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Licences Withheld From Genuine Gemmers

  • Moneragala Regional Manager Accused Of Fraud

By Nirmala Kannangara

A gem mining location

Allegations are piling up against a Regional Manager attached to the National Gem and Jewellery Authority for depriving genuine applicants of gem mining licences simply because the applicants are not in favour of filling the his coffers.

This Regional Manager (RM) is once accused of many frauds carried out at a gem haul in Kataragama last year and an investigation is being carried out by the Presidential Investigation Unit it is learnt. This was confirmed to The Sunday Leader by the Director General of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) Amitha Gamage too has come under severe criticism for not taking action against this RM although he (Chairman) was informed of how the applicants have been harassed when applications were submitted.

This NGJA Regional Manager of Moneragala, M. L. I. M Ranjith Aruna is accused of depriving Mangala Wijaya Kumara and B. Amarananda of gem mining licences although necessary documents have been submitted to the Moneragala NGJA Regional Office.

When the RM is making all his attempts to stop us getting the mining licences, we informed this to the NGJA Head Office but to no avail,” they alleged
Tightening screws further on Wijaya Kumara, the Divisional Secretary Lunugala, D. M. L. H. Dissanayake, who is alleged to have supported the Monaragala RM has said that he could not give Wijaya Kumara the clearance since he is not the owner of the land to which the gem mining application has been submitted but merely a lessee.

The Divisional Secretary Lunugala, D. M. L. H. Dissanayake when contacted said that he is enforcing the rules as he has to ensure that the gem pits are filled properly after the mining.

“It is difficult to locate where the lease holder is once the mining is over. If the licence was given to the land owner, then we know his whereabouts and can ask him to fill the pit, but once the lease holder leaves the area it is difficult to locate him,” said Dissanayake. When Dissanayake was asked as to when such regulations were imposed, the Divisional Secretary said that it was a few years ago but did not give an exact date.

When asked as to why the previous lease holder was given the approval to obtain the gem mining licence in mid-2012 if the laws were introduced a few years ago, the Divisional Secretary did not have a proper answer to the question. However, The Sunday Leader is in possession of all documents to prove that the former lease holder to the same land in question P. G. Jayasundara was given the mining licence despite the strict regulations by the Lunugala Divisional Secretariat.
Meanwhile, Wijaya Kumara alleged as to how an anonymous petition has been sent to NGJA Head Office against his application which was submitted to the Moneragala NGJA Regional Office.

“Seven days after my submission to the Moneragala office, a petition has been sent to the Head Office claiming that I am planning to unearth archaeological artefacts from the leased land. When I told him that this land has been cleared by the Archaeological Department on an earlier occasion, the RM still insisted that I need to get the archaeological clearance as well. This is absurd,” said Wijaya Kumara.

Former Enforcing Officer NGJA Moneragala, Indunil Muthukumara confirmed that the land in question is legally owned by Ratnayake, according to the land registry.

“I have given licences to this land since 1999 and I have personally checked the ownership from the land registry. When the legal ownership to this land has been proved, why did the Monaragala RM wanted the lease holder to obtain a letter from the Hopton Estate when it had been proved that they were not the land owners?” claimed Muthukumara.

Meanwhile, B. Amarananda, the second complainant, too accused Ranjith Aruna for blocking him from getting the mining licence. According to Amarananda, although the RM, after going through his land deed and other required documents in June 2011, confirmed that he is eligible for a mining licence the very next day he was informed that he is not eligible for a mining
license.
]“The RM sent one of his Field Officers Mr. Wanigasekara for a land inspection, and he too told me that I am eligible for a license and wanted me to come the very next day. However the same evening I received a call from the RM saying that he cannot issue a licence but did not give any reason,” alleged Amarananda.

According to Amarananda, his neighbours have been unofficially granted permission to make a cavern (donawa) toward his land where it is said to have lots of valuable gems.

Field Officer Wanigasekera, who carried out Amarananda’s land inspection said that Amarananda had been deprived of a licence for an unknown reason. “He had submitted all the relevant documents and when I inspected the land there is no reason to reject the application. He is entitled for a gem mining licence. This is unfair by Amarananda,” said Wanigasekera.

 

There are no restrictions as such - Minister John Seneviratne

When asked whether there are any new laws introduced to prevent lease holders from obtaining gem mining licences, Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister John Seneviratne said that there are no such restrictions imposed by his ministry.

“If the lease holder has all the relevant documents and approvals, he has a right to submit an application for a gem mining licence. The Ministry has not imposed any such regulations,” added Minister Seneviratne.

