(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Wednesday visited Kanugahawewa in Kebithigollewa to participate in the “Discussion with the Village” program. This marks the fourth in the series of the program attended by the President.
The village of Kanugahawewa in Kebithigollewa Divisional Secretariat located 73km away from Anuradhapura city was chosen for the today’s (30) discussion.
The public gathering was held at the playground of Kanugahawewa Primary school. Villagers from several surrounding hamlets including Thalgahawewa, Halmillawatiya, Thammannawa, Herath Halmillawa and Nikawewa gathered there to present their grievances to the President seeking redress.
LTTE terrorists frequently attacked Kebithigollewa during the separatist war and 68 villagers from Kanugahawewa and the vicinity were killed when the LTTE terrorists exploded a passenger bus using a claymore mine in Halmillawatiya on June 15, 2006.
Residents of these villages had to live in welfare camps from 1995 to 1998 and from 2006 to 2008 due to terrorist activities. Although the threat of terror is over now, they still face a number of serious economic and social issues. The poverty ratio in the village stands at 54% of the total population.
Paddy and chena cultivation is the main source of livelihood of the people in Kanugahawewa as well as many surrounding villages. Loss of traditional habitat as a result of displacement due to terrorist threat is a major issue. Therefore, the farming lands have become residual forests. Marking such lands as reserves by the Wildlife and Forest Conservation Departments during their surveys makes it very hard for the people to cultivate. The threat of wild elephants is another major issue faced by the villagers.
Stating that the Government’s and his policy is to develop agriculture on a priority basis President instructed officials not to disturb the daily cultivation activities of the people who make a living from agriculture. President Rajapaksa also said that they should have the full support of the political authority.
It was decided to hand over the lands identified as residual forests when marking reserves according to the Google map after 2012 back to the people for cultivation purposes immediately.
It was revealed during the public gathering that a large number of people have lost their lands due to the implementation of Yan Oya project but no compensation has been paid. President stressed that from now on, priority should be given to providing alternative lands and compensation must be made accordingly to those who lost their lands in the implementation of such projects.
Commander of Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Air Marshall Sudarshana Pathirana undertook the responsibility of developing Kanugahawewa village with housing facilities to mark the 70th anniversary of the SLAF. Kanugahawewa village will be developed as a model village under this initiative.
The President sought cooperation of the Chief Incumbent of the village temple, the Grama Niladhari, the Divisional Secretary and the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha to jointly take steps to identify the needs of the people living in the village and submit plans to the Commander of the Air Force.
Renovation of existing tanks needed for farming was one of the main demands of many villagers present at the public gathering. Out of the tanks that have been filtered, 21 were decided to be rehabilitated speedily. Many canals and dams will also be renovated under this scheme. It will benefit more than one thousand families and nearly 8,000 acres of land can be cultivated.
The monthly milk production by the residents of Kebithigollewa area is one hundred and thirty thousand liters. The officials pointed out that the income from this exceeds Rs. 10 million. Farmers are able to achieve higher milk production in 2020 than in 2019. The main challenge faced by the dairy farmers, is the lack of grasslands. Therefore, special attention was paid to develop grasslands for dairy farming industry. Instructions were given to the officials to allow the owners of dairy cattle to release their cows to grazing in the surrounding areas of the forest reserves.
The President instructed the education officials to expedite the process of providing solutions for the teacher shortage as well as other requirements at Kanugahawewa Primary School, Halmillawetiya and Kebithigollewa Schools.
President wanted officials to expedite the development of major and by-roads including the Medawewa Road from Kanugahawewa to Rambakapuwewa, Kebithigollewa to Buhalmillewa and the road from Yakawewa, Bogaswewa, Wahalkada to Yan Oya.
The President directed the Provincial political authority to intervene to expedite the process to ensure adequate supply of drinking water and sanitation facility for the villagers.
It was decided to develop Nikawewa in order to provide water for drinking and cultivation purposes.
The farmers also briefed the President on the Armyworm caterpillar menace affecting maize cultivation.
It was also decided to provide medical and nursing facilities for Kebithigollewa Base Hospital and Wahalkada Rural Hospital. President Rajapaksa paid special attention to providing transport facilities for school children and rural people.
President Rajapaksa also opened the ‘Smart Classroom’ equipped with computers donated by Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) Mobitel to Kanugahawewa Primary School in support of “Discussion with the Village” program. Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Director General Oshadha Senanayake and SLT Mobitel Group Executive Lalith Seneviratne were also present.
After conversation with villagers, President visited the Vihara Halmillewa Siri Sulugal Dambulla Vihara main Pirivena and called on the Chief Incumbent of the Temple, Ven. Viharahalmillewe Dhammarakkitha Thero. The President applauded the Thero for his yeoman service for the benefit of Buddha Sasana by protecting the temple in the face of terrorist threats.
The President also pledged to provide his fullest support to the development of the temple.
Minister S.M. Chandrasena, State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Shehan Semasinghe, Channa Jayasumana, Members of Parliament S. Nandasena and Uddika Premaratne, Governor Mahipala Herath, Principal Advisor to President Lalith Weeratunga, people’s representatives, Secretaries to the Ministries, Heads of Government Institutions and many others joined with the “Discussion with the Village” program.