Do it by the book

Saturday, 11 June 2011 00:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Govt. asset transaction not disclosed in Parliament: UNP

MP Dr. Harsha de Silva alleges that Galle Face land transaction to Shangri-la not transparent, says moves to sell prime land unconstitutional

UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday called on the Government to disclose all transactions concerning public money before Parliament as specified in the Sri Lankan Constitution, insisting that large tracts of prime land were being parcelled out to foreign companies without due process being followed.

Focusing on the land at Galle Face that is to be given to Shangri-la for the construction of a luxury hotel at an investment of US$ 500 million, Dr. de Silva remarked that the transaction had not been brought before Parliament.


He alleged that the 20 acre plot of land that previously housed the Defence Ministry headquarters had been divided up between Shangri-la Hotels and another company for hotel projects, but that the transaction had not been tabled in Parliament. Shangri-la also plans to open a new hotel in a 300-key resort in Hambantota.

It was earlier reported that Shangri-La Asia Limited had officially announced the purchase of six acres of Government land facing the Galle Face Green promenade.

“According to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, public assets are under the purview of Parliament and they cannot be leased out without the approval of the House. However, none of these transactions have been tabled in Parliament before they were carried out,” Dr. de Silva charged.

He also remarked that after posing questions in Parliament, Economic Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene had disclosed in the House that the land had been sold outright to these two companies.

“This is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Public land can only be leased for a maximum of 99 years, it cannot be sold outright. If such transactions are allowed to continue, then the Government can sell off any land in Sri Lanka illegally.


There is also no indication of where the money has gone – it is not recorded in any Treasury accounts,” he charged, adding that if the income was not recorded then how it would be spent could not be controlled either.

He went onto say that the Government could be planning the same fate for 10 acres of prime land on the edge of the Beira Lake that once belonged to the Colombo Commercial Company land. “Parliament has full control of public funds and as such the Government should present these transactions to the House for transparent discussions,” he emphasised.

Moving onto the issue of the Pension Bill for the private sector, he pointed out that even though the Government had publically stated that the document was withdrawn, it was still in the Order Book. “For as long as the Bill is in the Order Book, we will protest it and demand that the Labour Minister withdraw it officially.”

He also commented that there were striking resemblances between the Sri Lankan Pension Bill and the pension scheme currently under discussion between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Ireland Government.

“At the onset I must say that this is not a pension plan. The Bill states that it will take a minimum of 2% from the EPF, 10% from the ETF, minimum of 2% from the salary and minimum of 2% from the employer to form the fund and that the receiver can withdraw a stipulated amount for as long as the fund in his name has money. However, our understanding of a pension plan is that the recipient gets a set amount till his death. That is not in this plan.”

The fact that the average career earnings rather than the last salary of the recipient are used to calculate his pension was also stressed by Dr. de Silva as being a point in common with the Irish document. “We are not saying that the IMF has a hand in this, but whoever drafted this wants to please that organisation,” he alleged, stressing that the fundamentals of the Bill do not denote it as a pension scheme.