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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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Lord Naseby asks why Adele not prosecuted in UK for child recruitment

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Lord Naseby President of the UK all party British-Sri Lanka Parliamentary group has questioned the failure on the part of the UK to prosecute senior LTTE leader Adela Balasingham, wife of the outfit’s late theoretician Anton Balasingham. Lord Naseby said that Adele, who had been involved with the LTTE for several decades, was responsible for recruitment and deployment of child soldiers.

The following is the text of the statement issued by Lord Naseby in response to the UK statement at the Human Rights Council by Lord Tariq Ahmad on Feb 25:

“I am astounded how the UK or any other Member of the Core Group can possibly welcome the High Commissioner’s so called ‘detailed and most comprehensive report on Sri Lanka’ when it is riddled with totally unsubstantiated allegations and statements completely ignoring the huge effort to restore infrastructure and rehouse displaced Tamils and Muslims, who lost their homes due to the Tamil Tigers.

“Furthermore, I question how the UK Government knowingly and apparently consciously withheld vital evidence from the despatches of the UK military attaché Col. Gash. Evidence I obtained from a Freedom of Information request, resisted by the Foreign Office at every stage for over 2 years. These dispatches from an experienced and dedicated senior British officer in the field makes it clear that the Sri Lankan armed forces at every level acted and behaved appropriately, trying hard not to harm any Tamil civilians who were held by the Tamil Tigers as hostages in a human shield.

“This conscious decision totally undermines the UK‘s standing as an objective Leader of the Core Group; made even worse by the impunity for not prosecuting the LTTE leader living in the UK, largely responsible for recruiting, training and deploying over 5,000 Child Soldiers – a real War Crime. It is time that the UK Government acknowledges and respects the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which involved several international expert advisers, including from the UK – Sir Desmond de Silva QC, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Rodney Dixon QC and Major General John Holmes. Sri Lanka and the UK should be honouring the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which provides real evidence over all the years of the conflict, rather than just focussing on uncorroborated claims during a few months in 2009, only when the war concluded.

“Furthermore, the criticism of the way Covid has been handled with no burials for anyone based entirely on scientific advice at a time when there was no advice from WHO shows no understanding. Following the scientific advice from WHO and Sri Lanka’s scientists, burials are now permitted. The UN ignores the fact that only about 400 people on a population of 22m have sadly died in Sri Lanka, whereas no less than 120,000+ have died in the UK with a population of 66 million. By any yardstick Sri Lanka has been more successful at saving lives than any member of the Core Group.

“It seems to me that the Core Group needs to have more faith in the reconciliation structures already on the ground such as the Office of Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations. If the UN Core Group really wants to help, then why cannot the UK, Canada and Germany release to Sri Lanka the names of all asylum seekers since the war so that they can be checked against the list of Missing Persons and be removed from the master list?

“During the period of the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government, draft legislation for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission was prepared and the current government should be given the time and space, whilst also handling the pandemic, to introduce its own TRC mechanism. Britain should stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka as a unique TRC is developed and is implemented. Reconciliation cannot be externally forced on to the people of Sri Lanka. It must come from within and I would also urge the diaspora communities living in the Core Group countries to also trust, engage with and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s reconciliation processes.

It is for Sri Lanka to decide how much help they seek from outside but for me I doubt the need or the efficacy of the UNHRC being able to help in an enhanced monitoring role as proposed.”

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SJB finds fault with recommendations of political victimisation PCoI

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday found fault with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that investigated incidents of political victimization for arrogating to itself the powers of the judiciary.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella said: “The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the incidents of political victimisation has usurped the powers of courts.

MP Kiriella said that PCoI or any one including the Executive should not encroach on the powers of the judiciary. The MPs had a right to stand against it. “We have a constitutional right to prevent this. As per the provisions of the Article 4 of the Constitution people have given their sovereign powers of exercising judicial power to Parliament. It is by parliament through the courts or any other tribunal accepted by the law the judicial powers are exercised. A presidential commission of inquiry has not been given powers of courts. The PCoI headed by retired Justice Upali Abeyratne arrogated to itself the powers of courts as per the recommendations the commission made in its report,” Kiriella said.

He said that the PCoI had recommended that cases pending before in the Magistrate and High Courts be stopped. “Victims have been turned into complainants and complainants into offenders. The PCoI has made recommendations to acquit those implicated in numerous offences. The commission has recommended that some of those who violated the laws be acquitted and compensated. A PCoI has no such powers. We have expressed our opposition to this. We actually have submitted a petition to the Chief Justice on Tuesday against the PCoI hijacking the powers of the court.”

The MP said that PCoI’s usurping of court powers was a serious matter that should be rectified immediately. “We have utmost faith in the judiciary of this country. Courts have maintained their independence very bravely in the face of many challenges. You may recall that when there was a constitutional coup in 2018 October, the court did not succumb to political pressure

and declared the ouster of our government unconstitutional. If the PCoIs are allowed to usurp the powers of judiciary then the public would lose their faith in courts.”

SJB MPs J.C. Alawathuwala and Harin Fernando also addressed the press.

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Explosion of credit to private sector this year at low interest to ensure economic recovery – CB

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A record Rs. 850 billion worth of credit would be given to the private sector by the Banks in 2021, CBSL’s Director of Economic Research Dr. Chandranath Amarasekera told the media yesterday.

The increase in the Private sector credit growth would be due to low interest rates, introduction of loan targets for selected segments of the SME sector and the increase in demand for credit as investor confidence booms, Dr. Amarasekera said.

CBSL had already commenced a dialogue with banks to iron out issues that might arise, he said.

Dr. Amarasekera said that the Standing Deposit Facility Rate will remain at 4.5% and the Standing Lending Facility Rate will remain at 5.5%. The Monetary Board decided to keep the policy interest rates unchanged considering the global and local situation, he said.

The Board also decided to keep interest rates low until the economy showed a sustainable recovery, Dr. Amarasekera said.

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