8th November 2011.
Mr. Lal Wickrematunga
The Sunday Leader – Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd
No. 24, Katukurundawatte road, Ratmalana.
RE: Article in The Sunday Leader (November 6) under the caption From Forest To Fruit Farm compiled by Nirmala Kannangara.
We were shocked and dismayed to see the above article which appeared in The Sunday Leader newspaper of the 6th instant consuming almost 1/3 of the page No. 14 of the main section. Contents of which were false and harmful to the persons mentioned therein and the Company as a hold.
I have today spoken to and met Ms. Nirmala Kannangara, the journalist who had published the said article, and explained in length the legality of the land obtained, and as to how we were granted this block of land for the year marked Eco friendly – Organic BOI approved project.
For your easy reference and understanding, I have attached hereto the correct version of the article paragraph by paragraph, which whilst reading no doubt you would realise the detrimental repercussions it has had to the persons and Company therein. I have also attached a DVD comprising of a eight minute video clip of the 25 acre HVA farm.
As such our request is to correct this article this Sunday, by allocating a similar prominent place in The Sunday Leader. This would thereby educate the general public of the correct situation, and the truthfulness of the facts would be revealed. We are in possession of all documentary evidence attached to the report, and I have as a Director of the Company, personally been involved in the project development activities from its inception in late 1997, therefore you could treat this as an affidavit on the truthfulness to the mentioned series of events.
Whilst confirming that fact that, we have not done anything illegal as mentioned in your article, we have commenced and carried out all activities, with the receipt of an invitation in 1997 from our then Minister Hon. D.M. Dassanayake to initiate our project in this village of Elluwankulama in his electorate which was a largely effected terrorist hit border village with the poorest of the poor people living there. The land too was handed over to us by the Government officials selected, surveyed and released by them, for our development project.
Trust the above and the attachment would convince you to publish an equally large counter article to clear any doubts created in the public eye.
HVA Farms (Pvt) Ltd
Jeewaka Raddalgoda – 077 7745799
Encls - Document.
DVD of the 25 acre HVA farm
01.The large font introduction to the story is false. The Forest Conservation Department released the land which does not fall within any forest reserve, or any proposed forest reserve. The land has been handed over to a Company and not an individual related to a Senior Government Minister.
02.In October, Environment Minister…..
In our perspective, we would like to mention that it is a very good directive by the Minister, thus informing that it is a well organized mob in that area that includes most of the Government Department heads together with the involvement and the cover up of the individuals of the NGO’s such as Sajeewa Chamikara that are destroying the forests and its reserves.
In the last 12 + years with our presence in the village of Elluwankulama where the project is located, we have been protecting the forest from the illicit timber fellers (the mob) by complaining to the authorities and nabbing them, and also advising the Provincial Environment & Land authorities in writing with photographs included of the crimes that take place.
Nevertheless to our shock and dismay, nothing is been done in this regard (not even an visit or inquiry) but when an NGO makes a false complaint they (the departments) deploy teams and go visit the premises, halt our activities, etc.
This itself is a clear sign of the mob’s involvement and the interests and the need to evacuate us from the area for an easy operation of unlawful activities.
03. Despite this statement…
HVA Farms has been to date (since its inception in late ’97) operating lawfully on the land allocated to us by the Government authorities. The original extent of 25 acres as part of the full 250 acre block, was handed over to us by the PEA NWP, District Secretary and Divisional Secretary of Vanathavilluwa after they deployed their Department Cutchery Surveyor Mr. Juawanpulli, and gave us permission to carry out our ‘Pilot project.’
This was confirmed by the District Forest Officer (DFO) and the Department of Archaeology at the time of the AIA (Archaeological Impact Assessment study) that it is not falling within any of the said Ralmaduwa Achchimale Archaeological Reserve, the Tabbowa Sanctuary or the Weerakodicholi Elluwankulama proposed forest reserve.
04. The owner of HVA….
The facts about Mr. Rohan Fernando are well stated (who is the Chairman & Managing Director of HVA) but the blatant lie is that we have ‘destroyed 90 per cent of the thick jungle for our project’!
It was proven time and time again that the density of the forest cover in our pilot farm of 25 acres is much greater than the Government controlled so called reserves.
