He made this comment during a ceremony held at the Colombo Al Hikma Vidyalaya yesterday (20). .
Minister Rishad Bathiudeen further noted, “It is fair enough the people of Puttalam are protesting against garbage being dumped in their areas. No one wants garbage from other areas to be dumped in their areas. They had complained about it to every possible person and institution, but when they had not received any solution, they had taken the decision to bring their protest to Colombo.
“During the undemocratic events which took place during the last few months last year, we took the correct stand. That is true democracy. That is why we are standing up for the people who are fighting against the garbage dump in Aruwakkalu. Because I am standing up for these innocent people, there is a massive social media campaign against me alleging that I am cutting down the Wilpattu forest. I can see that there are unseen forces who are targeting me. Even though I am a member of the government, if any injustice is done against the people, I will not hesitate to stand up for them,” he said.
He noted that it is due to such social media campaigns that the Theldeniya and Gingtota racial clashes occurred.
“Hence, we feel that by this sort of slandering, they are trying to create clashes between the Sinhalese and Muslims in Wilpattu. Therefore, I strongly urge these elements to kindly target me but do not create discord between the Sinhalese and Muslims who have been living harmoniously.”
When contacted in this regard, Environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said, “There is a lot of discussion about Wilpattu and Sinharaja on social media but nothing has been reported about the clearing of the Wilpattu forest reserve. We went there and inspected the forest, but did not find any evidence to suggest that the forest had been cleared. It is the same old photographs which are being circulated over social media.
The Wildlife Department, The Central Environmental Authority, Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and his representatives should all take the blame for the forest destruction. All these parties should be called for a discussion. The correct information should be gathered before engaging in a struggle. This issue could arouse racial tensions. Therefore, this issue must be resolved in a very sensible and responsible manner,” he said.