Monday, 12 February 2018 07:19

Appeal Court to hear petition against church festivities in Wilpattu Park

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday allowed the issuance of notice in a petition against the use of the Wilpattu National Park (NP) for festivities linked to the Pallekandal church.

The petition filed by the Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited (EFL) and the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) was heard by a two-judge bench comprising the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Padman Surasena and Justice Shiran Goonerathne.

In the petition seeking Writs of Mandamus and Prohibition, the petitioners have cited the Director- General (DG) of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC); the Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife; the Minister of Christian & Parliamentary Affairs; and the Bishop of Chilaw as respondents.

The petition will be taken up next on March 6.

The petitioners are seeking a direction from court to the DWC DG and the Wildlife Minister:

R7A8734To accurately determine and/or demarcate the lawful location and physical existence of the Pallekandal church inside the Wilpattu NP in view of its gazetted and established boundaries;

To formulate a set of Rules & Regulations providing for a comprehensive and transparent system of identifying /recognizing/prescribing traditional practices/customs/usages in terms of Section 3(3)b of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) that can be allowed in respect of festivities of the Pallekandal church that can be permitted within the boundaries of the Wilpattu NP;

To cause the cession of any festival activities inside the Wilpattu NP contrary to the FFPO and the rules and regulations on National Park Management made under the FFPO;

To prevent permitting the Bishop of Chilaw/his agents/servants/ representatives and/or any other person from entering the Wilpattu NP for festivities, religious purposes or otherwise, other than by the due procedure prescribed for entry of park visitors under the FFPO;

To refrain from permitting or carrying out any further construction and/or development and/or clearing and/or church feast and/or any other festival activities within the Wilpattu NP and/or within a distance of a one-kilometre radius from the boundary of the Wilpattu NP by the Bishop of Chilaw or his agents/servants/representatives and/ or any other person whether connected/ related to the church.

They have also sought the following Interim Orders from court:

To direct the DWC DG and the Wildlife Minister and/or the officers of the DWC to act in terms of the law and enter the premises of the Pallekandal church inside the Wilpattu NP, make inquiries and investigations and furnish an accurate investigation report to court;

To direct the DWC DG and the Wildlife Minister and/or their officers, servants/agents/representatives of the DWC to act in terms of the law and temporarily assume the control, supervision and care of the area/land where such festivities of the church is conducted and connected road access to the premises through the Wilpattu NP;

To prohibit the DWC DG, the Wildlife Minister and/or the Christian Affairs Minister from permitting any person from entering the Wilpattu NP, other than by the due procedure prescribed for entry of visitors under the FFPO;

To direct the DWC DG and the Wildlife Minister and/or officers of the DWC to produce in court the originals of the documents/decisions they have arrived in recognizing the Bishop of Chilaw or his agents/servants entitlement on following/practising any traditional practice/custom/ usage inside the Wilpattu NP in connection with the festivities of the Pallekandal church.

President’s Counsel K. Kanag-Isvaran and Attonery-at-Law Wardani Karunaratne appeared for the petitioners.

The Sunday Times in a series of articles in 2016 focused on the harm being caused to the Wilpattu NP, a Protected Area, due to activities linked to the Pallekandal church festivities.

Last modified on Monday, 12 February 2018 07:39