05. He revealed that… Para correctly stated.
06. Chamikara said that…”
There are no boundary stones in this area. And nor it is an Elephant corridor. The EIA conducted and approved by the PEA NWP confirmed this aspect.
07. According to Chamikara…
HVA Farms (Pvt) Ltd initially thus requested for 4 acres to carry out the experiments on soil and water, subsequently requested and obtained the 25 acre pilot project area. This was released as a part of the 250 acre block already surveyed at that time for our project which went through the EIA & AIA procurement processes (also read my above comment number three).
08.A granite slate and several…..
The granite slate (as stated in the article) Buddha statue (not many as per the article, but just the one shown in the pic) was uncovered by us at a time of a land preparation, and we (myself) informed the Director of Archaeology promptly in this connection, who informed me that not to worry and to go on with our work just demarcating the area in which the statue was uncovered. The state was removed by the District Secretary to office in Puttalam where it lied till the recent past (till 2010). Subsequently the Department of Archaeology sent in a team of two officers and demarcated a two acre area, and advised us not to undertake any deep exuviations of putting up buildings, and allowed us to undertake any cultivation work even in this area.
The Department of Archaeology also advised us that there is a high density of such objects/artifacts in the NWP and not to worry too much about it. To a question raised by me ‘weather it is okay if we cultivate in this area’ his answer was that ‘Yes of course, and if we are to leave out such areas from development and cultivations the whole of NWP would have to be left untouched’ he said.
The Company erected an electric fence, yes to keep the elephants and other wild animals away, but never to date has disrupted any of the eco systems or water ways.
09. Surprisingly, with all these…
This was in the original application as cleared by me in the above para’s 03 & 07.
10. Despite knowing that the Company…”
It is not despite knowing that the Company was located on the Tabbowa sanctuary and the proposed forest reserve that the NWPEA asked for an EIA. We were never located on these sanctuaries or proposed reserves. We were on the block surveyed and allocated to us by the NWPEA, and thereafter the need arose to undertake an EIA and AIA as per the statutes of the country.
11.The EIA report was submitted…
Yes, although the EIA report was submitted by the Company to the NWPEA for consideration, after many secession’s of EIA Scoping committee meetings held it was revealed that the plan submitted by the NWPEA consisted of the buffer zone of the Wilpattu. Thereafter Mr. Saman Senanayake (as the head of the EIA Scoping committee ) apologised to the Company on behalf of the Government and especially the Department of Forest Conservation for their over sight. And instructed the Government Cutchery Surveyor Mr. Juwanpulli to resurvey and submit a fresh plan excluding the buffer zone area of one mile width.
Although at one meeting held by some officials with hidden agendas decided to suspend this project and through the Divisional Secretary wrote to us giving us 6 months notice to vacate the land. We contested this directive with the higher officials and having explained the true situation they (Puttalam Land Release Committee headed by the District Secretary) decided to withdraw their directive, and grant approval for the project.
12.Since the Company did not vacate…
It is not because of the fact that the Company did not vacate the premises that EFL filed a case (case no. 1044/06) against the Company, but it was because the scruples’ officials who had different agendas concerning the area, and as they could not undertake their illegal tasks as per their wishes. And as we were a threat to them, they tried to get us vacated from the area through this NGO – EFL.
Their complaint at the Appeal Court was that we are harming the animals, and damaging the environment, by cutting down the forest and planting papaya.
The immediate judgment of a restraining order by the bench till the case was heard, had a large impact on the already developed vegetation, causing a tremendous drawback situation.
This case was prolonged many times for no reason of the Company, but they could not prove their case as the representations were never present.
We also invited them to the property, as they had never visited the property even to date to ascertain by themselves if a single forest tree was felled, or the habitat destroyed. They refused the invitation stating not interested.
13.Meanwhile Fernando filed a case in Supreme Court…
Due to the immense delay in hearing the case in the Appeal Court, and the drastic impediments it had on the already developed land and its vegetations due to the order, where the Company lost millions of rupees, The Company thereafter lodged a case at the Supreme Court seeking justice, where which once we submitted a video clip and some large photographs of the development it was reveled that the project was proper.
