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Prospective applicants protest over demand to raise ‘personal loans’ to buy government flats

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At Lunawa Sea View Residencies meant for ‘low and middle income families’

BY SURESH PERERA

Prospective buyers of Sea View Residencies at Lunawa developed by the Urban Settlement Development Authority (USDA) for “low and middle income families” have been left kicking their heels after they were informed last week to raise “personal loans” ranging from Rs. 3.5 to Rs. 4.1 million from any financial institution to procure the units.

This is apart from the 25% down-payment plus another Rs. 240,000 as “related charges”, which have to be paid upfront to acquire the flats, the prices of which range from Rs. 4.56 million to Rs. 5.58 million.

For example, to procure a unit valued at Rs. 4.56 million on the fourth floor of the complex, one has to make a down-payment of Rs. 1.14 million.

The general practice earlier when selling housing units in complexes specifically meant for “low and middle income families” was for the government institution concerned to arrange a feasible credit facility largely through HDFC Bank.

However, prospective buyers of Sea View Residencies complained that they were summoned to ‘Sethsiripaya’ at Battaramulla on Tuesday and told in no uncertain terms that they need to secure a bank loan if they wanted to procure a unit in the newly-built housing complex.

“When we protested that we are low and middle income earners, and no financial institution would offer a credit facility without collateral, an official interjected that there was then no option, but to give up the idea of acquiring a flat”, the distraught buyers said.

Application forms were initially issued to interested buyers on a non-refundable deposit of Rs. 2,000 each. After shortlisting applicants, interviews were called, where they were assured that after the 25% down-payment on the total value of each unit was made, a credit facility would be arranged through the Bank of Ceylon under a monthly repayment plan at 6.25% per annum, they noted.

The availability of a bank facility was also clearly outlined in letters sent to buyers shortlisted as “eligible applicants” to purchase the flats. However, in a sudden turnaround, the promised loan facility has been ditched, they complained.

Some prospective aspirants had in fact approached banks for some degree of relief, but were specifically told that they should either surrender the deed of the flat or some other form of collateral to secure a ‘personal loan’.

“If we had millions of rupees the USDA is now demanding for the units, we could have purchased a small house in the area without waiting for more than a year until the housing complex was completed”, they reasoned.

Whereas the highest priced unit in the complex costs Rs. 5.58 million, there’s a small house put up for sale for Rs. 5.5 million close to Moratuwa town, another shortlisted applicant said. “If I had ready cash, I would prefer to buy an individual house”.

“We were asked to make the 25% down-payment as early as possible, but in case the balance is not settled within the time-frame, refunds will be subject to an unspecified penalty”, he further said.

It appears that the government has built the Sea View Residencies for the wealthy or for those who pump funds, hold on for some time and resell at a considerable margin, he opined. “The deserving has been elbowed out”.

USDA Director-General, Major General (Retd.) Udaya Nanayakkara assured that he was aware of the issue and discussions are ongoing with banks to evolve a solution.

“We wanted to recover the construction cost of the housing complex as the land value has not been calculated into the price”, he told The Sunday Island.

“We were looking at recouping the investment upfront without opting for a time-consuming repayment plan”, he explained.

Another official, who asked not to be identified, admitted that 90% of the shortlisted applicants are now unable to procure units without a workable repayment scheme.

“We were aware that prospective buyers would be left in the lurch sans a bank facility as low and middle income earners don’t have access to millions of rupees in liquid cash. However, we had to adhere to UDA (Urban Development Authority) guidelines”, he asserted.

He said that with the growing displeasure over preference to “people who can afford” rather than “those who deserve” has resulted in looking at the process afresh and the possibility of arranging a bank facility is on the cards.

The President, and the Prime Minister, as Housing Minister, should be made aware of obstacles placed by an officialdom insensitive to the average man’s housing needs, he noted.

The applicants were shortlisted on the basis of a monthly household income of Rs. 75,000. Those who earned more than this were rejected as the flats are meant for low and middle income families, he added.

“At the end of the day, the displeasure generated will reflect on the government”, he added.

A UDA official said the complex was developed by the USDA and therefore “it’s their baby”.

“We had nothing to do with it”.



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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