Hundreds of displaced persons who were forcibly evicted from their own houses in Mews Street, in Slave Island were seen weeping in the Supreme Court premises when the Urban Development Authority and Attorney General informed court that they cannot grant alternative housing as promised previously, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Over 30 houses belonging to Muslims and Tamils were destroyed by the Military evicting the owners in order to establish a high profile school for the children for the Military Officers (not solders) in Colombo 2.
When the owners filed a case in the Supreme Court three years ago, the UDA undertook to build alternative accommodation in an identified location in Dematagoda. The Attorney General had also agreed to ensure that the evicted people from Mews Street would be given houses at the new housing complex in Dematagoda.
It was revealed today in Court however that those new houses in Dematagoda had been distributed among the supporters of Thilanga Sumathipala MP who are living in Borella, and few other selected government supporters on a list prepared by the Defence Ministry, to coincide with the Birthday of the President. The complex known as Mihindu Senpura was opened with much fanfare at Dematagoda on 18 November, by the President, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mayor of Colombo AJM Muzammil. At the ceremony the President claimed that the housing units had been distributed among Colombo’s former shanty dwellers without considering party affiliations.
Colombo Telegraph learns further that the Defence Secretary has indicated that the petitioners in those cases will not be given houses, despite the Court order.
UDA officials who are helpless informed the petitioners that they were at risk of losing their jobs if they honoured the court order and said they were compelled to follow instructions from the Defence Secretary.
When the matter came up before court today, the De facto CJ Mohan Pieris did not want to deal with the officials of the UDA for contempt or to enforce the previous undertakings/orders of Court, and further suggested another alternative housing proposal. He also gave a clear message to the public that the Defence Authorities were more superior to the Supreme Court under his leadership. It is also revealed that at the time of the demolition of Mews Street houses, Mohan Pieris was an adviser to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development which justified the displacements.
Around 500 displaced persons from all parts of Colombo met thereafter and were seen in state of shock and disbelief. They informed the Colombo Telegraph that they have no faith in any Supreme Court order or undertakings given by UDA officials in any court of law.
The ongoing evictions in the city of Colombo are widely seen as an attempt by the Rajapaksa regime to change the ethnic demographic composition in the capital in order to displace large blocs of minority voters that traditionally form part of the UNP vote base. The eviction campaign has continued consistently throughout the city with barely any resistance or opposition from the United National Party whose electoral fortunes will be directly affected by the systematic evictions.