By Wilson Gnanadass in Kandy
The law states that if your landlord wants to evict
you from your home, he or she must follow the correct legal
Unless a tenant wishes to surrender a tenancy voluntarily, most
tenants in rented accommodation have the right not to be evicted
from their accommodation until the landlord has first obtained a
possession order from the court and had that order enforced by a
court of law.
The Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) is at present embroiled in a
crisis over unauthorised structures and a subsequent order to
The controversy looms over an order to put up shops by the Mayor
and a few other councillors, while the order to demolish the
structure and evict all the shop owners has come from the
The present problem, which is bound to transform into a major
crisis, is purely due to lack of foresight and discipline.
It is common knowledge that no structure could be erected by any
individual without prior approval from the local authority. And
if these shops have been built with a strong foundation, then
the shop owners must have obtained some form of approval from
The issue that draws public interest here is that though the
shop owners had been given approval by a few councillors,
including the Mayor, to put up shops, the council decides to
nullify this order and vote against the Mayor’s previous
decisions. This certainly demonstrates the conflict of interest
between the council and the Mayor and a few in the council.
On the other hand, even the shop owners were ignorant in not
obtaining approval in writing, but to simply accept verbal
endorsements from the Mayor and a few others, to put up such
strong buildings in the heart of the city.
The history of Kandy and its townscape has witnessed rapid
and drastic changes from the beginning of British rule,
particularly after the 1818 rebellion.
Since its founding in the 14th Century, Kandy, which remained
the last stronghold of local kings, had gone through many a
vicissitude. Although Colombo represents the prime commercial
and administrative centre, Kandy continues to remain the
cultural capital of Sri Lanka with a rich heritage of living
An observer can admire the landscape of Kandy that has formed
with hills and low elevation areas at the centre. The visual
characteristic is that the city space is locked with surrounding
hills as barriers to expansion of the city.
The fact that the city cannot be expanded has today been the
cause of many problems, given the rapid increase in the
population as well.
Kandy City has been designed in such a way that certain roads
have been meant for non-commercial activities. These roads have
been called back lanes or fire escapes.
In the good old days, buckets were used in place of modern
commodes. Each day the buckets were removed and replaced with
another one. Once the buckets were removed from the toilets
through the rear opening of the toilets, these buckets were then
placed in a cart and pushed along the back lanes, to the place
where they were disposed of.
Subsequently, when this system was done away with, after
commodes and cisterns were introduced, these lanes had been
preserved as emergency exits and therefore the council had taken
a decision not to allow any permanent structures in these back
lanes which are quite narrower than the main roads.
However, the individuals in question today have built their
shops in these back lanes without authentic approval from the
council, which has led to the council itself taking a fresh
decision to demolish all of them.
Who’s to be blamed?
Serious questions have been raised as to who should be held
responsible for this mess. If the approval was authentic, then
why should the council take a decision to demolish them and if
the approval was not legal, then why should the owners put up
their own buildings? These are some of the questions that
warrant proper answers from the council itself.
Some vendors were not certain as to what course of action they
should take now, since they had obtained permission to engage
themselves in business in these lanes way back in the early 90s.
According to them, President R. Premadasa had appealed to the
KMC to grant them temporary permission to use one side of the
road to do business.
Under this agreement, 71 individuals who were involved in
business on pavements had moved to these lanes and had been
selling goods. The council had not recognised them or given them
any better facility to further enhance their earning.
This however prompted the present Mayor and a few others, on
sympathetic grounds, to grant the vendors permission to erect
Vendors told The Nation that it was the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor,
the Opposition Leader and a few others who had visited the place
who had given verbal approval for them to build their own shops
early last year.
Elated by this order, the vendors had borrowed, pawned and spent
all their savings to put up their own tiny buildings – spacious
enough for them to run decent businesses.
However, it is learnt that many who were not given approval by
the Mayor and others too had taken advantage of this situation
and built their own shops.
The vendors had also been happily engaging themselves in daily
business in these shops, until a few weeks ago, when they were
notified that these shops would be demolished.
All praise for the Mayor
All the vendors who had benefited from this exercise are not
UNP supporters. Most of them are the ones who voted against the
incumbent Mayor. However, they praised Mayor Aluvihare for his
meritorious act in granting them relief by providing them
shelters to run their business.
Speaking to The Nation, they collectively said for the first
time in the history of Kandy, UNP opponents were extended
support and relief.
They said the Mayor had also promised to get them electricity
and water facilities. But, a petition filed by some elements to
the council and the subsequent decision by the council to
demolish these shops, have now put their lives in jeopardy.
