Coalition Against Corruption flags off shady land deals

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Coalition Against Corruption yesterday alleged that the Government has given away 91,527.5 acres or 760,611 hectares to nationals and non-nationals illegally.

Issuing a media release, the coalition accused the Government of dispensing these lands in violation of existing regulations pertaining to the release of land.

Reiterating that it does not object to development, the coalition categorically stated that it certainly could not tolerate the distribution of land to certain individuals and companies for paltry sums using development as an excuse.

At a recent media conference held at the National Library Services Board, the coalition revealed that the allocation of land for 25 hotel projects had been conducted in corrupt ways.

Addressing the media conference, Sri Lanka Nature Group’s Thilak Kariyawasam said the hotel complex at Kalpitiya, the Sampur coal power project, the HVA farm at Wanathavillu, hotel projects in Colombo, the Anadawewa hotel in Anuradhapura, and several quarries had been identified as some such projects.

Kariyawasam said these lands had been dispensed ignoring current land policies for projects covering agriculture, aquatic projects, colonisation, tourism, multi-purpose activities, industries and construction.

Among projects planned under these categories were an aquatic project at Vakarai, colonisation schemes in Vishwamadu, salt production in Trincomalee and Puttalam, agricultural, power and drinking water projects in Uma Oya, he said.

According to Kariyawasam, 14 islets out of 17 in Kalpitiya have been provided for a hotel construction, while the original inhabitants of the land have been evicted.

“A land area of around 1,100 hectares has been taken over for this project. The inhabitants in the other islands have to suffer from sea erosion and lack of water as a result of excavations done in the area for infrastructure work. Although the people have been given land elsewhere, they find it difficult to continue with the work they were traditionally used to in the islands,” he said.

Kariyawasam cited another such example being the 250-acre expanse of land given to HVA Farms from the protected areas adjoining the Wilpattu National Park and Tabbowa nature preserve. The coalition says the commencement of infrastructure work has already led to clashes between elephant and man.  A large number of valuable historical objects have been unearthed in these areas while the land was being prepared. This is a total violation of the provisions in the Wayamba Environmental Convention.

Referring to the Sampur project, the coalition pointed out that this is an area where 5,000 hectares had been earmarked as a High Security Zone. “The people cannot approach this area. The setting up of a coal power plant and an industrial zone is envisaged. 1,631 families inhabited this area. 7,201 members of these families earned their living through crops and fishing. All have been lost,” the statement by its Convenor Saman Ratnapriya said.

As for the plundering of land in Colombo, the coalition noted that in areas where the value of the land is extremely high, most of the land has been sold at much less than the market price.

“Land for several projects including the Sheraton and Shangri-La has been given on this basis. They have got the added benefit of a 100% tax concession.  The future of the people who have been evicted from these lands is another issue that has to be handled,” the statement said.

The Coalition against Corruption stressed the need to examine closely the benefits that the country would accrue by the release of land in this manner.