Land excavation racket being carried out in Minuwangoda - Underworld and politicians behind In
The lands excavation racket being scandal in Minwangoda has become a much talked about topic in the recent few weeks.  Recently, Deputy Minister RanjanRamanayake and MP Indika Anuruddha also clashed on the erath removing in Divulapitiya. However it has become clear that the racket is still going on. President MaithripalaSirisena had last year ordered the termination of all illegal earth removal in the area. But so far it has not been stopped. Due to the earth removing that is being carried out in a massive scale, at present the Minuwangoda area has also faced a terrible shortage of drinking water. Thus it has become aparant that the President should intervene to put an end to this environmental devastation once and for all.

Although the earth removing trade has generated new jobs, the problem lies with the environmental damage that it has caused in aunprecedented level. we had some news on this earlier , Since we were not able to obtain proper information from the authorities who are involved in this matter including the local police. Lanka News Web we, recently visited Minuwangoda to find out the truth. During our visit we were able to witness several earth removing schemes still going on without any problem. According to the residents in the area, the current dry weather condition of the country coupled with the environmental harm that has been caused by the earth removal has caused a severe shortage of drinking water in the area. According to our sources, plans have been made by these racketeers to expand their earth removal business into Kotugoda as well. Accordingly areas such as Udugampola, Yagodamulla, Nedagamuwa, Pasgammana, Kotugoda, Pathaduwana, UkgalgodaWeliya and Welhena that belong to the Minuwangoda DS division have now been invaded by these earth removal scams.

After our observations in the area, we queried officials attached to the National Bureau of geology and Mining as to the measures taken by the authorities to counter these earth removal schemes. Responding to our queries, the Director General further Mr. Sthjana said that an STF group would be soon deployed to look into the matter. Furthermore, the Director General directed us to an official at the institute to obtain further information. According to the Director General, the STF team was scheduled to be sent on last Tuesday. But up until the end of this article, the official at the national geology and mining failed to provide us the information about their investigations. When queried, he simply said that he had not yet received a report from the STF. It has become problematic as to the undue delay of these investigations Furthermore, the officials who are at the Mining bureau must be having some supervision over the area. During our tour, residents in the area complained that No government officials including the GS, Samurdhi, Adgricultural, or other officers or a police officer have visited the area to investigate the matter. Although the Bureau has issued 3 licenses to the 119/2 GS division for earth removal. They have become expired by February 2017. The authorities were unable to comment as to whether these licenses have indeed been renewed. This has thus become a testimony to the inefficiency of the country’s administrative system.

However, when visited Yagodamulla recently, it was revealed to us that the DS office has not issued any recommendations to carry out earth removal for this year. An official of the local council said that the license of the last licensee who had obtained permission for earth removal, has also been expired. Hence it has now become clear that these racketeers are not in possession of any legal document to carry out their schemes. Although normally the public is allowed to remove earth for domestic construction purposes, it is clear that this is not that type of project.  
On the day of our visit, the Divisional Secretary K.A.S.L. Gunathilake had gone out for a meeting. When queried from the Assistant Divisional Secretary, she said that they have not been informed about illegal earth removal as the Mining bureau is in charge of issuing licenses. However, it was obvious that the government officials were reluctant to give away all the information on the issue. 
According to information received we visited an area near the Yagodamulla Junction. There we were able to see several trucks transporting soil out from the area via the Sri Dhammaloka Mavatha. They came from Abayaraja Mawatha, which is situated about 50 meters away from the Yagodamulla junction. When we visited the premises, the earth removal was still being carried out in broad daylight. The area that has been cleared amounted to 2,3 acres near the Saddhatissa Pirivena road.
At the time we were there, there were persons and machinery that are used to remove earth, even though they did not engage in the act. But according to their current rate of earth removal, soon the Mahena Cemetery is also going to be invaded by these earth removers. Even though the licenses expressedly require the licensees to take steps to prevent any destruction to the environment such as sprinkling water into the road that is used to transport soil, none of these conditions were seemed to have been honored by these license holders. We were also able to witness another 50 perch plot of land being cleared off for earth removal. However, it has been temporarily halted due to strong objections of the residents. There was another place in Koslanda that had been subjected to this racket. Even the roads in these areas are still under developed. Hence there is no doubt as to the extent of damage these businesses have caused to the environment. 