“The Mayor did not worry whether we were blue or red. He looked
at our sweat, our suffering and, on a humanitarian and
sympathetic basis, granted us permission to put up shops. But we
are very sad that there are evil elements within the council to
put a stop to this. Where can we go to, if our shops are
broken?” asked Gemunu Weerasekara.
He said the original agreement was that if they were to be
evicted from this place, an alternative location would be
identified, but added that the council had not spoken a word
about alternative arrangements.
Joining him was Ashraff Deen, who also praised the present Mayor
for his bold decision to grant them approval to build shops.
“The Mayor has done this with good spirit and good heart but
some evil forces are trying to scuttle this process. If the
council can let the Mayor do what he wants to do, then all of us
will be happy. We have our families and we are very poor people.
How can we be chased or deprived of our livelihood?” he queried.
M. S. Salaldeen, another vendor, also made similar comments
about the Mayor’s intention. He said the Mayor and a few others
in the council had pure intentions to help the downtrodden while
some others devalue them.
“It is a pity that some people don’t want us to be happy and do
good in life. Why can’t the council take a decision to
regularise this or even give us an alternative piece of land
elsewhere to do our business,” he inquired.
Mayor in a soup?
Intentions may have been pure for the City Father to look
into the needs of his children, but the manner in which this
problem has been approached has raised the eyebrows of many in
The Kandy Mayor has refused to talk to The Nation on this issue
or make any remarks.
However, some of the councilors, on condition of anonymity, said
the entire problem has boomeranged on the Mayor and he does not
know what to do now.
It was in the beginning of August that the council took a
decision based on a motion submitted by the Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) to
demolish all unauthorised structures in the city.
The Commissioner, admitting that there were illegal structures,
contrary to council laws, said such structures must be
demolished. This was also conveyed to Mayor Aluvihare.
In response, the Mayor requested the finance committee for a
period of one year to demolish the shops.
This was later conveyed to the council by the finance committee,
but this decision to grant a one year grace period to the
vendors was opposed by a majority of the councilors. The
councilors pointed out that giving a longer period might
compound the existing situation and proposed instead to grant
the vendors only three months.
Subsequently, the council took a unanimous decision on August 30
to demolish all the illegal structures within three months.
However, last Friday, November 30, the three months grace period
elapsed but there has not yet been any decision on this.
According to the Municipal Council Act No. 42 A (1), the final
authority to execute the council decision over demolition of any
unauthorised structure is vested with the Mayor; and the entire
council awaits the Mayor’s action on this.
The council met last Friday 30, but according to informed
sources, there has not been any decision to demolish the shops.
The Mayor’s prolonged silence to act has now irritated
several councillors, who say legal action must be instituted to
maintain law and order in the city.
Under Municipal Council Ordinance 307 A, the Organisation for
the Protection of Public Property of which the JVP Member Anura
Gonewala is the general secretary, is now planning to take legal
action against the Mayor’s silence in executing a council
decision. Gonewala also said that he has written to the Mayor
insisting that proper action must be taken against illegal
structures in Kandy.
Bird’s Park squatters rise up
The lack of a proper decision regarding this issue has
provoked squatters who were once occupying land around Bird’s
Park, opposite the Kandy clock tower and were evicted by the
former Mayor, barring their return to the same place. In a
petition to the Mayor, signed by 36 individuals, they have
insisted that their grievances be looked into immediately.
They have pointed out in their petition that the former Mayor
pledged to find an alternative location at that time, but the
council has still not honoured this pledge.
Meanwhile, the shop owners who are in a quandary over the
demolition order vowed to take to the streets of Kandy if the
council implemented the order and demolished their shops.
Assuming that it was SLMC Councillor Azwim Marikar who has
been pressing for the demolition, the shop owners and vendors
have sent him a strong threatening note. Surrounding his house
one day the vendors had threatened to torch Marikar’s house, if
the decision of the council was implemented.
Marikar has lodged an entry with the Kandy Police.
Mayor L. B. Aluvihare
The Mayor refused to make any comments. He said he was
annoyed over another investigation The Nation carried earlier
this year over corruption in the council and added he has
decided not to speak to The Nation.
JVP Councillor Anura
The Councillor blamed the Mayor for the present situation. He
said the Mayor and his henchmen had bypassed the normal
regulations of the council.
Sympathising with the vendors who would be forced on to the
streets after the implementation of the council order, he said
the blunder of some of the members of the council was going to
deprive a community.
“I am strongly against this type of rule. We must safeguard the
rights of the people and should not misguide them,” he added.
SLMC Councillor Azwim
Marikar was of the view that there has been foul play. He
said the people of Kandy have been misled by politicians and
added he was trying to put the house in order.
“How did this happen? How can the commissioner or the Mayor keep
quiet over this issue? We become enemies of the public when we
try to do justice. But those who break laws get away. This is
unfortunate,” he added.