Furthermore the respective NGO – EFL was warned by the 3 judge bench of the Supreme Court instructing not to harass and disrupt such proper investors & development projects, where due to the hardships faced by the investors they would abandon such development projects or take it to another country and the development,the funds, jobs, foreign earnings to the country all that would be lost.
The Supreme Court also commended highly on all the development activities carried out under the difficult most conditions in the dry zone, less road ways, no electricity, located in the boarder village threatened by the wild animals and terrorists.
The Supreme court also awarded to the Company a land of 500 acres of the cashew corporation in the Gomarankadawala area in the Trincomalee District for us to take over and develop under the same unique concept.
The Supreme Court also went on to state that this project in Puttalam should be an example to the Department of Agriculture of the country.
Thereafter they cleared all barriers and awarded to us this alternate land in extent of 225 acres.
14.According to Chamikara, although HVA Farm boosts…
The Company is practicing its Eco friendly agriculture policies in the best possible manner possible. We have obtained a certificate from the Industrial Technological Institute of Sri Lanka (ITI) and formally CISIR stating that our produce are chemical free products, free of zero chemical residuals. This testing was done as per a German standard. We have never used any agro chemicals to date, and no employee has ever admitted the use of urea or any other chemicals in the farm so far. And we have to date never misled the Government or the Supreme Court in any manner.
15.Meanwhile EFL is asking…
The Government has not ignored any regulations in land allocation. Alternate land, away from forest reserves, has been allocated else where as per the directive.
16.Why have the WLCD failed…
We have never acted against the regulations of DWLC to date for them to take legal action against us. DWLC arrested a non worker of HVA close to the HVA Farm who had shot and killed a Kedetta else where, and brought to the estate to the mother’s (who was a HVA worker) house to be cooked. All this was revealed at the inquiry, and subsequent police entries lodged by the Company.
17.He denied illegally staying…
We have to date not committed any illegal crime or activity. It is the Government agencies in the respective area who handed over the land to us, and we have never been on the Tabbowa sanctuary to vacate the place in the 1st place. The Supreme Court’s directive was to establish the project proper in the alternate land allocation of 225 acres, and once that is established, and if an area is coming under a freshly demarcated forest reserve, etc, the vegetations to be removed eventually from any such area to the 225 acre block. As per our records the 25 acre block and the 225 acre blocks are placed well away from such reserves.
And if there are any such areas in the 25 acre block, such area have to be demarcated and shown to us by a respective officers to make arrangements to vacate.
With reference to the letter by Jeewaka Raddalgoda, Director HVA Farm (Pvt) Ltd, I wish to state that I had shown all supportive documentary proof to Raddalgoda when he called over at The Sunday Leader office on Tuesday November 8. However I will once again furnish details for the perusal of the readers.Although Raddalgoda tried to imply that HVA Farm has nothing to do with Minister Sarath Amunugama, it is a known secret that Chairman/Managing Director HVA Farm is Rohan Fernando son-in-law of Minister Amunugama.How can Raddalgoda claim that HVA Farm has not cut down trees, when the Department of Wild Life Conservation (DWLC), at the Land Use Committee Meeting held on April 2, 2003 at the District Secretariat Puttalam, has clearly stated that 95 per cent of timber within the 25 acre plot was removed by the HVA Farm? They have also stated that this land is an elephant corridor and that cultivation has been done within the Wilpattu buffer zone. In addition, although Raddalgoda claims that this farm has been operating lawfully, at the said meeting, the Department of Forest Conservation and Divisional Secretary Wanathawilluwa have categorically stated that this farm has been in operation illegally. Although Raddalgoda claims that only a Buddha statue was unearthed from the farm site and nothing else of archeological value, his Chairman Rohan Fernando clearly told this newspaper that there are granite slates (mal asana) still in the farm site.
Meanwhile, how can Raddalgoda say that their farm is not within the Tabbowa sanctuary when the Supreme Court judgment of March 16, 2009 has clearly stated that the appellant has to co-operate with the Director General DWLC in order to exclude the area that comes within the Tabbowa sanctuary, and he only could continue the project in other areas. However Raddalgoda and his company have so far failed to abide by the Supreme Court directives for the past two years and eight months, which alone shows how lawful this company is.
I stand by my report.