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Tense situation at Kurnegala over Central Expressway project

 

A tense situation arose in Kurnegala last evening when government officials and Ministers met to discuss issues regarding the Central Expressway at the Nailiya Viharasthanaya.

The officials and Ministers had to be escorted out of the premises under police security as negotiations turned into a protest.

The discussion was with regard to the section being built from Pothuhera to Kurunegala.

Around 200 residents from Amunawatte, Henmulla, Weherabanda, Gattuwana and Boyagana had come for discussions and protested that they would all be losing land to the Expressway.

On behalf of the government, Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Ashok Abeysinghe, Chairman of the Road Development Authority, Nihal Sooriyarachchi, Kurunegala Divisional Secretary, Mahinda Ekanayake and officers were present.

At the commencement of the meeting Sooriyarachchi tried to explain matters regarding the Central Expressway but the residents of the area kept interrupting him and voicing their protests. Thereafter the discussions heated up.

The residents strongly insisted that the expressway be built on columns to avoid effects of flooding, to pay adequate compensation and to make transparent the system of compensation. 

Amidst the protests by residents, Deputy Minister Ashok Abeysinghe tried to address the gathering but due to the crowd shouting at the Minister, a heated exchange of words took place.

The residents having prepared a petition with their demands had handed it over to the Deputy Minister and asked that he in writing assure them that their demands would be met but the Deputy Minister had pointed out that he did not have the authority to meet such demands and thus the discussions turned ugly.

As the situation worsened, the police decreed that the government officials leave the meeting.

As the officials left, the residents in the area booed at them in protest.

Those who participated in the discussions then proceeded to march towards the Boyagane-Malpitiya junction, a kilometer away from the temple and they blocked the Kurunegala-Colombo main road in protest.

This caused heavy traffic congestion in the area for over three hours.

The situation was resolved when the Kurunegala ASP who came to the place promised to get them a meeting with the Minister of Transport and Prime Minister to resolve the issue further.