Govt. backs plan to settle squatters and says political contentions are only made to guard votes
By Uditha Jayasinghe
The Government yesterday emphasised that no issue would stand in the way of resettling illegal squatters in an effort to give Colombo a massive facelift.
Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told the Cabinet media briefing that the Government was prepared to stand strong on its plans to relocate people living in illegal constructions across the city of Colombo and urged masses not to fall prey to petty political agendas. Earlier reports indicated that an estimated 66,000 families were eligible for resettlement under these plans.
“One must look at this from a human point of view, not a political one,” Yapa told media personnel, adding that any contentions brought forward by minority parties were simply to safeguard their vote and did not consider the welfare of the people.
“These political parties don’t have much power anyway and they are trying to make the people believe that moving them is something bad because they want to hang onto their vote. What we are trying to do is a good thing. Since when was it wrong to give people a proper place to live? Proper sanitation and drinking water? Good homes?”
Despite professing to know little about the plans of the government and admitting that he does not know how many families will be relocated or where they will be moved to, the Minister was nonetheless emphatic of his support to the Government proposal.
Commenting on reports of the possibility that the Colombo Municipal Council could be converted into an “Authority” and that it might lose the power to democratically elect its representatives, Minister Yapa dismissed them as “stories” that have been spread by people who do not wish to see the capital develop. “When one looks at developed countries around the world and how they have been developed it is clear that there must be strong political will to make and implement decisions. Relocating illegal squatters and cleaning up construction wrongfully set up is the prerogative of the Urban Development Authority and no doubt it will carry out its mandate to the benefit of the people,” said Minister Yapa.