The Friday Forum, a group of intellectuals had issued a statement expressing concerns at the steps taken for accelerated development of the city of Colombo.They say the group was formed to consider current issues of public interest with a view to making a contribution to peace, democracy, good governance and social justice in Sri Lanka.
“We note that in this process large numbers of people are being evicted from their homes and places of work even when they have legal title or have enjoyed long and continuous possession.
This has resulted in displacement and loss of livelihoods for residents, particularly of low income communities such as shanty dwellers.” Friday Forum says in their statement.
The group headed by former senior diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala say many pavement hawkers and small business establishments are severely affected by the move.
The accelerated modern city planning and urban development project is launched by the Urban Development Authority (UDA), which operates under the direct supervision of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
The group also warns about adverse effects the development has on the younger generation of city dwellers.
Poor children’s access to good schools
“Many children of low income families who have access to good state schools will also lose their right to an education if they are displaced”, the group that includes, prominent social activists, lawyers and intellectuals.
The group say the developments need to be conducted according to constitutional provisions. “We would also point out that any form of development, particularly that which causes adverse social impacts, must be carried out according to the rule of law and with due regard to principles of equality and social justice”.
Use of security forces
They say that the State is also committed to upholding international human rights standards including the right to livelihood, personal security and shelter.
We are particularly disturbed at the use of uniformed services personnel to deliver communications of the UDA to citizens in matters which are not of a military nature
Intellectual group who had signed the statement calls for transparency and for the authorities to practice accountability with regard to people and their individual properties.
Involvement of the security forces in civilian activities is another concern expressed by the group. “We are particularly disturbed at the use of uniformed services personnel to deliver communications of the UDA to citizens in matters which are not of a military nature”.