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Buyers ditched as developer abandons proposed ‘CM Towers’ condominium project

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‘A Rs. 600mn rip-off’

by SURESH PERERA

Scores of prospective buyers of housing units at a proposed condominium project in the outskirts of Colombo have been ripped off for at least Rs. 600 million in, what was been described, as a “major scam” by a developer whose company now remains shut.

In the backdrop of a private sector bank announcing moves to auction the 42-perch site of the envisaged condominium complex as the developer had raised Rs. 120 million in capital financing against the property, distraught victims of the swindle bemoaned that they have now “lost all their hard-earned savings”.

“There are around 52 prospective buyers, most of whom dished out anything between Rs. 5 and 10 million each as downpayment for the apartments”, says Gehan Samaranayake, president of ‘Ramanathan Avenue CM Condo Buyers’ Association’.

He said the developer M/s Civi-Mec Construction (Pvt) Ltd., started selling apartment units for the proposed CM Towers condominium project at No. 14, Ramanathan Avenue, Dehiwala, in 2014 and began construction the same year with the approval of the Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal Council.

At that juncture, approval was given to the developer for a G+17 storied housing complex encompassing 112 middle class apartment units with four floors for parking vehicles. The developer of the project, M/s Civi-Mec Construction, had only one director with a registered office at W. A. Silva Mawatha, Colombo 6. The land earmarked for the housing project was mortgaged to a private sector bank to raise funds for the proposed condominium, Samaranayake noted.

“After entering into sales agreements, we paid a considerable downpayment and continued honoring the subsequent monthly installments to meet the balance as the developer laid the foundation with piling in line with the approved G+17 floor building’, he recalled.

“However, with the change of government in 2015, we were told the new administration restricted the number to nine residential floors, and the reason adduced was that some officials responsible for granting approvals were demanding substantial inducements to give the green light for the original plan of G+17 floors”, the Association’s president asserted.

He said at that point, the private bank, which agreed to finance the 112-housing unit project, stopped further funding as it was considered non-viable to invest on heavy foundations and have only nine residential floors with 64 condominium units, instead of 17 floors.

The developer abandoned the project at this stage in 2018 and stopped paying the loan installments to the bank, closed his office and went into hiding. The desperate buyers made complaints to the Police, CID and the Fraud Bureau, with some opting for civil cases as well. Subsequently, the CID arrested the director of Civi-Mec, who was remanded and later released on bail by the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Courts, Samaranayake noted.

“There are many of us in the Association, who have paid more than Rs. 10 million each for apartments and according to our records, the developer has collected from the known buyers alone Rs. 600 million, without any interest calculated”, he claimed.

He further said that the bank, citing the default of Rs. 120 million loaned towards the project, exercised the powers vested on its board of directors and initiated the process of recovering the loan by auctioning the property by the end of this month.

Vacating an earlier stay order, the Commercial High Court has allowed the bank to auction the property to recover an accumulated Rs. 160 million, inclusive of other costs, he said, while adding that the bank has already given notice of the auction on October 28, 2020.

“Most of the prospective buyers of this proposed middle-class condominium complex are retirees, who had invested their life’s savings on what they thought would be their ‘dream home’. All their hopes have now been shattered”, Samaranayake stressed.

Repeated attempts by The Sunday Island to contact the

director of Civi-Mec Construction on the phone number listed on its website were futile as there was no response.

As indicated by the ‘Ramanathan Avenue CM Condo Buyers’ Association’, the developer’s office in Colombo 6 remained closed. As a result, there was no possibility of contacting the director concerned for comment on the issues raised by those who have now been left in the lurch after forking out millions of rupees.

“If the buyers of the condominiums had entered into sales agreements, we can initiate legal action against the developer”, says Sarana Karunarathna, Chairman, Condominium Management Authority.

“They can write to the Authority so that we can pursue the matter”, he noted, while adding that he was unaware of the developments until The Sunday Island brought the matter to his notice.



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Jugglery alleged in Constitution making process: SJB, Gevindu make strong case against jumbo Cabinet

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition and Samagi Jana Balavegaya Leader, Sajith Premadasa, says that the current economic crisis shouldn’t be exploited to form a jumbo Cabinet, under any circumstances.

 “The national economy is in such a pathetic state that those struggling to make ends meet shouldn’t be burdened further,” the Colombo district MP said. The growing opposition to further expansion of the Cabinet-of-Ministers is quite understandable, the former UNP Deputy Leader said, urging the government to drop the relevant provisions.

The Opposition Leader said so when The Island sought his opinion on the provisions, pertaining to the formation of a National Government, in terms of the proposed 22 Amendment to the Constitution. Declaring his party has absolutely no intention of joining the government, lawmaker Premadasa warned the public would revolt if the limits on the number of Cabinet Ministers and Deputies/State Ministers were violated.

 The SJB leader emphasized that whoever is in power should adhere to the limit of 30 Cabinet Ministers and 40 non-Cabinet rankers.

Lawmaker Premadasa said that political stability and economic revival couldn’t be achieved by expanding the Cabinet-of-Ministers.

 SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga last week strongly condemned, in Parliament, what he called controversial provisions pertaining to the National Government. Cumaratunga told The Island that he took up the issue at a recent party leaders’ meeting. The provision for Parliament to decide the number of ministers and Deputies/State Ministers would be abused, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama said.

Referring to the inclusion of provisions pertaining to a National Government, in the 19th Amendment that had been endorsed in 2015, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the proposed 22 Amendment interpreted National Government as an administration formed by the recognized political party or the independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in Parliament, together with the other recognized political parties or the independent groups.

The first time entrant to Parliament said that this should be examined, taking into consideration the strength of political parties represented in Parliament. Of the 225 MPs in Parliament, a total of 199 were elected: the SLPP (145/17 National List seats) and SJB (54/07 National List seats)) ticket. The third largest grouping in Parliament belonged to the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK/01 National List seat), the MP pointed out. The powers that be owed the public an explanation how the SLPP backed President Ranil Wickmesinghe intended to form the National Government without having a formal agreement with the second largest party in Parliament.

MP Cumaratunga recalled how the then UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara, at the Committee Stage of the 19th Amendment, asked the then Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa, PC, for an interpretation of national government and was told national government meant formation of an administration by the party securing the largest block of seats and the party with the second highest number of seats. Vasudeva Nanayakkara declared that they wouldn’t support the 19th Amendment unless the government provided an interpretation of the National Government.

However, what had been put to the Speaker for approval was very much different from the assurance given in Parliament, MP Cumaratunga said. The MP pointed out that the difference was instead of the union of party with the highest number of seats and the second highest being the national government, the gazette referred to the party with the highest number of seats and other parties in Parliament as the national government. The section in question is 46 of the 19th Amendment.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the 2015 wrongdoing had been repeated.

Parliament website posted the 19th Amendment with the original clause given below: “If at the conclusion of the General Election held immediately after the coming into force of this Article, the recognized political party or the independent group obtaining the highest and the recognized political party or the independent group obtaining the second highest number of seats in Parliament agree to form a Government of national unity, then, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the number of Ministers outside of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Deputy Ministers, may be increased up to forty-five and fifty-five, respectively, if Parliament agrees to such increase, within two weeks of the first sitting of such Parliament.”

MP Cumaratunga said that finally the limits had been done away with for obvious reasons. Responding to another query, the Yuthukama leader said that the change of provisions, pertaining to the National Government, surreptitiously could be compared with the jugglery in manipulating the relevant Parliamentary Select Committee’s recommendations as regards the National List appointees.

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CEB again faces crunch situation with another unit at Norochcholai breaking down

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Three-hour daily power cuts a possibility

By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) now had to impose at least three-hour power cuts due to a sudden breakdown of the First Unit of the Lak Vijaya Power Plant Complex at Norochcholai, a senior electrical engineer said.

The second unit there has already been shut down for annual maintenance. Both units account for 540 MW of power with each usually producing about 270 MW.

CEB Chief Nalinda Illangakoon told The Island that he had instructed officials to go for maximum intake of hydro power, instead of turning to fuel powered generation, to meet the shortfall. It is understood that in the event of turning to the latter, the cost would be Rs. 47 per unit.

CEB Chairman Illangakoon said that it would take between 13 and 14 days to rectify the latest breakdown.

Responding to queries, he said that scheduled maintenance of the Second Unit would be further delayed due to some overseas technical experts contracting COVID.

He expressed confidence that the second plant would be restored and connected to the grid in November.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera earlier confirmed the breakdown of Unit 1.

He added: “Technical staff is working to identify the fault. Unit 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance work. Unit 3 will continue to operate.”

However, he said West Coast and other Fuel Power Plants would be used to bridge the supply shortfall.

Meanwhile, the electricity sector regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has given the approval for three-hour power interruptions for the next four days.

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Now Prasanna alleges Diaspora link in SJB, JVP, and FSP

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Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has alleged that the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), the Janatha Vikukthi Peramuna (JVP), its breakaway faction, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) and some civil society groups, affiliated to the Tamil Diaspora, were engaged in a campaign to remove Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmakers from politics.

 The accusation was made at a meeting held in Colombo last Friday (12) attended by SLPP members of Parliament and Local Government representatives, representing the Gampaha District. The allegation coincided with the government delisting several Tamil Diaspora groups and individuals.

 Lawmaker Ranatunga, who is also the Chief Government Whip, claimed that this operation was being implemented, taking advantage of the ongoing protest movement. Minister Ranatunga said that the conspirators wanted to defeat the SLPP’s ideology at the next national level election.

 Acknowledging that the SLPP had suffered a setback, as a result of a protest campaign launched in the wake of the economic crisis, Minister Ranatunga stressed that they still dominated Parliament, therefore no one could ignore the 2020 parliamentary mandate received by the party.

 The Gampaha district SLPP leader said that the SLPP backed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the parliamentary contest to choose an MP to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term because he was the best available choice (SF).

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