Friday Forum on marginalising the marginalised

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Friday Forum in a statement yesterday recalled the Government assurance that all urban dwellers recently evicted for purposes of urban development would receive adequate, alternative housing in the vicinity of the original locations from which they were evicted. “Income from these urban development projects was to be utilised to construct suitable housing units. Therefore, the evicted persons should benefit from urban development projects. The fulfilment of this assurance is crucial if we are to ensure that Colombo does not become only a city for the affluent,” said the statement signed by Bishop Duleep de Chickera and J.C. Weliamuna on behalf of the Friday Forum. The Friday Forum said it therefore welcomes the recent completion of housing units at the Dematagoda, Mihindupura scheme for these evicted urban dwellers from very low income communities. There may be other similar schemes planned elsewhere. Reports however of the monetary requirements of an up-front payment of Rs. 50,000 followed with another Rs. 50,000 within three months of occupancy, are worrying. The Government is more than aware that many of those evicted do not have access to this amount of money. They could consequently be driven into debt or corrupt deals with shadow owners. Reports that some who cannot find this quantum of money have already moved into similar communities within the city and from which they are likely to be evicted once again, are equally worrying. Much more serious is the real possibility that those with no claims to these units but with political affiliations with the ruling parties will be given the housing that those entitled to these units cannot afford to pay for. Friday Forum has learnt of one instance where the Government has failed to implement the undertaking previously given to the Supreme Court that the evicted urban community would receive alternative housing at the Mihindupura housing complex. Several of these persons evicted from Mews Street, Slave Island, have apparently been denied housing as initially promised and are now promised housing in another location. Current status of those evicted With these questions and concerns in mind the Friday Forum asks the Government to clarify the current status of those evicted under its urban development plan and confirm that those with no claims are not in occupation of these units. It also urges that that the advance payment of Rs. 100,000 be waived since capital expenditure for these units was to be met with public income from investments. As prescribed, only a reasonable monthly rent of Rs. 3,900 must be collected for a period of twenty years, after which the chief occupant will obtain ownership of the premises. There has been public criticism that these evictions are being used to redefine the demography of some urban areas and therefore there is a need for transparency in selecting specific geographical areas for development as well as the process of relocation. The Friday Forum calls upon the Government to ensure a transparent development plan which provides for and ensures the participation of representatives of the affected communities in such relocation procedures.