A group of farmers in Sigiriya claim that State officials were destroying their crops in an unruly manner. Meanwhile, wildlife officials claim that the Sigiriya Sanctuary is being destroyed on the pretext of cultivating.
Farmers claim that wildlife officials have banned cultivation on long-cultivated lands in the Sigiriya Kayamwala area and were paving the way for cultivations to be destroyed.
They claim that many villagers were moving away from lands they had been cultivating over a long period of time. They had been cultivating big onions, green onions, watermelon, and other crops for many years and wildlife officials prevent them from cultivating and take them to Court while they prepare their lands for big onion cultivation.
Wildlife officials are currently reprimanding farmers for clearing and destroying their farms, which farmers claim is an act of terror by State officials, who have not seen wildlife officials cultivating large crops, including big onions in the area since 1999. These farmers are perplexed as to why cultivated crops are being destroyed during a time of a national food crisis.
Farmers also expressed regret that they had spent a significant amount of money to set up large onion nurseries and that a plan to destroy the nurseries without providing water or access to nurseries was being implemented. They also point out that it is an area where coconut trees produce giant size coconuts. They also say that houses have been standing here for many years.
When W. M. Kularatne, Acting Site Conservation Officer at the Sigiriya Wildlife Office, was asked about it, he said these groups were cultivating in the Sigiriya Sanctuary due to the food shortage. As a result, they are being arrested and brought before Court.
When asked why people were being hauled before Courts now, when they have been engaged in cultivation over the past few years, Kularatne responded saying despite the fact that this had been in place for many years, Court proceedings had been initiated on numerous occasions.
BY K. K. Ariyadasa – Dambulla