Is development for the people or for the vainglory of planners and politicians? The Urban Development Authority being a Planning Authority for the entire nation with properly framed planning and building regulations from its inception, now appears to have derailed from the basic principle of planning; which ensures the use of land and its development [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



Is development for the people or for the vainglory of planners and politicians?

The Urban Development Authority being a Planning Authority for the entire nation with properly framed planning and building regulations from its inception, now appears to have derailed from the basic principle of planning; which ensures the use of land and its development for the benefit of the community as a whole; under Health, Convenience, Amenity and Economy, along with effective development control measures which help the orderly development.

Even though  Initium Road, Dehiwala and the surrounding area remain 90% primary residential in character, it has been zoned for tourist related activities. Residents wonder whether a proper civic survey was undertaken prior to the designation of this area for such use. Further, proper studies of the development plan of Dehiwala reveals that it has been gazetted with flaws in the development plan, and creates a conducive situation to flout the very essence of the development plan.

The planning and building regulation implemented throughout the country, declared under the UDA Law, is relaxed in the Colombo Municipal Council area in order to convert the Colombo Municipal Council area as a Commercial Capital City. Even though under these relaxed regulations, construction of a condominium building warrants a minimum of 30 ft. wide road, in the Dehiwala area it is reduced to 20 ft. wide. Further, some development professionals operate as if planning were purely for the benefit of the buildings, or for cars, and as if property itself were there primarily for profit and not use by humanbeings.

To add insult to injury, all the condominium buildings approved down Initium Road, Dehiwala violate the planning and building regulations of the UDA. Even though these lapses have been brought to the notice of the authorities concerned, they have gone into the limbo of forgotten facts.

Prior to these condominium developments, Initium Road had proper infrastructure to serve only 47 premises. After the construction of seven condominium building (two more are under construction) despite protests from the residents, the number of residential units have increased from 47 to more than 200 without updating the existing infrastructure facilities and causing excessive damages to the existing facilities too. Construction of more condominium buildings warrants more electricity supply. Naked high tension electric wires are being drawn criss crossing the roads used primarily by the residents, trees are chopped at random, inimical to the latest green building concept of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development.

Since the residents down Initium Road failed to get justice from the relevant Planning Authorities for a long time, eventhough there were provisions under the UDA Act to prosecute the wrongdoers; the residents brought it to the notice of the Prime Minister by a letter dated 23/03/2016. They received a copy of the letter dated 04/04/2016 forwarded to the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development to take appropriate action on this matter, and to inform the Prime Minister’s office regarding the action taken.

However, the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development in turn forwarded the same letter to the Director General of the Urban Development Authority on 04/05/2016 directing him to send a report including the action taken up to now regarding the matter.

Since the residents did not receive neither an acknowledgement nor a reply for more than four months, the residents were forced to bring it to the notice of the Minister again by a letter dated  September 13, 2016. To their surprise, the Prime Minister’s Office again forwarded the letter to the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and informed the residents by a computerized letter dated 28/09/2016. A third reminder sent on 13/11/2016 to the Prime Minister received a similar reply on 08/12/2016. Later after waiting 1½ months for the reply from the watchdog institution, we had no other alternative other than to write to the Minister of Law and Order on 18/01/2017. But not even an acknowledgement has been received up to date.

Residents wonder whether any justice and fair play can be expected from our elected rulers in the future. We were ruled alternatively by two parties, from the time of the independence in 1948. Can any of the parties claim that they have done anything better for the country? If so, why should our money value which was more than the Indian money in 1960, fall 1 1/2 times less than the Indian money now.

Hope this will catch the eyes of any honest rulers if there are any, who really love our motherland who will act immediately to save us from the peril, which is about to engulf the entire nation.


Some suggestions  to solve the SAITM issue

A recent anti - SAITM protest

It distresses me to see the massive amount of energy, effort, resources and time that in my opinion is being wasted on the issue of SAITM lately. As a person with NO vested interest other than the healthcare of the people of this country, I hope someone will pay heed to what I say here. I believe I am in a better position than many to comment, having been a visiting physician in Sri Lanka before I was 30, and then having held longstanding Consultant/Teaching positions in the UK and Australia.

The first point I wish to make is that the limitation of entry numbers to medical schools in Sri Lanka is a simply resource issue; we could double the number of entrants and still have good doctors coming out. This is obvious because we don’t hear about students dropping out of medical schools when they study abroad any more than happens in our (their) own country.

Without first hand information I cannot comment on the quality of training in our Private Medical School, or for that matter our State Medical Schools, but the notion that anything foreign must be better than our own has to be challenged. There used to be a belief that Sri Lankan doctors of the past were ‘favoured’ in the UK- perhaps wrongly, but it is true that the clear gap in quality that the English saw between Sri Lankan graduates and other foreign medical graduates made them choose Sri Lankans more often. There must have been even better quality medical schools elsewhere but our concise and co-ordinated medical schools, thanks to the teachers and administrators of that time, gave us the ability to compete with the best.

May I suggest a possible, perhaps simple, solution to the SAITM issue? Back in the 70s a common examination was held for ALL Colombo and Peradeniya medical graduates, just after the final examinations to determine their position in a ‘Merit List’. Those at the top had the right to choose the jobs they wanted, and down the list it went. And NO one could jump the queue, those were the days!

I believe a lot of anxiety and worry for all parties in the SAITM issue can be eliminated by having ALL graduates, those from the state medical schools and those from SAITM, of a particular year to sit a common test. The public, the GMOA, the SLMC and the administrators may then get a true idea of the standards in comparative form, and, of course, there will be some logic behind any action that may or may not be needed. A clinical examination will be too onerous, but the original common test I described earlier did NOT include a clinical examination anyway. The examination could have a clinical bias if deemed necessary, but one needs to understand that dependence on clinical skills, where we the Sri Lankan graduates used to stand out, has largely been overtaken by tests in modern medicine. One just needs to look at how long a patient is interrogated and examined by a specialist these days and compare it with the amount of tests that are requested or recommended!

I hope this issue can be settled promptly so that doctors, medical administrators and politicians can return to their work, the students concentrate on their studies, and the public served better, all in the best interests of the country.

Dr. V. Vasanthakumar

In 1968 Europe charges differed

I refer to Chandula Arsakulasuriya’s letter in the Sunday Times of 26/3 saying that European countries do not charge differently for tourists and citizens. I have had a different experience,  years ago,  admittedly,  so maybe things have changed. When I went to Spain in 1968, different room rates for tourists and locals were displayed on the room door in our hotel. And at the entrance to Pompeii in Italy underneath the rate for tourists was the declaration “Free to the people of Italy”.

Manel Fonseka
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