We, the undersigned organizations call on the Government to take immediate action to prevent the destruction of the Wilpattu National Park, while continuing to provide access through the road from Puttalama to Mannar via the park.
We believe that through taking corrective measures the Government can ensure that both issues are addressed in order to protect the rights of the expelled Northern Muslims and the natural heritage of the area.
We call upon the Government to ensure that steps are taken to maintain an access way through the park as it is vital for civilians in the area, especially the Northern Muslim population in the area who were forcibly expelled by the LTTE in 1990. The road which was a unpaved track used by civilians in the past, is proving crucial for the return of Northern Muslims, the majority of whom were displaced in Puttalam for over twenty years.
The expulsion was a painful process where the entire population was instructed to leave the area by the LTTE with only Rs 200 and they are now attempting to return and rebuild. This road provides easy access from Puttalam to Mussali in Southern Mannar as the alternate route which goes via Medawachchiya takes double the time. On humanitarian groups we are appealing to the Government and the Wildlife Authorities to allow for reasonable usage of this road. We are not asking for a new highway to be built through the park.
We are greatly disturbed by reports in the media that the Wilpattu Park is being destroyed as a result of illegal felling, mining and the construction of new roads through the park. Wilpattu Park is a unique habitat for both fauna and flora, and needs to be protected. As people of the area we recognize its value. We call on the Government to take steps to ensure the further destruction of the park is immediately stopped.
We feel that a balance has to be and can be found between the demands of the people of the area and nature through preventing actions that damage the park while providing reasonable access through one road through the park. Access roads through national parks are not unusual either in Sri Lanka or internationally and we fully recognize that measures will have to be taken to ensure that the wildlife and the forest are not impacted negatively by the movement of civilians.
After twenty years of displacement and living in suffering in welfare camps in Puttalam the Northern Muslims Community now have the opportunity to return. Access through this road will be one critical step to support this process.
Dated: July 27th 2010
Citizens’ Committee for Musali Muslims
Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy
Musali Graduate Association
Musali People’s Parliament
Musali Teachers’ Association
Order – Sri Lanka
Secretariat for Evicted Muslims
Trustees of Moor Street Grand Mosque, Mannar