27 September, 2020

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UDA Should Properly Consider Plight Of Poor “34 Watta” Eviction Victims, Observes Appeal Court Judge

The UDA should not fail to consider the financial difficulties of the petitioners to ensure fairness, observed Justice Upaly Abeyratne when the case by four poor residents from “34 Watta” in Wanathamulla against the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and other respondents challenging the directive issued by the UDA to move from their homes to an alternative location without following legal process, was taken up today (Friday, 26th September) in the Appeal Court. The case number is CA Writ 283/2014.

 Gotabaya Rajapaksa -Secretary, Defence and Urban Development

Gotabaya Rajapaksa -Secretary, Defence and Urban Development

Senior counsel M. A. Sumanthiran, with Viran Corea, Bhavani Fonseka, Luwie Ganeshathasan and Subhashini Samaraarachchi instructed by Sunil Watagala appeared for the petitioners. Sumanthiran said that after the directive by the Court of Appeal on 23rd Tuesday, the parties had met to work to resolve the issues and based on progress made at the discussions, there seemed a possibility of a settlement. However, more time was needed to discuss the issues relating to difficulties involving matters of payment, which the UDA was requested to address. The poverty of the people affected should not be ignored, said the counsel.

Sumanthiran emphasized in Court that the UDA should suspend demolishing the buildings which are the homes of the petitioners, until the matter is resolved as agreed in court. He illustrated to Court that the apartments being offered were smaller in floor size and that a fair resolution was required.

Arjuna Obeyesekere, Deputy Solicitor General who appeared for the UDA assured that he would very clearly inform the UDA that any demolition from today will not affect the common amenities like electricity, water, toilets, staircases, accessways etc. and the outer structure of the Condominium parcels of the four petitioners, until the matter is properly resolved as agreed in court.

Appeal Court judge Upaly Abeyratne instructed the UDA to discuss further with the petitioners and their lawyers how to amicably settle the issue, noting that the poverty of the petitioners is an important factor that should be properly taken into account in reaching a settlement. The petitioners were troubled by the fact that UDA was insisting for them to make monthly payments they cannot afford, to give them lower quality accommodation than their legally owned homes that the UDA wants demolished.

Based on the matters informed and the understanding that a suitable acceptable settlement was being worked on, the case was further postponed for Tuesday (30th September) and in the meantime, the petitioners were instructed to meet with the UDA along with their lawyers, to discuss settlement.

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    The UDA Law no. 41 of 1978 is almost a carbon copy of the UDa Act of Singapore. Yet the exercise of powers should not be similar to that was in Singapore under Li Quan yu. The problem in Colombo is that the people who wre prepared to be relocated when Prez RP was in power are not in the same boat when Prez MR is in power.

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