Ten Wanniyala-Aetto arrested for ‘trespassing’ on their own land

Ten Wanniyala-Aetto people have been arrested for ‘trespassing' on their own land in an attempt to return to their hunting grounds. They face trial later this year.

The ten were part of a group of 19 Wanniyala-Aetto who had returned to the forest from which they were evicted more than twenty years ago. The group, from government rehabilitation village Hennanigala, had returned to their former village, Kandeganville, in what is now the Maduru Oya National Park. The remainder of the group fled the forest when park guards came to arrest them.

The Wanniyala-Aetto people were moved from their last forest refuge in 1983 when the Sri Lankan government designated it as a national park. They were barred from the forest and banned from hunting and gathering. Crowded together on small plots of land outside the park, many find it difficult to feed their families.

The nine men and one woman are likely to face heavy fines or imprisonment. Three will face trial on 3 November, and the remaining seven are awaiting court summons.

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