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Kurunegala taxpayers will foot Rs 2mn Lawyers bill to defend Mayor

ECONOMYNEXT – The Kurunegala Municipal Council passed a resolution yesterday to cover the legal expenses incurred in the case against Mayor Thushara Sanjeewa for allegedly demolishing an archaeological site in Kurunegala, amounting to Rs 2.18 million.

The proposal was presented by Deputy Mayor Sumith Udawasala in the absence of the mayor.

Speaking to EconomyNext, UNP council member of Kurunegala Sumedha Arunashantha said that out of the 16 members in the council, three members including himself opposed the proposal as taxpayers’ money will be used to cover the expenses. He also charged that the lawyer to take up the case was not chosen on the recommendations of the council’s legal committee.

JVP council member Ranuk Sanjaya, SLPP council member and former Mayor Gamini Peramunage and Arunashantha have also opposed the proposal.

Arunashantha said Rs 2.18 million was approved to pay the document fees for the case while the fees for the lawyer is expected to be passed in the next council meeting.

There was a national uproar when Mayor Sanjeewa on July 16 ordered the demolition said to be the royal court of King Bhuvenakabahu II claiming that it was in the way of road development.

Sanjeewa took reporters to the site and showed a tile made in 1993, plastic electric conduits, and steel bars in the rubble as proof that the building is not an archaeological site but a more recent building with an unsavoury reputation as had once functioned as a brothel.

Later an expert committee appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into the incident said that the perpetrators involved in the incident should be punished under the law.

On July 23, the AG obtained an order from the Kurunegala Magistrate’s Court to protect and prevent the access to the demolished historic building site pending investigations.

The prevention order was issued against the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Kurunegala, Municipal Councillors, Municipal Commissioner, and Engineer Municipal Council staff and their representatives.

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On July 28, the Kurunegala Magistrate ordered the Mayor of Kurunegala to hand over all documents pertaining to the demolished building to the safe custody of the court.

On August 6, Attorney General Dappula de Livra directed Acting IGP C D Wickramaratne to obtain warrants for the arrest of five individuals including Mayor Sanjeewa over the demolition.

However, on August 12 the Court of Appeal issued an order not to enforce the warrants issued for the arrest of the Kurunegala Mayor and five others until August 24. (Colombo/Aug18/2020)

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