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*Battaramulla Land alienation case
SC declares CBK abused her powers

*CBK ordered to pay Rs.3mn, Ronnie Peiris Rs. 2 mn to State
*Former President violated public trust vested in her
*Bribery Commission to investigate CBK, six others
*Land to be given back to UDA

The Supreme Court yesterday declared that the retired President, Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had failed in responsibility and abused her powers in directing the alienation of acquired State land at Battaramulla to Asia Pacific Gulf Course Private Limited for the construction of a golf course for the elite.

The land had been acquired by the Urban Development Authority for public utility purposes mainly as a water retention wetland. The judgement stated that the entire land transaction, involving around 224 acres, had been done in violation of the public trust vested in the former President. The Court nullified the transaction which was declared arbitrary, and illegal.

The former President was ordered to pay the state Rs. 3 million as compensation, within one month.

The Court declared the deeds and other connected documents authorized by S. Jayamaha null and void and ordered that the land in question be handed back to the UDA within one month and that the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Board and connected authorities bring the land under flood retention within three months and report the progress to the court.

The Asia Pacific was ordered to remove all movables within a specified time. The constructions are to be valued by the State and the UDA will pay the dues to the Asia Pacific.

The judgement explained: "The Court is well aware that, despite all arguments otherwise, the land’s flood retention capacity has only diminished, since the commencement of this misguided project nearly 10 years ago. Given that part of this land has already been built upon, this Court finds it prudent to make use of that part of the effectively irreversible development to provide for relocation of governmental agencies as a means of decentralizing it from Colombo’s commercially sensitive areas. Therefore, within 3 months of the date of the judgement, the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and the Central Environmental Authority and the UDA shall deliver to the Court a joint master plan to accord with the aforesaid public purpose and to bring as much of the land as possible back to flood retention purposes.

Asia Pacific, its agencies successor, servants, agents and all those holdings under it are permitted to remove within 4 months and shall hand over vacant possession of the said land free of any encumbrances on or before February 8, 2009.

In consideration of the buildings constructed by Asia Pacific, the UDA will pay Asia Pacific, a sum representing the cost of construction of the buildings, as at the date of construction, excluding all other development on the said land by Asia Pacific, to be assessed by the chief government valuer."

Mrs. Kumaratunga, Ronnie Peiris and six other respondents were ordered to pay the two petitioners Rs. 500,000 each as costs. They were ordered to pay eight intervenient petitioners, the original owners of the land Rs. 100,000 each as costs.

The Bribery and Corruption Commission was directed to immediately investigate the actions of Mrs. Kumaratunga and six other respondents connected to the deal.

The fifth respondent Ronnie Pieris was ordered to pay Rs. 2 million to the State as compensation. Three other respondents were ordered each to pay Rs. 1 million to the State as compensation by January 3, 2009.

The Court said that the UDA under the direction of Mrs. Kumaratunga had acted arbitrarily in not taking into consideration the flood retention and the wetland capacity of this land which was alienated to the Asia Gold Course Private Limited to construct the Water’s Edge Gold Link.

The Court said that the President cannot shelf a public officer in violation of the Constitution. The president is subjected to the Rule of Law like all the other citizens. Sovereignty is in the people it was said. The judgement referred to another land matter where the actions taken by the retired president is questionable in procedure.

The Board of Investment was said to have approved the golf link project within a short period of two months without a thorough eco-balance assessment.

J. C. Weliamuna instructed by Samararatne Associates appeared for the petitioners Sugathadasa Mendis and Raja Senanayake.

K. Kanag Ishavaran PC appeared for Mrs. Kumaratunga.

Senior State Counsel Nerin Pulle and Senior State Counsel Rajiv Goonetilleke appeared for the Attorney General.

The judgement was by Justice Shirani Tilakawardene with the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and Justice P. A. Ratnayake agreeing.

Among the respondents were Mrs. Kumaratunga, Minister of Lands, the UDA, Asia Pacific Golf Course Private Limited, Ronnie Pieris, Sumal Perera, the BOI and Commissioner General of Inland Revenue.

Among the Counsel who appeared for the respondents were Romesh de Silva PC, Nihal Fernando PC and Kuvera de Zoysa.

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