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There is no necessity to obtain permission from adjoining lands
- Minister Susil Premajayantha
According to the NGJA Act there is no such requirement to obtain permission from the adjoining lands. “If the applicant has lawful deeds why is it required to get the adjoining land owner’s approval? If by any chance the adjoining land owner is not in good terms with the prospective gem miner, then the applicant would never be able to get the licence. We need an environmental licence to prove that gem mining in that particular land would not affect the environment. Other than that if the applicant produces the relevant documents the RM has to issue licences,” said Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Premajayantha.

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This is very unfair - Director NGJA Nalaka Siyambalawatte

Siyambalawatte, who claimed that he too is in the same business and has a good knowledge in gem mining said that this was the first time he came across instances where the District or Divisional Secretaries have banned issuing licences for lease holders.

“I have not come across such laws in any other part of the country. Also to get the permission from the adjoining estate is also ridiculous. In this instance if the former lessee has obtained the letter from the estate why cannot the RM use the same letter to give the licence to Wijaya Kumara as well? Why is this double standard? If the lease holders are not given gem mining licences then why did they give the licence to the former lease holder last year?” said Siyambalawatte.

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Cannot give permission for lease holders
- Divisional Secretary

Lunugala Divisional Secretary D. M. L. H. Dissanayake said that he had been instructed not to give land clearance for gem mining if the application has been submitted by a lease holder.

“The gem miners leave the gem pits open once they finish mining which has become a threat to the environment in general and for the health in particular. Hence applicants who are lease holders are not given our permission to obtain a gem mining licence,” added Dissanayake.

When told that the Gem Authority takes a refundable amount from the applicants solely to fill the gem pits if the miner leaves the pits open, the Divisional Secretary said that the refundable amount is not enough to carry out the work. “I know the Gem Authority is taking a refund for this purposes but if that money is not enough to fill the gem pit, we cannot find the lessee. If the licences are given only to the land owners it is easy for us to get him to fill the pit,” said the Divisional Secretary.
When asked whether this is the practice carried out by the District and Divisional Secretariats in other parts of the country as well, Dissanayake said he knew nothing but discharging the duties as instructed by higher authorities.

Dissanayake further failed to disclose as to when this rule was introduced and also had no answer as to why he gave his permission for the previous lease holder in the late 2012.
“I cannot remember as to when this was introduced,” he added.

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Cannot grant licences: both parties have not met requirements - Moneragala RM Ranjith Aruna

Refuting allegations levelled against him, the RM said that both parties have not met the necessary requirements to obtain gem mining licences.

“With regard to Wijaya Kumara, he has to obtain the adjoining Hopton Estate approval to mine in the land,” said Aruna. When asked as to why Wijaya Kumara should obtain approval from Hopton Estate as he had obtained the land from a legal owner, Aruna said that Hopton Estate is claiming for the ownership of this particular land.

“Last year the estate manager gave the approval but they claim that this particular land belongs to them. Since there is a dispute the applicant has to get the estate approval for gem mining,” added Aruna.

However Aruna was unable to tell as to why the estate is claiming ownership only now when they have not objected over the years and whether it was done on his (Aruna’s) instructions.
In the case of Amarananda, Aruna said that the reason why he could not grant a mining licence was that there were many houses around the land. “If there are houses in the vicinity, the applicant has to keep a reservation for these houses. Once reservations are kept, there is no space for Amarananda to mine. His land is just 16 perches in extent,” said Aruna.

When told that the Filed Officer who inspected Amarananda’s land claims that a gem mining licence can be granted to the applicant, Aruna said that he knew the subject better than the field officer.

When asked whether there is an ongoing investigation against him by the NGJA and Presidential Investigation Unit, Aruna said he was not aware of it. “If there is an ongoing inquiry I should be informed. I have not been informed of such an inquiry. All these are allegations. I have done nothing wrong,” said Aruna

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Let the aggrieved parties make official complaints - Director General NGJA

The Director General NGJA Udaya Kumara said that there is a circular by one of the former Chairmen to get the approval from an adjoining land if it is an estate.

“There have been many issues with estate owners claiming that the adjoining lands belong to them. Since most of these land do not have proper deeds the then Chairman, Gen. Rohan Daluwatte had issued a circular asking to get estate approvals for the land.

However in Wijaya Kumara’s case it seems that the legal land owner has leased out the land to Wijaya Kumara. If the deed shows that the land legally belongs to the owner, then there is no necessity to seek the permission of the adjoining estate. If the complainants lodge complaints I will attend to it and grant them the licences. If not they have to seek legal opinion,” said the DG.

Speaking on the issue of B. Amarananda, the DG wanted Amarananda to lodge a complaint. “If there is an official complaint, I can look into the matter. If the RM has violated our regulations, we will take stern action against him,” said the DG.

1 Comment for “Licences Withheld From Genuine Gemmers”

  1. Isuru shiva

    Whats a shame , why chairman or minister of National Gem & Jewellery Authority Dont get action ? why dont they fire such messy RM ?

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