Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Racketeers selling off large tracts of state forest foiled at last
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.”