No Knuckles land given to investors: Kiriella

Public Enterprise and Kandy City Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday rejected allegations that a land belonging to the Knuckles mountain range had been given to investors to carry out various projects.

He told a news conference that there were no projects as mentioned
by some and vowed never to allow that land to be adulterated now or in the future.

The minister said the land demarcated for certain development projects were outside the mountain range and obtaining Cabinet approval for such projects was essential.

“Eco-friendly agricultural and dairy farm projects have been proposed to be set up outside the Knuckles mountain range. They are only proposals and nothing implemented yet. However, as a ministry, we will not allow the mountain range to be damaged. We have not given any land inside or outside Knuckles to any investor. We wish to invite media personnel and environmentalists who are quick to make allegations to visit the site and check for themselves. Parties who level these allegations should provide us with evidence and later investigate these matters,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation (SLSPC) said Minister Kiriella had instructed them not to carry out harmful projects within or outside the area belonging to the range.

“I have not signed any document that allows the acquisition of land belonging to the mountain range,” he said.

However, the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) had claimed that some 21,000 acres of land belonging to the Knuckles mountain range (Dumbara range) had been given to several close associates of ministers to carry out various projects.

MONLAR member and environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said earlier that these lands which were managed by the State Plantations Corporation and Elkaduwa Plantation Limited had been given to close associates and relatives of two powerful ministers. (Kalathma Jayawardhane)