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News  


 

18 USAID-built shops idle due to politics

By M.I.M.S. Anwar, Digamadulla Correspondent

Some 18 shops are still idling for more than two years at the new CTB bus terminal building in Kalmunai, without being rented or leased out by the Kalmunai Municipal Council, thus denying commuters easy access to shops, and depriving small businessmen of their livelihood, while also depriving the municipality of revenue.
The old Kalmunai CTB bus stand near the entrance to the Santhankerny playground was demolished on the instruction of the former SLMC leader late M.H.M. Ashraff, against the wishes of the CTB and the then minister of transport A.H.M. Fowzie within a single night, to stage the 12th delegates convention of the SLMC at this ground in 1998. During that time, the two Muslim ministers were always in the habit of locking-horns even over trivial matters, to be the pre-eminent Muslim in the country, one being a ruling party member and the other, leader of the SLMC and a Cabinet Minister.
The bus stand was temporarily relocated to a place adjoining the public library, at the expense of citizens who patronised this library for reading in silence. From then onwards, the CTB bus stand functioning there was made permanent, without a proper building or sheds, till the tsunami devastated the coastal areas of the Ampara district in December 2004.
People here say that this bus stand would have remained the same until now, if not for the golden tsunami and USAID in Ampara assisting the tsunami devastated areas to redevelop. The bus commuters who were exposed to the sun and the rain and suffering in silence since 1998, were highly pleased with this gift from the USAID.
It constructed the new terminal with 18 shops for the benefit of bus commuters. Despite the CTB having started its operation from this building, since its opening more than two years ago, none of the 18 shops in it were let out to people to do business, for reasons believed to be political.
It is said that former Kalmunai Mayor H.M.M. Harris did not want to rent out these shops for fear of his supporters breaking away from him, as he had promised too many of them, with shops here.
According to Kalmunai CTB Depot Superintendent Subaideen, more than 15,000 commuters use the Kalmunai bus stand daily, to proceed to various places in the south, west and the north as far as Mannar.
Mayor of Kalmunai Senator Mashoor Mowlana when queried as to why these shops were not rented or leased out, told The Nation that he took office two months ago, and was only able to have the shops valued by the Valuation Department.
He said that on receiving the Valuation report, Tenders would be called and the shops would be distributed to the highest bidders. According to him, these shops would be released for business within two months or so, on receipt of the Valuation report.