2 March, 2024


Land-Grabbing Yahapālanaya-Style

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

It is not news when some company takes a state institution to court. It happens often enough. In this world very few people if at all do not absolve themselves of guilt before or when they commit an act which others or the law might consider wrong or illegal. That’s why there is litigation. That’s why there are plaints and plaintiffs, defence and defendants.

Each suit however has a story. Some are juicy and some are boring. Some reveal structural flaws and some reveal unwholesome cultures of being and doing. It’s the last kind that one sees in an otherwise ordinary and even common plaint filed in the District Court of Colombo.

Crown City Developers (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Abans Group of Companies, has petitioned court against the Board of Investments (BOI). The plaint refers to attempt by the BOI to terminate agreements which in manner and intent are ‘malicious, capricious, unlawful, illegal and against the terms and conditions of the said agreement’. That’s legal jargon of course and of the kind that get copy-pasted from one plaint to the next.

But what really happened? Crown City has not had any issues with the BOI and vice versa in 15 years. Even as recent as November 2014, the two parties communicated to apply for and obtain approval for the construction of a warehouse building and logistic center.

Ravi KThen, at the end of March 2015, less than three months after the country elected a new President who appointed a new Cabinet, the BOI writes to Crown City seeking termination of agreements. Two weeks later the BOI further informs Crown City to cease construction on the property. Interestingly, prior to the first communication of this kind, i.e. on March 11, 2015, the BOI informs Crown City to hand over an unutilized 14 acres of land. Land, then, appears to have been the issue. Even more interesting is the fact that the BOI has not specified the reasons for seeking termination apart from the vague and indeterminate ‘[failure] to fulfil the terms and conditions of the said Agreements’. Highly suspicious and certainly irregular.

Since the BOI has not specified reason it would be harsh and unfair to indulge in conjecture. We can however state some facts.

Interest in the plot of land in question has been expressed by a person ‘having business connections with business entities in direct competition with the plaintiff and/or occupying premises adjacent to the plaintiff and/or who would greatly benefit from use and/or occupation of the said property’ (from the plaint). The plaint indicates that this person holds powerful office.

Interestingly, again, Crown City has of late (i.e. since the new Government took office) been subject to what might be construed as undue harassment by the Customs and the Inland Revenue Department.

Now it could be that Crown City has been up to no good and that the previous Government looked the other way. Theoretically then there’s nothing wrong in these state agencies (empowered by ‘good governance’ pledges perhaps) taking interest in their operations.

On the other hand, what we have are three state agencies (BOI, Customs and Inland Revenue) and an interested party who is a politician. The plaint alludes to evidence of this politician’s interest in the property.

The politician has a name. Ravi Karunanayake. He is the Minister of Finance. He has direct or indirect say in the BOI, Customs and Inland Revenue. These are dots. They can be joined. Conclusions can be drawn.

Now we cannot predict how the court will rule. There is litigation, there is determination. There are out-of-court settlements and there is the withdrawal of cases. Anything could happen. Who can tell, perhaps Crown City might ‘settle’. If the settlement benefits any entity that Karunanayake is associated with then there’s something seriously wrong that has happened. Even if there is a settlement, having claimed breach of contract the BOI cannot back off without appearing to have represented the interest of the minister and nothing else.

Has Ravi Karunanayake abused his position? The BOI Chairman is Upul Jayasuriya a known UNPer, ardent critic of the previous government and one of the immediate beneficiaries of the power-change in January. The two are either friends or political associates. Has Jayasuriya abused his position? Is there mutual back-scratching happening here? We do not know. We hope not, in fact. However, as things unfold, we will know. One way or the other.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Well Malinda I hope you got your facts correct as otherwise like Dr Nesiahsuing you and winning the case against you these fellow might also do it but the difference is unlike Dr Nesiah who pardoned you when you grovelled and whined about paying the compensation these blokes might not do that and want their pound of flesh shoould they win a case against you so my advice to you is be careful in what you write when you accuse people after all Once bitten twice shy neda old boy?

