday bombing terrorist Sahran.

I wish to stress that these allegations too were baseless and unfounded, imaginary and false and are fabricated for narrow political gains.

Further, the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to investigate me - among others - on allegations that I maintained links with Easter Sunday bombers too cleared me of any wrongdoing after learning that Police and the former Inspector General of Police’s report for the Speaker, had already cleared my name from such allegations.

However, these offending groups continue to re-enact these false allegations on me by wrongfully, repeatedly and freshly making the same accusations against me in the local mass media, thereby continuing to publicly harass and push me and my community towards a very unpleasant situation. I wish to stress that they are clearly attempting to destabilize our country by creating dissension on the lines of ethnicity, religion, and caste by their acts.

Further I wish to clearly stress and also call for Your Excellency’s special attention to the fact that I had not destroyed any parts of Wilpattu Forest Reserve by abusing my powers. In 2009, the Muslim refugees displaced in 1990 received the opportunity to re-settle in their original lands and I am most appreciative and thankful to Your Excellency for your valuable support extended to those displaced Muslims and giving them the opportunity. The original lands where the refugees lived, being abandoned for thirty years, had turned to become forests. Thereafter these forest lands too were named as Forest Reserves by the Forest Department. However, understanding the reality of this natural change, the Task Force appointed by the then HE President Mahinda Rajapakse managed to identify original Muslim owned lands that later became jungles and methodically and legally took action to resettle them in such lands. Through many public discourses, fora, discussions, and analyses the truth about Wilpattu was, revealed with environmentalists too agreeing on the facts.

Despite such, baseless allegations continue to be leveled against this incident and I kindly urge Your Excellency to take necessary action to appoint an independent Presidential Commission to investigate and uncover the truth behind these false allegations and also to identify individuals responsible for destruction of Wilpattu, which is an invaluable resource that Sri Lanka has.

Further, even though all official investigations clearly proved that there had not been any links between me and the heinous terrorists behind the Easter Sunday bombings, I wish to sincerely urge Your Excellency that should another investigation is required on these attacks, then to kindly set up a special Presidential Commission and commence a special investigation as well.

 

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