The great land
grab in Kandy
Kandy - A new
road stretch from Gatambe to Kandy was constructed during 1990 as
a prelude to the Gam Udawa at Digana the same year. To construct
this road a large extent of land was acquired but only a part of
this acquired land was actually used for the new road construction
that now runs from Gatambe to Kandy which is an alternate and much
shorter road (William Gopallawa Mawatha) than the old Peradeniya
- Kandy Road.
The land was
acquired subsequent to several Gazette notifications and these notifications
merely indicate public purpose, but not specific as to what the
exact public purpose was. By three separate Gazette notifications
a large number of blocks of land was acquired.
notification 692/14 of 18/10/1990, 10 blocks of land paddy land
in extent 1.4756 hectares belonging to several owners was acquired.
Notices in 1990 to the owners by the Divisional Secretariat, Kandy,
indicted that the land was acquired for the purpose of constructing
the Gatambe - Kandy Road. But in 1993 the notices by the Kandy Divisional
Secretariat indicated that the acquisition was for ancillary public
purposes on the Gatambe - Kandy Road.
The paddy land
in extent 1.4756 hectares so acquired in Bowala since 1990 upto
somewhere in 2000 - for almost a 10-year period was lying unused
for any public purpose. During this time due to the new road frontage,
land values along the William Gopallawa Mawatha sharply appreciated
and the going price per perch is now around Rs. 400,000, compared
to about Rs. 3,000 - Rs. 4,000 a perch when it was paddy land. Not
an inch of land of these 10 blocks has been used for the purpose
of road expansion, though it was acquired for this purpose.
Owners of this
particular block of land which was acquired are waiting for the
past 10 years for compensation, according to an investigation by
The Sunday Times FT, which also showed that compensation however
for some other blocks of land on the same road is believed to have
been paid. Compensation for land acquired for the Kandy Courts complex
on the same road has also been paid.
2000, the Urban Development Authority in whom this land is vested
by the government granted permission to a private company to develop
a major portion of this paddy field for a commercial venture. Residents,
discovering that their former lands were handed over for a non-public
purpose contrary to earlier decisions, are now insisting that they
be given back these lands.
a resident, said that the extent of his land acquired would be around
40 perches and had been written to her daughter who is married and
has two children. He said that his daughter did not have any other
property and lived elsewhere. The land was yielding around 80 bushels
of paddy per season.
Mrs. T. Wadugodapitiya's
land that was acquired was 20 perches given by her father and which
would be very valuable now with the new road running alongside this
property land. Mrs. Ramani Godamunne lost the 50 perch block given
by her father to be apportioned among five children. They were getting
around 20 bushels of paddy. Another resident C.B. Eriyawa is 82
years old and he lost two blocks of paddy land that brought revenues
of Rs. 30,000 per harvesting season.
When the government
(AGA/DS, Kandy) transferred the acquired land to the UDA under the
1964 Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act No. 28 (Chapter 460), the
Second Schedule in Conditions and Limitations indicates the following:
(i) The land adjoining the Gatambe - Kandy Road should only be used
for development to provide public utility conveniences, (ii) Compensation
and interest for this acquisition should be paid by the UDA whenever
the Divisional Secretary calls for it, and (iii) If the UDA does
not require the whole land or a portion of it so acquired, it should
be returned to the government.
The UDA gave
about three acres of the acquired paddy land to a BOI-registered
company, Aloka Hospitals and Health Resorts Kandy (Pvt) Ltd.
In 1987 UNESCO
identified Kandy as a World Heritage city, which would be one of
the 100 cities world over, recognized by the UNESCO as heritage
cities. Consequent to this recognition the Kandy Heritage Committee
came into existence and it meets once a month. All development alterations
and new building applications are carefully reviewed and processed
by this committee to enhance the heritage concept, and guidelines
for development are provided accordingly. A member of the Committee
told The Sunday Times FT that the Gatambe - Kandy road stretch is
carefully monitored by the committee and the construction of schools,
hospitals and large government buildings would be carefully gone
through before giving any approval. He said he was not sure whether
the committee received an application from the hospital company.
Investigations showed that there has been a lot of political pressure
from ministers in this government and the previous government to
proceed with the private hospital project, despite reservations
from some government officials and agencies. There appears to be
serious flaws by the Board of Investment in the approval of the
Aloka project. Aloka has a foreign collaborator, Westlinks Instruments
(Pvt) Ltd of Singapore, which is now believed to be defunct. Its
authorized capital is only Singapore Dollars 100,000 and the issued
and paid up capital is only S$ 8,000, while Westlinks have pledged
to finance Sri Lankan Rs, 78 million for the Aloka hospital project.
The work on
the Aloka project at William Gopallawa Mawatha Kandy has apparently
come to a standstill, causing a lot of damage to the locality. The
paddy land has been filled up to around four feet in height. Due
to the filling, cultivation in the adjoining paddy fields is not
possible and serious damage has been caused to a nearby school as
the entire school compound is filled with water due to heavy rain.
But M L P Jayatillake,
Managing Director, Aloka Hospitals & Health Resort Kandy (Pvt)
Ltd said the company has completed infrastructure work worth Rs
22 million on the site. However due to a court case connected to
the land acquisition, work on the project has stopped.
adviser Seetha Wijewardene said the project is a Rs 604 million
investment and the company has got clearance from UDA and BOI, but
there were some problems from the Kandy Municipal Council.
The Kandy Municipal
Commissioner was however directed by the Industrial Forum of the
Industries Ministry to provide the approval on representations made
by the company. She said that it was a high-tech hospital that would
serve the entire Kandy area. Land acquisitions by government now
appear not confined to only public purposes, but for some ulterior
purposes such as political revenge and business and political purposes
such as giving land over to private individuals for favours done.
There is another
case in Anamaduwa where the government has acquired 100 acres without
any acquisition procedure and such land has been distributed among
the people. The owner of 50 acres of this land has been shuttling
from Anamaduwa to Colombo and vice versa and has also complained
to every agency, even going up to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, to
no avail. The struggle has gone on for 20 years with a heap of correspondence
and no relief.
The case in
issue at Bowala village, Kandy is one of the examples of how aggressively
the government exploits and abuse its power in unfairly treating
its citizens far in excess of its mandate.
issue of the land acquisition for the Gatambe - Kandy Road and the
subsequent process of dealing with the issue points to utter confusion
and no coordination among a large number of state agencies like
the Divisional Secretariat Kandy, Urban Development Authority, Board
of Investment, Agrarian Services Department, Kandy Municipal Council,
Central Environmental Authority, the BOI and the Kandy World Heritage
Some of the
residents who lost their land are now planning to go to courts to