    • 6

      Peace lover
      Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
      I think I have malinda’s article on the link below
      mmm. power of the written word is a double edged sword. It could get either Gratien Prize or defamation cases.

      • 0

        [Edited out]

  • 2


    You are raising some interesting questions:

    “The politician has a name. Ravi Karunanayake. He is the Minister of Finance. He has direct or indirect say in the BOI, Customs and Inland Revenue. These are dots. They can be joined. Conclusions can be drawn.”

    “If the settlement benefits any entity that Karunanayake is associated with then there’s something seriously wrong that has happened.”

    “Has Ravi Karunanayake abused his position? The BOI Chairman is Upul Jayasuriya a known UNPer, ardent critic of the previous government and one of the immediate beneficiaries of the power-change in January. The two are either friends or political associates. Has Jayasuriya abused his position? Is there mutual back-scratching happening here?”

    From the time he became the Minister of Finanace this guy Ravi Karunanayake has been accused of various things.

    I am sure he will be the first guy to end up in jail if UNP is unseated from power. Upul should have stopped with his legal practice but his greed for power and position may take him to prison too.

  • 4

    Good work Malinda, dig into more real facts, analyse and educate people.. Good that we have a Finance Minister now, beauty of power devolution…. Earlier, King himself is the Finance Minister, Malinda or anybody else were not brave enough to revel any corruption or wrong doing… This is a good sign, now there is a hope that one day SL might become civilize and democratic country…

  • 6

    [Edited out]
    Please write instead of posting links – CT

  • 0

    I think that everyone who paid the previous government to get access to lands and permits and so one MUST now pay the same to the new government as well.

    It is as simple as that. If they do not want to pay the same amount to the new government then the new government must take away the lands and permits and issue them to someone else who is willing to pay.

    It is as simple and straightforward as that.

    The lady with the big mouth who loves to scream and shout like a maniac knows that very well so she can cough up or get out.

  • 4

    This govt has amply proved that it is no different from the previous corrupt govt.

    This govt is not really interested in prosecuting corrupt politicians because most of the politicians in this govt have baggage and they also want to keep open avenues to steal. the policies that they want to implement are disadvantageous to the majority sinhala people too. That is not the govt that Sri lanka needs.

    The care taker govt definitely has to be defeated.

  • 2

    Malinda I have hated you for the servile top lapping you have been doing for the Rajapaksa monsters.

    But here you are doing some precious work which is what respectable and vigilant journalist are obliged to do. I hope you will eventually redeem yourself.

    Interesting and illuminating presentation as well. Ravi Karunanayake through BOI & Beneficiary Upul Jayasuriya vs. Crown City could have been a more fitting caption to the Article as well.

    If the BOI ‘Termination’ letter has been motivated by the greed of Ravi Karunayake, it will bring great shame on Maithripala Sirisena. I hope MS will have the guts and determination to ensure that this matter is handled by him with firm resolve strict in accordance with the highest principles of yahapalanaya.

    Anyway is it right for MS to have associated himself with a person who has a shameful court case against him?

  • 11

    Dear sir,

    doesnt the BOI come under the investment promiotions ministry

    this article you have written lacks evidence and till that is shown please refrain from pointing fingers as it could be any ministry. Also the way this news is presented may i ask how come nothing of the previous govt ministers work came up? from 30-40% ” Commissions’ to their cronies being put in place of govt owned businesses.

    did you comment when a cinema complex was taken away from a family that owned it for over 30 years?
    how do you get this news because you could be very wrong and informing the public who may start talking and then spread false news.

  • 16

    Dear Malinga,
    Just because you are armed with a pen pl don not try to display your idiotic tendencies and ignorance.
    Firstly this land is not owned by this company “the Crown City.” It is government land taken over by the government handed over to the BOI to be given to investors for investments. Crown City took over this land to develop a housing park. Instead they put. Up a container park. They violated the BOI agreement.they were sitting on this land for 10 years and didnot develop the balance of the lands.

