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Monday, December 11, 2023

400 RTI requests filed by families affected by Central Expressway

At least 400 Right to Information (RTI) requests have been submitted by families affected by the construction of the Central Expressway seeking information from the Road Development Authority (RDA) and the contractors Maga Engineering Ltd. including the damage assessment and relevant financial reports related to their homes damaged in the process.

The RTI requests were filed by 200 local residents whose houses were damaged in the last stretch of the central highway from Mirigama to Kurunegala. They demand that the information be released within 48 hours as per S. 25.3 of the Right to Information Act, where institutions are required to respond within 48 hours if the matter concerns a citizen’s life or personal freedom.

The information requests sent to the RDA comprised 18 questions, while those addressed to the contracting company each comprised 16 questions.

Member of the Association of Victims’ Families Sanjeeva Kulathilaka said more than 400 houses suffered damage during the construction of the Central Expressway, spanning from Madatiyawala to Kurunegala. This extensive impact extended to the last kilometre of the currently opened section, which runs from Mirigama to Kurunegala.

According to him a portion of the affected group still awaits compensation, while some have received meagre amounts as compensation. “In certain cases where houses suffered significant damage, compensation as low as Rs. 5000 rupees and Rs. 10 000 has been provided,” he said.

Kulathilaka also pointed out that, as no significant progress was made despite their complaints to the RDA, the Sri Lanka Police, and the Human Rights Commission, local residents took the initiative to submit 400 information requests under the Right to Information Act.

“Due to recent rainfall, the structural cracks in some houses have expanded, and the walls have deteriorated to the point of potential collapse. This situation poses a significant threat to the lives of those affected,” Kulathilaka noted.

The Right to Information Commission has scheduled an appeal hearing for a previous RTI request submitted by Sanjeeva Kulathilaka regarding this issue, which will take place on 2 November.

Kulathilaka emphasised that if no information is received within 48 hours in response to the 400 information requests made by local residents, they will initiate an appeal to the designated officer. “If there is no response from the designated officer, their next step will be to appeal to the Right to Information Commission,” he said.

A hearing concerning a complaint filed by Kulathilaka with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in 2020 on the matter is slated to take place at the HRCSL on 3 November. Furthermore, a special team from the Ministry of Highways is scheduled to visit Kurunegala on 24 October to conduct an investigation into Kulathilaka’s complaint.

Courtesy of The Daily FT


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