Knuckles lands not given to investors; Bring evidence if you have: Minister

Jun 08, 2018 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandy Development, Lakshman Kiriella denied allegations that he was involved in giving acres of land in the Knuckles reserve to several close associates.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday the minister said that the allegations were baseless and that the government has taken no such decision.

“If you have any evidence of these matter please do not hesitate to come forward,” the minister said.

“As a ministry, we will not allow the mountain range to be damaged. We have not given any land inside or outside Knuckles to any investor.”

He said, we wish to invite media personnel and environmentalists who are quick to make allegations to visit the site and check for themselves.

No Gazette notification has been issued with regard to the allocation of those lands, he added.

The minister said the land demarcated for certain development projects were outside the mountain range and that Cabinet approval was a must for such projects.

“Eco-friendly agricultural and dairy farm projects have been proposed to be set up outside the Knuckles mountain range. They are only proposals and nothing implemented yet,” the minister said.

“Parties who level allegations should provide us with evidence and later investigate these matters.”

Also speaking at the event, Chairman of Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation (SLSPC) said Minister Kiriella had instructed them not to carry out harmful projects within or outside the area belonging to the range.

“I have not signed any document that allows the acquisition of land belonging to the mountain range,” he said.

Minister Kiriella stressed that only loss making state plantation lands owned by the Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB), Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation (SLSPC) and Elkaduwa Plantations were being looked at in order to further develop them under public-private partnerships and long term leases to private companies.

Meanwhile, members of the ‘Protect Sri Lanka’ national movement staged a protest march from near the Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo last week against alleged illegal land grab in the Knuckles Mountains.

The organization claims that some 21,000 acres of land belonging to the Knuckles mountain range had been given to several close associates of ministers to carry out various projects.