‘We were treated like squatters’

Bulldozing of CSC pool area: ‘We were treated like squatters’ says Club’s president
RDA was executing a judicial order

Describing the bulldozing of buildings and walls surrounding the pool area of the Colombo Swimming Club (CSC) as “absolute thuggery”, Tony De Livera, president of the British-era institution, complained that it was the way the Road Development Authority (RDA) “came through the backdoor and started demolishing a section of the premises as if we are squatters” that was disheartening.

“We didn’t refuse to hand over the designated land area. In fact, it was on the cards and correspondence with the RDA’S Land Acquisition Department and the Lands Ministry was ongoing. We were awaiting a response from them when they emerged out-of-the-blue and tore down the constructions”, he said.

It was the way they got about the demolition Mafia-style that raises concern as the CSC are not squatters on the land, but a prestigious, 75-year-old colonial institution, De Livera explained.”We were treated like the squatters at Slave Island whose houses were destroyed at one time, without giving them a chance to collect even their birth certificates”, he continued. “We are upset that the government is meting out the same treatment to the rich as well as to the poor”.

Armed with a court order, RDA officials, accompanied by the police, moved in on Friday afternoon to pull down buildings and walls in a section of the CSC to make way for the Colombo Extension of the Marine Drive. The baby pool and the play zone were completely destroyed.

“We were prepared to give the 70 perches for the road extension, but what’s shocking is the way the RDA bulldozed its way through at a time we had written to the authorities and was told they would get back to us”, he asserted.

“Instead of the anticipated response, we were shocked that a demolition squad backed by the police was allowed to swoop down and bulldoze the area”, he said.

“The RDA should have informed us that they will be going ahead with the demolition so that we could have been ready for it. Instead, they barged in and started demolishing the buildings when there were also women and children in the swimming pool”, the president of the elitist club pointed out.

The CSC has so far not received any compensation though the designated land area was earmarked for acquisition, he said. “Though the land value in Colombo 3, where the Club is situated, is between Rs. 15-20 million per perch, what has been offered is a mere Rs. 4 million per perch in terms of a 2004 valuation”.

RDA officials said that the court order to take over the land was given on July 7 and it included most of the pool area as well. What happened was the execution of this judicial directive.

Asked on CSC’s next move, De Livera replied, “We will be summoning a special general meeting to assess the situation. The Committee cannot decide on the next step because this is not our property. We will turn to our 4,000-strong membership for guidance. Every member has a right to voice his or her opinion on the matter”.

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