By Saman Indrajith
JVP leader and NPP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, during a recent probe by the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), said he got 224 copies of letters sent by the Office of the Minister of Mahaweli to officials, asking them to release Mahaweli land to the cronies of the government.
“I want to know the procedure followed by the Mahaweli Authority when releasing the Mahaweli lands to private individuals. I know a situation in Thambuttegama, where the Mahaweli regional officer gives away lands to his relatives, former police officers and others.
The officials have found some loopholes in laws governing the Mahaweli land. This has become a big business now. “It is in the course of this inquiry that I came to know that a large number of lands have been distributed even after a written order from the Presidential Secretariat on Nov 11, 2022. You must explain to this committee how those lands have been given away,” Dissanayake told the officials present.
Officials responded that the method of releasing lands coming under the purview of the Mahaweli Authority was the same as specified by the State Lands Ordinance and the Land Development Ordinance.
SLPP Kalutara District MP Sanjeewa Edirimanne: It is not the method of releasing the ownership of lands but the method adopted to select the beneficiaries that we need to know.
Dissanayake: I have information of distributing 116 plots of lands in Polonnaruwa to various friends of the minister.SLPP dissident Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera: The officials should tell us the extent of land distributed after the order against it.
COPE Chairman Prof Ranjith Bandara said that after that directive over 2,000 plots of Mahaweli lands had been distributed by the authority.
Until now the exact extent of lands coming under the Mahaweli Authority had not been properly identified, the COPE Chairman said, instructing the Director General of the Mahaweli Authority to prepare a comprehensive report on the scope of territories identified as Mahaweli lands and collect information of the use of those lands within one month. “There are hotels, other buildings, etc., on the Mahaweli lands. Thousands of acres have been released to various persons. This is illegal. The authority should report back to the COPE on this matter,” Prof. Bandara said.