The Forest Department last week said that they lacked officers in terms of numbers and those proficient in Tamil in areas such as Kilinochchi, Mukkampan and Arasapuram.
Divisional Forest Officer – Kilinochchi, Dhammika Tissa acknowledged that the destruction and clearance of forests did take place in several areas including Mukkampan. “There was a racket involving the trade of timber in the area too,” he added.
He said due to the language issue, even a simple communication involving an explanation can be extremely difficult to do. “For 10,000 acres, there is only one Range Forest Officer,” he explained and added 30 to 40 acres had been dozered in Uppu Kulam.
Addressing the issue of not having sufficient arms and weaponry, Tissa said that denizens in these areas too had arms and weapons, and the presence of a firearm or any other weapon one is authorized to carry on one’s person could be problematic and lead to confrontations. He also said that weapons could easily be stolen too.
“The number of Tamil officers is less. This is especially a problem when raids are conducted. The timber from the trees felled is transported via small lorries. One has to wait until midnight to catch anything. The offenders also have a strong network of informants. Ideally, one has to go camouflaged. They are aware of the identity and movements of our officers. Even a previously unseen and therefore unfamiliar bike being ridden in the area or an unknown person could be a tipoff to them,” he pointed out.
Previously, Commander of the Security Force Headquarters – Kilinochchi, Major General K.A.D. Amal Karunasekara was quoted as saying that an area of 12 square kilometres in the forests of Kilinochchi, Mukkampan and Arasapuram was being destroyed on a massive scale.
According to the Major General, as per an observation carried out by them into a racket involved lands and timber, people resettled in areas, in addition to the acre provided to each, were engaged in clearing spaces in surrounding areas and engaging in cultivation.
Trees such as palu, weera, satinwood and teak had been cut down mechanically and half of the trunk had been sawn up within the forest itself and converted into planks and later transported to Kilinochchi and Jaffna. Residents and organized groups are reported to be engaged in these activities.