The Court of Appeal has given the respondents, including the Minister of Wildlife, until April 23 to file objections to the petition filed by Vedda leader Uruwarige Vannila Aththo and the Center for Environmental Justice.
The petition seeks an order quashing the decision taken by the Mahaweli Authority to take over their homelands and hand them over to private companies for maize cultivation.
The petition was called before a panel of judges comprising Justices Arjuna Obeysekera and Mayadunne Koraya today.
Deputy Solicitor General Parinda Ranasinghe, who appeared for the respondents, including the Minister of Wildlife, told the court that no deforestation was taking place in the area where the case is based.
The lawyer representing RNA Plantation, who was named as a respondent in the petition, also informed the court that his clients were cultivating maize for export and that 500 acres of land belonging to the Mahaweli Authority had been set aside for this purpose. The lawyer pointed out that these lands were not protected forests and that they had been abandoned for chena cultivation some time ago.
Based on the facts presented, the Court of Appeal directed the petition to be heard on May 3 and the respondents including the Minister of Wildlife were directed to file their objections to the petition before April 23.
Attorney Ravindranath Dabare, appearing for the petitioner, requested the court to issue any restraining order preventing the removal of trees in the lands belonging to his clients.
At that time Deputy Solicitor General Parinda Ranasinghe informed the court that such revelations would not take place in those areas.
Accordingly, the court had not issued any restraining order.
The respondents in the petition are the Director General of the Mahaweli Authority, the Department of Forest Conservation, the Director General of the Department of Wildlife and the Minister of Wildlife C. B. Ratnayake has nominated a group including the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment.
The Vedda leader, the petitioner, points out that for centuries the lands where he resided have been taken over by the Mahaweli Authority and handed over to private companies for maize cultivation. He also points out that more than 5,000 acres of their ancestral lands have been lost.
Vannila Aththo further pointed out that this would cause severe prejudice to his livelihood as well as his plantations and requested the Court of Appeal to issue a writ order nullifying this decision taken by the Mahaweli Authority.