Speaking to us on the matter, some residents said “We see a lot of trucks going here and there with soil. But we do not know what happens to them”. Some even said that they do not want to get into trouble by talking about these problems. Hence it was clear to us that the area has been engulfed by fear of taking action against this racket. Even a police officer said that pursuing this issue is going to become troublesome. However, sources have revealed to us about the involvement of several well-known underworld gangs in the racket. Once these thugs had pasted threatening posters to warn the residents not to talk about the earth removing scandal. By looking at the past data, it has become evident that over 48 lives have already been lost due to criminal activities in the area involving in the earth removal scandal. Well known thugs such as Kalu Gamini, Lalinda, Sitha and Asitha are some of these gangsters. At present some of them have even created strong henchmen such as Nilantha and Pas Podda, who have become famous for their brutality.
However, when we first inquired the matter from the Police Media Unit, they were unable to provide us with any information. Next we contacted the Officer in Charge of Minuwangoda police station Mr. Rajapaksa. But he said that it did not belong to his area of authority. But later we came to know that it did came under the Minuwangoda police division. When we visited the area the OIC was not available and the Crime OIC Mr. Dissanayake said that his area does not include the Mahena Cemetery but includes the Abayaraja road. But he was unaware of the earth removal that is being carried out in the area. He said that he would receive instructions from the OIC and would inspect the premises in the evening. He also said that the level of crimes in the area have gone down recently and said that there are no undue political influences to their duties. But we clearly saw a traffic police officer stopping a truck near Yagodamulla. Hence it has become problematic as to the lack of awareness of these police officers on these issues.

  However, we do not want anyone to lose their job over this matter. But we would like to point out the necessity of ensuring the peace and proper environment for the people in the area. It comes under the direct responsibilities of the Yahapalana government.
Even though the Minuwangoda Police OIC had said that the area in question does not come under his jurisdiction it has become clear that these areas were within 7 km from the Minuwangoda police station. If a police officer refuses to take action based on the area of authority, preventing these problems are going to become a hard task, Hence the time has come for these officers to actively participate in the law enforcement process by informing the superior officers on these issues.
We also visited the GS officer of the Minuwangoda 119/2 GS division A.A. Nishanthi at her office at Sri Saddhatissa Road to discuss the matter. But she was not available at the office at that time. When contacted via telephone, she said that she could not comment on the matter and asked us to contact the Divisional Secretariat. Hence it has become problematic as to how these government officials execute their duties.
 
Political Thoughts on this matter
 
Expressing his views on the matter, MP Prasanna Ranathunga says “During our government we were able to draw the attention of the President to get these illegal activities stopped. Even then there were some activities going on in secret. But after January 08 2015, these racketeers have once again started to operate in public. At the local development committee meeting its chairman Edward Gunasekera said that this has to stop as it is causing the breach of public peace as well as environmental damage. We have already urged the President to take action to stop this issue. But so far nothing has happened. The government officials are working in fear of underworld gangsters. So these earth removal scams are going on under government sponsorship. That is why the authorities cannot stop this.”
Commenting on the issue, the Minuwangoda SLFP organizer RuwanRanathunga said “Last week we had to distribute water into 83 GS divisions in Minuwangoda. With the drought conditions this earth removal has caused a major shortage of water. We have informed the authorities over this issue. This issue has now claimed several lives. Most of the times these racketeers are able to secure licenses from the government with the help of undue influences. So we are only left with contacting the police. Some even think that we too are accepting bribes from these racketeers. I do not have any connections with the underworld. But there were certain local council members who openly supported these scandals. We do not approve Minister RanjanRamanayaka’s conduct at Divulapitiya. But he told the truth. As we see it there is a lack of involvement from senior government officers. Furthermore, the loopholes in law have made it easy for these culprits to operate freely.”
 
We then contacted two politicians who were subjected to media limelight recently. Expressing his views on the matter, Deputy Minister RanjanRamanayake said “At present the scandal at Divulapitiya has been stopped by the Mining Bureau, the CEA and the Divisional Secretariat. I do not know well about the earth removal in Yagodamulla. Some people have even accused me of being involved in these rackets. But we were the ones who objected the transporting of soil from Akaragama to Muthurajawela to reclaim land. I have obtained the details about MP IndikaAnuruddha via RIT. His family members are also involved in this racket. Due to this issue, MP Indika even tried to kill me. I have lodged a complaint at the Police on the matter. But no matter how much they try to sling mud at me, people know who I am.”
In reply, MP IndikaAnuruddha said “Our past generations have been carrying out this trade for many years. We have factories that produce tiles and bricks. I have not aided any illegal activity. It is Minister Ramanayaka who is aiding the culprits. My Uncle D.W.L. Appuhami has become angry with me after I had refused to give him soil consignments. Then he has joined hands with Ranjan. Accordingly Ranjan has even sent a letter to the District Secretary asking him to extend the license of an earth removing quarry that is being maintained by Appuhami. I challenge him to show his innocence.”
 
However, the problem of illegal earth removal is going on without a solution. It has now come to a hazardous stage. Thus it it now up to the President of the country to put an end to this madness. Do you have any kind of tips for corruptions, Write to us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We can assure you,  will protect your details.
 

 By AshWaru in Minuwangoda

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