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Analysis

 
A vicious property dispute



The disputed buildings (inset) Ranasinghe — I’m the victim and Lewke — No i’m the victim

 

By Raisa Wickrematunge 

There is an oft-repeated saying, “A man’s home is his castle.” Small wonder then, that property disputes often turn vicious. What makes this dispute special is that both parties could be said to have the long arm of the law on their side.

Subashini Ranasinghe is the Human Resources Manager at HSBC Securities Services. She is a war widow. Her husband, Col. Priyantha Ranasinghe, was killed in Vavuniya in March 1998. The complainant was none other than DIG Nimal Lewke.

The property central to this disagreement is located in Rajamalwatte Road, Battaramulla.

This saga began on April 9, when Lewke’s wife phoned Ranasinghe, requesting that Ranasinghe stop construction work on her house, which was next door to Lewke’s.

One thing led to another and Nimal Lewke filed action against Ranasinghe. The case was brought on two grounds, according to Ranasinghe. One was that Ranasinghe’s home was leaning on Lewke’s, resulting in cracks in the DIG’s residence.  The second was that Lewke’s best view and ventilation were blocked by a wall constructed by Ranasinghe.

Ranasinghe however claims that she had every right to construct the house the way she pleased on her own property. “The UDA, Pradeshiya Sabha and Parliament are on my side. I have all the documentation showing I own this land,” Ranasinghe said.

Construction illegal

A battle in court ensued, with Ranasinghe having to stop work at her house on several occasions, as Lewke claimed the construction was illegal.

Disturbingly, Ranasinghe alleges that Lewke is harassing her. On July 3, she claims he came onto the building site and threatened the workmen on her property. “When the workmen said they had permission to build, he said ‘Don’t think I’m a pansy. I’ll bring this house down.’” Ranasinghe said of the incident.

She added that on two occasions the workmen had been taken to the Talangama police station, for no apparent reason. On July 8, Ranasinghe wrote a letter of complaint to IGP Wickremaratne, and made a police entry. “Wickremaratne said he would look into the matter. However to date no action was taken,” Ranasinghe said.

Yet it was Lewke’s alleged act of intimidation on the date of the 3rd hearing which made Ranasinghe fear for her personal safety. “He came to courts with 12 bodyguards, in three trucks full of arms,” Ranasinghe said. She added that Lewke had subsequently written a letter to the Army Commander saying she was using Army SUVs when appearing at court and abusing her position as a war widow. “Why did he come to court with bodyguards on this occasion? Now I fear for my life, and for my children,” Ranasinghe said.

Refutes allegations

However, Lewke strongly refuted Ranasinghe’s allegations. “I have never threatened anyone. What would I gain from threatening workmen?” Lewke questioned. He asked to see the police statement, and declared, “Ask those workmen if they have ever met Nimal Lewke.” He was outraged, saying “These allegations are absurd. I have taken legal action from day one.”

Interestingly, Lewke also accused Ranasinghe of harassment. “My wife is sick, and even yesterday she was crying to me asking what we have done to deserve this,” Lewke lamented. What’s more, Lewke said that it was Ranasinghe, not him, who was indulging in acts of intimidation. “She is going around behind prominent parliamentarians and now she is going to the media. This third class widow is trying to take the law into her own hands,” Lewke said.

He also alleged that Ranasinghe was using army escorts for court hearings. “I have never used power to achieve my own ends. At all the court appearances, I went as a civilian. Now she is trying to spoil my name,” Lewke charged. He alleged that Ranasinghe was pulling strings and recruiting politicians and others to intimidate the Kaduwela police. “She has hammered a wall right across my building. I invite anyone to go to the building site and see what she has done to my house,” Lewke challenged.

The case is currently being heard at the Kaduwela Magistrate Court, case number 72918. Each party is as vociferous in casting blame as the other. Allegations of harassment and abuse of power are being made on both sides. Each is just as convinced that they are in the right. So who will prevail? It appears that this difficult decision can only be solved by a skilful judge.

 

 

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