Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Racketeers selling off large tracts of state forest foiled at last

- Text and pix by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

An organised attempt to illegally seize some 20 acres of state land in the Eluwankula­ma area has been foiled by the Wanathawil­luwa Divisional Secretary – but residents say the practice is rife.

The property, including forested land, had been cleared with backhoes and various structures built on it. Area residents said those responsibl­e had even fenced off this illegally-grabbed land.

A group of racketeers using fake land deeds was trying to sell the land to rich buyers, the residents alleged.

Wanathawil­luwa Divisional Secretary Chathuraka Jayasinghe said he had surveyed the site and found it belonged to the state.

“We found the deeds submitted to us by the parties claiming ownership of the land to be fake,” he pointed out. “We have initiated an investigat­ion over this and plan on taking legal action against those involved.”

Long- time resident Mohammed Yasir said from the days of his youth people had known that the forested land in their area belonged to the state but that in the past 10-15 years this reality had begun to change.

“A group of fraudsters got together and drafted fake land deeds and sold a large amount of state land in this area,” he said. “This practice has thrived over the years.”

 ??  ?? Some of the land that had been cleared and various structures built on it
Some of the land that had been cleared and various structures built on it
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 ??  ?? Divisional Secretary Chathuraka Jayasinghe
Divisional Secretary Chathuraka Jayasinghe
 ??  ?? Long-time resident Mohammed Yasir
Long-time resident Mohammed Yasir

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