name-dropping behind forcible land grab
By Chris Kamalendran
Persons claiming they were supporters of Fisheries Minister Mahinda
Wijesekera had forcibly entered a block of state land in Colombo's
Bambalapitiya seafront, threatened the occupant and even got some
senior police officers to show off their uniforms as well.
The 'land grab'
had all the hallmarks of the now familiar political thuggery - a
pajero arriving, gangs coming and forcibly putting up asbestos partitioning,
followed by senior gazetted policemen arriving in their jeeps and
showing their allegiances to the law-breakers.
The land situated
down Kinross Avenue is currently occupied by a well-known angler
in the area B. David Perera, who had been occupying the land since
1986 with the authority of the Coast Conservation Department. The
30 perch land provides a haven for many people to unwind and relax
in the evenings.
It was such
a group of people who came to Mr. Perera last Saturday requesting
permission for them to have a private party. "As I allow any
person, I said okay to these people. By late evening they were setting
the tables up and it seemed like they were organizing a party. Around
7.00 pm they unloaded roofing sheets, this caught my attention and
I felt suspicious. Within moments they were partitioning the land"
said Mr. Perera.
had inquired from them as to why they were partitioning the land,
when they threatened him, and dropped Fisheries Minister Mahinda
" A person by the name of Lawrence told me that they were supporters
of the Minister of Fisheries and they too had a right to this land.
I immediately lodged a complaint at the Bambalapitya police station.
I don't mind sharing this land with anybody who is genuine and helpless.
I am also living
on some else's land as I have no where to go, but in my case I got
permission from the relevant authorities to look after the land,
which I have been doing for the last twenty years, I have planted
about 20 coconut trees. I did ask permission to put up a permanent
building but it was turned down, so I live in this hut" said
police despatched some constables to investigate and ordered the
partitioning to be stopped. Lawrence was accompanied in the 'land
grab' by a businesswoman Mrs. Aponso who also participated in a
subsequent attempt by the Bambalapitiya police to resolve the issue..
She told The
Sunday Times that she was not involved, but that she is only engaged
in helping one Rani, a shanty-dweller near the prime beach spot
where Mr. Perera lives his life of angling and studying marine biology.
Interestingly, Mrs. Aponso says that Rani is her domestic aide.
lady by the name of Rani who has no claim to ownership of this state
land , is now making a claim. I have lived here for 30 years, but
its the first time I'm seeing her", Mr Perera says. "This
is yet another ploy to grab the land", he adds.
Times made several attempts to contact Fisheries Minister Mahinda
Wijesekera. On the first occasion he was asked whether the Lawrences
and Aponsos were known to him, and if he knew they were acting under
his instructions, the Minister gave evasive answers.
He did not
say categorically that he did not know them - nor that he did. During
the past week every call was un-answered, the final call to him
yesterday drew a response from one of his aide's saying that he
was asleep. This is not the first time that Mr. Perera has been
threatened by supporters of a politician. In 1999 supporters of
the then Deputy Minister Jeewan Kumaratunge too made attempts to
grab this land.
' A group of
people got my permission to set up a temporary business, I gave
my consent, but I later found that they were involved in an illegal
business. I lodged a complaint at the Bambalapitya police station.
The matter went to courts and the police demolished the construction
on a court order. The problem did not stop there. Thugs came with
a letter given by the then Deputy Minister Jeewan Kumaratunge demanding
a block of land for temporary occupation. I handed over the letter
to the police and police intervened to settle the matter" said
is between my maid and David, I have no connection to this. . I
did not organize any party at the site" said Mrs. Aponso. However
Mr. David says that Mrs. Aponso accompanied by Mr. Lawrence visted
the site that night and threatened him. The Bambalapitiya police
said that the matter will now have to be sorted out by a Court of
tree case makes progress
By Nalaka Nonis
The Police will hand over the legal documents in connection with
Minister Mahinda Wijesekara cutting down of a historic mara tree
and the demolishing of the lawyers complex to the AG for his opinion,
Matara SSP C . D Wickremarathne told The Sunday Times.
The Sunday Times
last week reported that Minister Wijesekara had chopped down a Mara
tree and had demolished two lawyers offices and a tennis club building
situated at the Matara Fort in order to build a sports complex.
SSP Wickrematathne said it was the responsibility of the Department
of Archaeology to take action.
Department Chief Wijepala said the Department would pursue legal
action against the unauthorised buildings that are coming up in
the Matara Fort, which had been declared as an ancient monument.
"No approval was granted by the Department of Archaeology to
anybody for a sports complex or any other building", Mr. Wijepala
Minister Wijesekara's statement that he obtained approval from the
Department of Archaeology to build the sport complex at the Matara
Fort. However Dr. Wijepala said that his department was never consulted
for permission by the Minister which was a legal requirement before
initiating such a project.
Ordinance of 1940 states that "regulations may be made prohibiting,
or restricting, subject to the prescribed conditions, the erection
of buildings or the carrying out of mining, quarrying, or blasting
operations on any land within the prescribed distance of 400 yards
of any ancient monument situated on state land or any protected
of Archaeology said that the construction of unauthorised structures
at the Matara Fort has been taking place in the last two years despite
objections from the Department of Archaeology. However, despite
not obtaining permission from the Department of Archaeology, construction
of the sports complex has begun. The financing for the project is
to be obtained mainly from the Fisheries Ministry which comes under
the purview of Minister Mahinda Wijesekara.
seeks SLMM action on abductions
The EPDP has called on the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission to look
into abductions of its members following one of its members escaping
from LTTE custody. Thirugnanam Sivakumar was abducted on Friday
while he was travelling to Jaffna. Mr. Sivakumar got into a bus
from the Jaffna town to go to Urumpirai. Two LTTE cadres had got
into the bus and forced him to get off.
S. Thavaraja told The Sunday Times the LTTE had not stopped harassing
EPDP members and called on the SLMM to take immediate action.
"This is not the first time such an incident has occurred,
this is a gross violation of the MoU. We have are already lodged
a complaint with the SLMM both in Colombo and Jaffna office. Our
member was beaten up and manhandled.
The LTTE had
questioned him at length on the EPDP activities," Mr. Thavaraja
said. Mr. Sivakumar who was taken to a detention centre escaped
in the early hours. He came to a police post where he related his
story and was then taken to the Jaffna EPDP office.