- SLAF Chief Continues To Reign At Knuckles
By Gazala Anver
The Knuckles Conservation Committee, appointed to look into the alleged illegal holiday bungalow built by Air Force Commander Roshan Goonetileka, is still at too early a stage to make a decision, Deputy Minister of Environment Faiszer Mustapha told The Sunday Leader. To date, despite the publicity this issue has drawn, the Committee is still ‘looking into properties,’ according to Mustapha, but hasn’t come to a definite decision as yet.
“The Minister (of Environment) is serious about this Committee,” he said, adding that the Minister will act according to the recommendations of the committee.
The Divisional Secretary of the Laggala-Pallegama area, P.H.M.M Premasinghe, said that they are still in the process of acquiring land for the government, but since it is a complicated issue, it is taking time.
Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, W.M. Wijesuriya said that the Committee’s discussions could conclude the following month, after a planned field visit in the first week of October to the site, and further discussions with the Central Environmental Authority.
The Sunday Leader first broke the story saying that the Air Force Commander, as alleged by the Sri Lanka Nature Forum, has built an illegal bungalow at a World Heritage Site, in an area protected under the Soil Protection Act. It was later found out that Goonetilleke bought the land from Roy De Silva and owns over 70 acres of land in the area. Permission from a Committee has to be acquired before building on the land, which the Commander has not received. After heavy publicity on the issue, the Ministry of Environment appointed a Committee to look into the illegal construction in the Knuckles area. The Committee is yet to give its verdict on the situation.