These are all critical issues that need to have been thought out because urban regeneration is not just about resettlement and freeing up land for development. There is a rewriting of the socio-economic DNA of these communities and there needs to be help to negate the shock to the body that comes from it this rewriting.
The speed with which evictions are underway in a post war setting with scant regard for rights and obligations should come as no surprise. Nor should we be surprised by the lack of regard shown towards affected communities, by the State, its agents, developers and the larger public. National security and development continue to be good reasons that justify the grabbing of lands in the North and East. Now with Colombo under siege, why would it change?
9 April 2014: The Centre for Policy Alternatives’ latest report “Forced Evictions in Colombo – The Ugly Price of Beautification” raises serious concerns with regard to the displacement of citizens in the city of Colombo due to the Urban Regeneration Project of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. It questions both the ostensible goals and purpose underlying the Urban Regeneration Project as well as the means and processes employed by the UDA and the Government of Sri Lanka to realise them, in particular those pertaining to land acquisition and involuntary resettlement.
Drawing from interviews with affected citizens from across different parts of the city and short case studies of the experience of three different communities – Java Lane and Mews Street in Slave Island and Castle Street in Borella, the report outlines the major issues and concerns with respect to the forced evictions in Colombo.
Of particular concern are the involvement of the military controlled UDA in forced evictions, the modalities of which are similar to those employed in the North and East of Sri Lanka, and the scale which, according to some estimates, could even dwarf displacement in Northern Sri Lanka during the final two years of the war. The report also argues that viewing the forced evictions in Colombo as part of a development project only serves to hide the enormous social, public and human costs.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) believes that in the process, a range of existing domestic legal and policy safeguards and standards are being flouted with impunity. The report underlines that respect for domestic and internationally recognised standards is crucial to both prevent and minimise forced evictions and ensure that any resettlement results in a significant accretion rather than erosion of civil, economic, political and social rights.
“This report is about yet another key contemporary issue that goes to the very heart of democratic governance in our country – transparency, the rule of law and equality before it. It deserves our critical attention. It cannot and should not be ignored”, says Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, CPA.