Friday Forum writes to Gota on city and urban development issues

Monday, 23 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Friday Forum, which comprises a group of concerned citizens who have come together to consider current issues of public interest with a view to making a contribution to peace, democracy, good governance and social justice in Sri Lanka, has written to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on issues concerning accelerating modern city planning and urban development in Colombo and other Metropolitan centres.

The Forum said it was writing to Rajapaksa in pursuance of its objective as it engages in regular discussions on matters of national interest, articulating its views and concerns.  This intervention is made in a spirit of democratic engagement.  Here are excerpts of the letter signed by Jayantha Dhanapala on behalf of Friday Forum:

We write to express our deep concern at the current activities which are taking place in Colombo and other metropolitan centres with the objectives of accelerating modern city planning and urban development.  We note that in this process large numbers of people are being evicted from their homes and places of work even when they have legal title or have enjoyed long and continuous possession. This has resulted in displacement and loss of livelihoods for residents, particularly of low income communities such as shanty dwellers, pavement hawkers and small business establishments.  In most cases they are the most vulnerable sections of the community and lack the capacity and resources to express their views.  Many children of low income families who have access to good state schools will also lose their right to an education if they are displaced.  Further, the acquisition of land for utilities along roadways may cause severe damage to properties adjacent to such roads.  

We agree that city planning and urban development is essential in the national interest. We would also point out that any form of development, particularly that which causes adverse social impacts, must be carried out according to the rule of law and with due regard to principles of equality and social justice. Such development must be implemented in the context of the Constitutional provisions regarding the right to equality under Article 12, the freedom to choose one’s place of residence under Article 14(h) and the freedom to engage in any lawful occupation under Article 14(g).  The State is also committed to upholding international human rights standards including the right to livelihood, personal security and shelter.  We also note that the Supreme Court in its fundamental rights jurisprudence, particularly in the case of CPA v. Victor Silva has upheld these principles.

We therefore urge that city planning and urban development activities are carried out within a transparent process which takes into account the concerns of people in regard to their homes and property. We are particularly disturbed at the use of uniformed services personnel to deliver communications of the UDA to citizens in matters which are not of a military nature.  

We therefore urge that the current plans be made public and all citizens and stakeholders be given the opportunity to express their views, and that such views be taken into consideration before final implementation of these plans.  Such public consultation will help to safeguard the rights and interests of affected citizens and will also result in greater public support of this programme.

The members of the Friday Forum comprise Jayantha Dhanapala, Rt. Reverend Duleep de Chickera, Manouri Muttetuwegama, Professor Arjuna Aluwihare, Professor. Savitri Goonesekera, Suriya Wickramasinghe, Ahilan Kadirgarmar, Lanka Nesiah,  J.C. Weliamuna, Dr. A. C. Visvalingam, Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Dr. Cameena Gunaratne,  Dr. Deepika Udagama,  Sithie Tiruchelvam, Shanthi Dias, Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran, Professor Ranjinie Obeysekera, Professor  Gananath Obeysekera,  Prashan de Visser,  Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Daneshan Casie Chetty, Suresh de Mel and  Chandra Jayaratne.