Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen yesterday urged the government to resolve the alleged Wilpattu National Park encroachment issue without letting it drag on as the previous regime had done.
He told a news conference in Colombo that the exact situation had been distorted by vested interests to create an unnecessary conflict and sabotage the reconciliation process.
According to a recommendation made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), 208 hectares of land had been allocated in Puttalam to resettle some of the 100,000 Muslims driven out of Jaffna by the LTTE way back in 1990. But, even that was being disputed by those who did not want to resolve a humanitarian issue that had dragged on for 26 years, Bathiudeen, who was one of the victims of the LTTE action, said.
The allegation that displaced Muslim families were living within the Wilpattu Reserve was false, he stressed, adding that the reason for the Muslims to be expelled from Jaffna was because they refused to join the LTTE in its fight for a separate State. "But, now the previous and current governments have both let down the Northern Muslims very badly."
The Minister said that on Oct. 10, 2012 the last government had issued a gazette notification annexing 2,800 hectares of land to the Forest Department, including the Maruthamadu GS Division in the Museli Divisional Secretariat, where some of the displaced Muslims were living. The name of the Division was also changed to Villathikulam.
Thereafter 208 hectares of land had been allocated to resettle some of the evicted persons in terms of the LLRC recommendation, he added.