Forest officers are seeking the immediate intervention of Conservator General of Forests to get a minister representing the Galle district to keep off their track.
The officers, in a letter to their chief, urged his help to relieve mounting political pressure.
The Green Movement of Sri Lanka wants President Mahinda Rajapakse to probe claims of political and police interference. According to the Green Movement the Galle District Minister (name withheld as he could not be contacted yesterday) and Neluwa police were exerting pressure on the forest officers. A spokesman said that they brought this to the notice of IGP Chandra Fernando and the Human Rights Commission.
The officers acknowledged that the police too were under heavy political pressure. They accused the politician of shielding politically influential thieves.
According to them the minister threatened them on numerous occasions. They detailed two recent incidents involving the minister.
`When we cornered five persons clearing the government land at Deniya the minister demanded their immediate release. We declined and produced them before the local (acting) Magistrate. They were subsequently given bail on February 16,` a spokesman said. He said that one of the suspects lodged a complaint with Neluwa police complaining of assault. He claimed that this was done on the instructions of the minister. On the orders of the minister, the local police visited the forest office in the company of some of the suspects and demanded to know who attacked the persons now on bail.
They said that a henchman of the politician interfered after they seized a lorry load of illegally transported timber. `We were told to release the suspects along with the lorry and logs to appease the minister,` a spokesman said.
Lalith Gamage, General Secretary of the Forest Service Professional Union, the leading trade union of the Forest Department said that the union plan to stage a protest against these acts of the politicians. `This is not first time. Our officers have to face this unfortunately incident since long time.
If the government will not take an action against these acts, we will launch an island wide protest against them,` Gamage said.
Conservator General of Forests Sarath Fernando said that he given instructions to district forest officer to investigate the matter.