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100 housing units for squatters from Railway Department

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Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana recently handed over new apartment houses to 100 unauthorized dwellers in the Kelani Valley Railway reservation who were removed in order to get space for the development of the railway service in the suburbs of Colombo.

Documents related to houses (flats) were given to people residing in the section from Sivali Pura to Kirulapone in the Kelani Valley Railway Reserve during a ceremony at the Transport Ministry.

These houses were provided from the Maligawatta Lak Hiru Sevana and Kalinga Mawatha Kolomtota Sarasavi Uyana apartment complexes built by the Urban Development Authority.

The Colombo Suburban Railway Development Project is implemented under a loan from the Asian Development Bank.

The Minister addressing the gathering said, “Those of you who fought for their lives to live on the railway line in Kelani Valley have been living under the label of unauthorized residents for a long time. The time may be twenty to thirty years. All of you are guilty of a serious offense according to the Railway Ordinance made by the then British rulers. Railway reserve cannot be used for construction for any reason. The law is to convict and fine those traveling on railways”.

“The Railway Department is not obliged to pay even a cent as compensation for those who die in train collisions, because the railway reserve does not belong to anyone, it belongs to the railway service. The Railway Department has the right to evict squatters at any time. However, the Government has proposed to the Asian Development Bank, which is providing loan support for the Kelani Valley Railway Development Project, even though the law permits to evict unauthorized dwellers without any compensation since they are also our people who are having difficulties they should be given permanent houses with the funds of the project and the Urban Development Authority will build the houses”.

“These houses were built with the loan obtained from the Asian Development Bank. The value of one house is about 12 million rupees. This gives the right to a valuable property to all who did not have a decent home before. This is not a compensation removing from the railway reservation, this is a kind payment”.

“These houses are provided on a humanitarian basis after discussing with you. If they do not go to the house they receive, we will go to Court and evict them from the house they live in the reservation. Because we all have to submit to the existing law of the country, we have to respect the existing law, we cannot live in a society under an anarchic situation”.

“Irrespective of which Government was in power, roads, bridges, anicuts, canals, dams, housing schemes, power plants, schools, hospitals have been built with local and foreign loans. Thirty six billion US dollars in loans are there to be repaid. In the next five-six years, 37% of the debts will be paid. More than 51% of those loans will be paid in the next six to 20 years, 12% will be paid after twenty years, which means until 2050, the people of this country have no solution to this problem. There is no political answer for that. Even if the Government changes, no matter who the president is, if this debt is not paid, it will not be possible to do any transactions in this country”.

“Everything we buy is taxed and the tax is added to the price of the product. They are indirect taxes. Direct taxes are levied on high wage earners.1,751 billion has been received in the year 2022 from all those taxes. It has cost 1,265 billion to pay salaries and pensions to public servants. It is 72% of the total tax revenue. 506 billion was spent to provide other subsidies including Samurdhi, which is 28% of the tax revenue. Then there will not be a cent left in the treasury”.

“Now we can’t get loans and can’t print money. That is why we are in a difficult place and there is no political solution for this. There is an economic solution. For that, schoolchildren in Korea, China and India should work more in schools, university students in universities, farmers in farms and workers in workplaces. This is the true reality that the country can only get through that”.

“You have risen from a certain situation. You should teach your children to make them fit for the future world. What is ahead is a world which works with artificial intelligence and digitization. This is the world of tomorrow. Children should be given an education to suit that change”.

Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Highways L. H. Tillakaratne, Chief Railway Engineer (Structural and Design) D. J. Prematilake, Colombo Suburban Railway Project Director Upali Mallikaarachichi and other Government officials and housing recipients attended.

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