    Instead the land they “Crown City” grabbed from the BOI, (Government) they were sitting on it. Soon after the new government the BOI took a policy decision and cancelled all the lands that were taken by investors and not utilized. There were many other very powerful Companies that were trying their best to hold on to the land with their influence applied through strong politicians in the present government.

    The BOI did not budge. They did not reverse their decision or make any exception to any one despite the political pressure. One such land is right in front of the Colombo AirPort. 3 1/2 acres of land given over to a Indian Company 3 years ago for a Rs. 5 million an acre to an Indian Company. This is land grabbing. One perch here should be worth a million Rupees.
    Another politically very powerful ( with Rajapaksha’s) blue chip Company were given 8 acres out of 16 acres of Zone 5 from Katunayake. They too faced the same plight.
    The BOI was not deterred. It took back all such land.
    Now my dear Malinga whose cause are you espousing?. Are you licking the wounds and the boots of Ravi Wijeratne who has employed you in your paper for having been deprived of the Casino Kingdom of “Kerry Packer”.
    Or is it that you have been properly ‘Briefed’ by Abbans’ to get the land that is owned by the Public of this country taken over for a public purpose and meant to be given away for employment generating investments.
    Or is it that you have been promised at least 10 perches from the 12 acres that Crown City is making every attempt to take back with all the influence that they have with Millions thrown all over.

    Are you aware that the BOI has for the 1st time ever advertised all the. Lands that they own and called for sealed bids from possible investors. These advertisements appeared all over including Colombo Telegraph.
    Abbans Pesrenjees have paid only Rs. 5 Million for an acre as a lease rental at the time they took over. The land. This property is next to AirPort Gardens Hotel. Here again it is worth at least 1 million a perch. This property is worth Rs 160 per acre. Mind you this is public property.
    Malinga you want it plundered by this ‘ Client ‘. Of yours.

    Your conduct is shameless, to say the least.

    After all do you know the meaning of land grabbing? Land grabbing is mostly when private land is looted. Nearly 8 acres of land on either side of the Parliament Road in Rajagiriya that was privately owned by Electro Plastics was grabbed by Gotabaya Rajapaksga through the UDA. What did you do. Were you numb. Were you in deep slumber?
    What did you do when two acres of UDA land right in front of Lake House was given away to your ‘boss’ Ravi Wijeratna to put his casino City with all the Chinnese Prostitutes.

    The land In question comprises of 18 acres. They have utilized 6 acres. Balance 12 acres were left in the land bank of the Crown City owned by Abans-Pesternjees. There have been many investors looking for land but we’re disappointed.

    Probably there again you would have been handsomely looked after with all the ‘perks’ of Ravi Wijeratnes Casino.
    Pull up your zip man.

    • 13

      quite interesting revelations.
      Malinda had his field day during the previous rule. It looks like his slip is showing!

    • 12

      I mostly agree with you.

      But the just remedy can never be to hand over the land to Ravi Karunanayake.

      Let transparent completely legal measures be taken strictly in accordance with Yahapalanaya to decide the recipient of the land. No one will have any complaint.

      If it goes into the hands of Ravi Karunanayake, against whom there is a shameful court case pending, the Government will have to prove beyond any reasonable doubt, that Ravi Karunanayake paid much more than the highest price that was offered by any other. Also make sure the ‘the other’ is not a Ravi Karunanayake proxy.

      MS should also consider getting legislation enacted to outlaw Government ministers financially benefitting from Government transactions – with a long jail term [not less than 5 years, uncommutable, unpardonable] as punishment for breach.

    • 13

      Interesting information, Dimitry.

      Now the question is, will Malinda respond to your serious condemnation of his post? If he has any integrity he should, or else his questionable ‘integrity’ will be confirmed – either way. And if your information is correct and his is not, he may well face another lawsuit and Ravi K will be rubbing his hands in anticipation!

      In the end, as Malinda says, “as things unfold, we will know. One way or the other”.

  • 1

    This is called sponsored content. Obviously Malinda without verifying facts and his only quality control mechanism to write and publish posts like this is that he has ammo to hit the present government (with anything he can find). If he only took such initiatives with previous the government there wouldn’t have been space for other writers on CT.

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