In 2015, the Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka filed a legal action against the Conservator General of Forest, former Minister Rishard Badiuddin, and five others regarding forest destruction north of Wilpathu national park. The area includes over 3000 Ha from Marichchikaddi, Kallaru, Vilaththikulam, Madu, Periyamadu, and Sannar forest.

The Petitioner sought a relief order for the 1st Respondent to take action against the illegal removal of forest cover and illegal resettlement done by the encroachers, re-instate the forest lands to the forest reserve, and organize a forest replanting program.

On 16 November 2020, the Sri Lankan Court of Appeal found evidence that it was the 7th Respondent Mr. Rishad Badiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, who was instrumental in getting this land released for internally displaced persons (IDP) resettlement.

The Court issued an order in the nature of Mandamus ordering the 1st Respondent (Conservator General, Department of Forest Conservation) to implement a tree-planting program. The Court has also issued a consequential order directing the 7th Respondent, Rishad Badiuddeen, to bear the program’s full cost. According to the evidence before Court, he was instrumental in using the reserved forest land for the IDPs’ resettlement.

The Court reiterated that “without any doubt, there is a need to [resettle] all IDPs who were displaced due to the war in Sri Lanka” However, “this is subject to other overriding concerns and, above all the respect for the rule of law, which is the foundation of our Constitution. The conclusions I have made and the relief granted is based on the finding that the resettlement of the IDPs, in this case, has been made contrary to law.”

Read CEJ’s full statement here.

For more information contact:
Hemantha Withanage,
Executive Director,
Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka