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Champika Ranawaka speaks on unauthorized occupants in the Thotalanga

The demands of the unauthorized settlers who have already been given houses will not be entertained, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka, informed the Thotalanga protestors yesterday.

In a discussion held with representatives of the Thotalanga settlers who held demonstrations blocking the Japan Lanka Friendship Bridge on Monday evening, the minister said that the authorities will give a one month grace period to the residents who were living on rent in the houses of the original owners, to vacate the premises. "The owners of the houses would have already been awarded a house, but since the current occupants were living on rent they have now no houses. The police and the authorities are now engaged in identifying these families and those who are yet to receive houses will also be allowed to stay temporarily ," Minister Champika Ranawaka told the News.

The discussion was held yesterday at the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry in Battaramulla.

The Minister highlighted that the policy is to allocate a house for a house, not a house for each family living in the settlement.

"Their demand that each family should be given temporary housing is unfair. They were allocated a house for each house they had. We cannot do anything if there were more than one family living in the house. We have allocated houses taking into consideration the size of the original houses they owned," Ranawaka said.

Those who have been settled there by the UDA on a transits basis and the others who have rented houses from the third party will be identified and allowed to remain for another month, while all others are to vacate immediately.

Addressing the media yesterday at the Ministry, Minister Ranawaka said that the removal of unauthorized occupants in the Thotalanga area was done in a fair and justifiable manner. He said the residents have been given adequate notice to move into the houses they were allotted.

Some of the protesters who made comments to the electronic media are the owners of two housing units provided by the government. According to the standard procedure followed by the UDA, two houses had been given to the persons whose houses were more than 700 square feet while owners of smaller houses have all been allocated a 400square feet house.

The government has already provided houses for all the families living in unauthorized constructions in Thotalanga area apart from the 35 families who have temporally been settled by the government.

Minister Ranawaka said that the keys of the houses were gifted to the house owners at a function held on January 12, 2016 and informed them to move away from the temporary shelters by January 31 this year.

"We also informed the families who are in rented houses to shift to a new place before December 31 last year. We provided houses only for the owners of these illegal dwellings. But on Saturdays and Sundays people just come and put up shanties with the intention of getting the ownership of this state owned land. The situation became worst last weekend as a large number of persons came there to claim the said land. So we had to take immediate measures to control this situation," said the minister.

He also said that the present government is dedicated to provide houses for all shanty dwellers and uplift their living standards.

"We will never let any person or a group to intervene and sabotage this effort," he stressed.

Addressing the media, Urban Development Authority Director General Nayana Mawilmada said that under the Urban Regeneration Project, the UDA aims to develop the Colombo city area under a proper plan by taking back all the underutilized lands in the area.

"We have identified that around 68,000 slums occupying 900 acres are scattered on government land. Measures have already started to provide permanent houses to these illegal dwellers. We have already built 5000 houses and the constructions of 11,000 houses have already been started.