The Urban Development Authority (UDA) yesterday threatened residents of the ‘34 Watte’ located in Wanathamulla, Borella, ousted them from their homes and demolished their properties violating an undertaking made before the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in March in order to build a sports ground for the ousted families.
In a fine example of the rampant militarization and impunity reigning in Sri Lanka, some UDA officials along with two military personnel in uniforms had visited the area last afternoon in order to administer the demolishing of the houses. Several homes in the 34 Watte were bulldozed yesterday as a result – homes that the victimized families have been residing in for the past 50 years.
Some of the residents objected to the demolishing but to no avail. They were threatened by the military men and the demolishing proceeded after the protesting residents were compelled to move due to rains. The victimized residents point out it is unfair since the alternative housing offered by the UDA requires an initial payment of Rs. 50,000 to be made. Upon moving in, each family is supposed to pay another Rs. 50,000.
“The alternative housing offered to us is much smaller than the ones we have been residing in. Besides, we have no economic capacity to pay Rs. 100,000 to move into a new house,” the aggrieved residents pointed out.
In a ridiculous justification of their actions, a UDA official stated that it is only a few families who are objecting to the move and added the area is being acquired in order to build a sports ground for the families who are being ousted from the area.
The Human Right Commission gave an order in March preventing the demolition. The military official who allegedly threatened petitioners is a respondent in the case that had been filed. The demolition is carried out following a writ application that was filed by four persons residing in the 34 Watte in August that prevented the UDA from demolishing their homes. The case is presently before the Court of Appeal.