Apr 23, 2022

Road in Sinharaja widened for Yoshitha's hotel!

Sajeewa Chamikara of the Land and Agriculture Reforms Movement alleges that the road from Hayeswatta Junction on the Deniyaya - Rakwana road to the top of Gongala Hill is being widened for the access road of a hotel owned by Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second son Yoshitha, but which is not in his name.

Issuing a statement, he said that the 7 km long carpeted road would be used only for the television and radio broadcasting towers of various media houses and security towers at the top of Gongala Hill.

He also said that the only residents living in the area to take advantage of this road are the laborers of the Lower Hayes Estate.

He also noted that the only other access through this road is to Yoshitha’s hotel.

In his letter, Chamikara alleges that many of the areas under construction belong to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and that no conservation measures or environmental approvals have been obtained for their development.

It is said that the eastern region of the Sinharaja forest where this road is being built and where the hotel owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa is located is the region where most of the fauna endemic to the Sinharaja forest are recorded.

The area consists of Handapan Ella, Morning Side, Gongala and Ensalwatta.

The species in this region are also reported to have evolved in isolation for millions of years.

Sajeewa further states in his letter, “ The hotel owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa is located on the eastern slope of Gongala Hill near the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. It is located in the Grama Niladhari Division of Boraluwage Aina in the Kolonna Divisional Secretariat Division in the Ratnapura District. The hotel is located on a 12 acre land and its original owner was a cake businessman Roshan Wijesinghe from Deniyaya. However, Yoshitha Rajapaksa had forcefully bought this hotel from him for Rs. 40 million under the name of Ravindu Soysa, who is a worker for the Rajapaksa family. He is currently handling the operations of this hotel.”

" Following the acquisition of the 12-acre hotel, Yoshitha Rajapaksa has purchased several private plots of land in the vicinity.

In addition, 20 acres of tea land attached to the hotel from the Hayes Estate owned by the Maturata Plantation Company have been given to the hotel free of charge. The reason being that Yoshitha’s attempt to acquire the entire estate connected to the hotel. However, a director of the estate had prevented this and had instead, taken the decision to give over a part of the estate free of charge. All the renovation work and security for this hotel has been provided by the Navy. In addition, whenever Mahinda Rajapaksa or Yoshitha visits this hotel, special security is provided by the Navy personnel. This hotel also has helicopter landing facilities and the helicopter landing pad has been constructed using plastic carpets to look like a football field.

This hotel had earlier been named as the Green Eco Lodge by its original owner, but now that name board has been removed and the by-road leading to the hotel is currently being renovated.”

“The main danger posed by this hotel is the acquisition of 1000 acres of forest in the Gongala Range and plans to link it to the entire tourism project associated with this hotel. Under this project, a golf course and a cable car project has also been planned. From the extent of 2210 acres of land allotted to Hayes Estate in accordance with sub-section 27A (4) of the Land Reforms Act No. 01 of 1972 by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa exercising his powers through the Gazette Notification No. 1695/16 dated 1st March 2011, 1000 acres have been taken back to the Land Reforms Commission. This entire forest area currently belongs to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. But due to the location of these forest lands in connection with this hotel, those forests are in grave danger due to the power and greed of the Rajapaksas. Most of the development of the Gongala Road, which runs through the Sinharaja Forest Reserve has severely affected the forest system and biodiversity. The forest system has been severely damaged due to road widening and excavations to obtain soil.”