Railways lands release under fire in Parliament

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:31 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Ashwin Hemmathagama Our Lobby Correspondent Opposition lawmaker Ravi Karunanayake yesterday requested the Government to give priority to Sri Lankans when releasing lands that belong to the Sri Lanka Railways Department for commercial development initiatives initiated by the private sector. Highlighting that Chinese ventures were being given priority in the granting of State lands, Karunanayake demand that a transparent system be established. “We observed lands which belong to Sri Lanka Railways being given away via unsolicited proposals. The Urban Development Authority is used as an instrument for such action. Railways lands are being distributed not only in Colombo but in other parts of the country too, especially to Chinese companies. The Floating Market has become a failure. You have given 28 acres in the Maradana Railway Yard to a Chinese company. Instead of Chinese, why not consider giving Sri Lankans prominence?” said Karunanayake. According to the Ministry of Transport, Railways lands other than those required for railway development activities can be used for short-term commercial developments. In terms of the Cabinet paper requesting transfer of the Railways land which are of high value and not identified for future railway developments to the Urban Development Authority, the relevant Divisional Secretariats have already been informed to proceed with the formal transfer of the respective lands. In response Minister of Water Supply and Drainage and Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena said: “The UDA is engaged in developing the cities. If the lands are not used, Government policy is to use the same lands for other means of development. This has been the practice followed since colonial rule. If you take Colombo Fort for example, we used Railways lands for useful purposes. With the railway line removed from Avissawella onwards, all the lands up to Opanayake were transferred to the respective Divisional Secretaries. In Galle we have given a land that belongs to the Railways to build the new administrative complex.”