UDA Actions Ignore Court Orders
- Central Cinema – Maradana – Trashed
By Dinouk Colombage Pictures by Thusitha Kumara
The Urban Development Authority’s (UDA) demolishment of the Central Cinema in Maradana appears to be illegal with inside sources claiming a permanent stay order had been issued against the UDA preventing them from entering the premises back in 2005.
The Central Cinema is owned by Imtiaz Cader Director of Cinema Entertainment, who is also the owner of Liberty Cinema.
The UDA has said that the lack of payment of taxes by the cinema owners was the reason behind the seizure of the premises. However, sources countered these allegations claiming that all payments are up to date.
According to the sources all taxes have been paid in full and before the due date so as to avoid this sort of issue. They also said that in 2005 the cinema management had obtained a permanent stay order against the UDA which prevented them from entering the premises due to interference by them in the running of the cinema.
Director of the Enforcement Division (UDA), G. Abeygunawardana, said that the owners had not paid the taxes for the cinema property and so the land was reacquired. He did not specify who acquired the land or on what orders the UDA was dispatched.
However, the sources denied that this was the case adding that “the UDA or the CMC (Colombo Municipal Council) had not given any prior warning. If taxes are not paid then it is the duty of the CMC to give a warning to the owners, not the UDA.”
Abeygunawardana denied that no prior warning had been given saying “of
course notification would have been sent to them. We have also obtained a court order allowing us to enter the premises and demolish the old building. If we had not followed procedure then a court order would not have been issued.” He denied any knowledge of a permanent stay order being issued against the UDA.
Sources questioned how a court order could have been obtained if there was an existing permanent stay order against the UDA. “To date there has been no contact from the UDA, they sealed the premises and then demolished it,” sources said.
Abeygunawardana said that the cinema was demolished as it was in dilapidated state, and that the area would be redeveloped. He did not say what the land would be used for.
Sources have claimed the opposite, saying that for numerous years they had approached the UDA to help develop the premises only to be met with no response.
The CMC authorities were unavailable for comment on this issue.
On Friday (June 6) security forces surrounded the Central Cinema in Maradana following the final screening of the day. They notified the cinema management that they had been sent by the UDA and were acquiring the premises. The management was given a few hours to remove their equipment from the cinema before it was sealed up.
On Tuesday (June 10) members of the UDA, accompanied by police and army personnel, demolished the cinema with the use of heavy machinery.
The Central Cinema, one of the first in the country, had been in operation for over 65 years and had been the recipient of presidential awards. At one time it was classed as an “A” class cinema, before continual interference by the government led to management neglecting it.