The Sunday Leader

43 Barnes Place, Colombo 07: True Story

1. Total Extent – 154.43 Perches. The late Mr. Abdul Cader Abdeen, founder of the Aberdeen Cigarette & Tobacco Co. Ltd., a well known businessman of the 1950’s owned 115.82 perches from 1948.

2. The above property was vested for Arrears of Rates by the Colombo Municipal Council for Rs. 11,911/- in 1973.

3. An application to pay this sum was made by Mrs. Noor Zarina Abdeen to the Public Trustee Department in 1974 as this property was part of the estate of the late Mr. A.C. Abdeen, whose Testamentary Case was pending in the District Court of Colombo, of which she was Administratrix appointed by Court.

4. The Arrears of Rates, together with Warrant Costs amounting to Rs. 12,150/ 86 cts was paid by the Public Trustee Department in 1976.

5. The property was Vested by the C.M.C. in 1973, and the Treasurer, Colombo Municipal Council issued a letter dated 3rd May 1982, stating that the last payment of Rates was on 15 September 1976, up to the 2nd Quarter 1976, amounting to Rs. 12,077.15 cts. This very clearly indicates that the Rates together with the Warrant Costs had been paid and accepted by the Colombo Municipal Council, even after having vested the property. (Document annexed).

6. Thereafter, despite the acceptance of rates with Warrant Costs by the C.M.C., numerous appeals were made throughout to several mayors, and commissioners to divest the property to the owners.

7. In 1980 July, the Ministry of Land and Land Development issued a Notice of Acquisition through the Gazette of July 17 1980, signed by Minister Gamini Dissanayake, Gazette No. 97/9. The property was subsequently released and the acquisition dropped.

8. In the meantime, many squatters encroached on to the land.

9. On 26 February 1985, the C.M.C. passed a resolution to divest this property to its rightful owners after the recovery of dues to the Council with Warrant Costs and ministry approval if necessary. (Document annexed).

10. By letter dated 11 September 1985, the Commissioner C.M.C. informed Mrs. N.Z. Abdeen that the C.M.C. has passed a Resolution to divest the property to its rightful owners, and wanted her title established and proved through Courts in order to enable the C.M.C. to divest the property to its rightful owners.

11. In November 1985, Mrs. N.Z. Abdeen died, and her heir was appointed in 1988 as Administratrix of the Estate of the late Mr. A.C. Abdeen, whose Testamentary Case is pending in D.C. Colombo.

12. About December 1985, a party claimed this property on Prescriptive title, and the claim was dismissed in the District Court, and in the Court of Appeal, which concluded in 1995.

13. In 1990, on the strength of the letter sent by the Commissioner C.M.C. in September 1985, stating that title should be established and proved through Court, 2 heirs, of the late Mr. A.C. Abdeen instituted action in the District Court of Colombo – Case No. 15002/L in order to prove and establish their title as the rightful owners, and were fully aware at all times that the property would be divested to the rightful owners.

14. The Case commenced in 1990, and all the learned Honourable Judges held with the Co-owners throughout, and one Honourable Judge even exclaimed that the rightful owners should go to the I.C., as this was grave injustice on the part of the C.M.C. to grab a property worth billions for a mere Rs. 11,911 /= even after accepting payment of rates with Warrant Costs.

15. The Legal Officers of the Colombo Municipal Council were present in Court right throughout from 1990 till the case concluded in 2005, and in the Court of Appeal from 2011 to 2014 till this case concluded.

16. In January 2005, after 15 years, judgment was delivered in favour of the plaintiffs and the names of 19 CO-owners and their respective shares were clearly set out in the judgment.

17. After asking the owners to establish title through Courts and despite the judgment delivered with the names of the rightful owners, the C.M.C. did not divest the property, but proceeded to the Court of Appeal (Final Appeal), The Final Appeal case concluded in 2014.

18. In October 2005, the then Commissioner, Colombo Municipal Council sought an opinion from the Attorney General on the issue of divesting, and according to the reply of the Attorney General, letter dated 14 November 2005, it specifically states that the property be returned to the rightful owners as set out in the District Court judgment of 2005 and that the Council should take appropriate action to return the property to the rightful owners irrespective of any written application by them. The letter was signed by the Additional Solicitor General Mr. Sathiya Hettige P .C. Once again, despite the letter of the Attorney General, the property was not divested to the rightful owners. (Document annexed)

19. The owners, thereafter decided to find buyers who would pay the squatters, purchase the property and proceed with the Final Appeal CMC case that was pending, when in August 2006, the Urban Development Authority acquired the property under Special Provisions signed by President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. Gazette No. 1460/10. The C.M.C. final Appeal Case to determine ownership of the property was also pending in the Court of Appeal.

20. The Owners then proceeded to the Supreme Court against the U.D.A.

21. In October 2006 , 5 people filed another action in the Court of Appeal, 1 year 9 months, after the District Court Judgment, asking for a Revision of the District Court judgment. Their case was dismissed in November 2011.

22. The Case in the Supreme Court against the U.D.A. commenced in 2006, and went on for 6 years up to 2013 with over 30 dates, and finally about October 2012, the Co-owners were summoned to the U.D.A. and informed that they had decided to drop the Acquisition.

23. In January 2013, the U.D.A abandoned the Notice of Acquisition, and the Case in the Supreme Court terminated.

24. The owners, once again decided to find suitable buyers when in February 2013, just 1 month after the U.D.A. dropped the Acquisition, the squatters informed the Co-owners that several people were offering them money to vacate the premises. Sources also said that the 20 squatters were paid Rs. 4 million each at a place in Kohuwala.

25. The owners watched helplessly as they were advised to await the outcome of the C.M.C. final appeal case.

26. About 6 September 2013, a Muslim businessman from Mt. Lavinia negotiated with the co-owners to purchase their undivided shares as per the judgment of 2005 and some owners even signed agreements which expired soon after. This clearly indicates that he was fully aware who the legal owners were.

27. In November 2013, sources said that a Muslim businessman put up a 30 foot galvanized boundary wall around this property of 154.43 perches and had taken illegal possession of this very valuable property. It is believed that this businessman could be the same person who negotiated with the co-owners in September 2013 offering to purchase their shares.

28. On September 17 2014, the Colombo Municipal Council’s the Court of Appeal (Final Appeal) to determine who the legal owners of this property were which commenced in 2011 was dismissed in 2014 and Decree entered in the District Court, setting out the names of the 19 rightful owners and their respective shares.

The 19 rightful owners have spent 24 years in Court – from 1990 to 2014, spending enormous sums on litigation proving their title to the Colombo Municipal Council, after the payment of rates together with Warrant Costs, which the C.M.C. accepted, after the vesting of the property.

6 Years in the Supreme Court from 2006 to January 2013 when finally the acquisition was dropped. This property was acquired by the U.D.A. – under Special Provisions – signed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa while the CMC Final Appeal case was pending to determine ownership of the property.

The 19 lawful owners are now confronted with yet another problem – the Muslim businessman who forcibly and illegally took possession of the property, in November 2013 after the squatters were evicted, about July 2013  is preventing the 19 lawful owners who possess valid documents from even setting foot on the land which lawfully belong to them.

The Mayor and C.M.C. officials were well aware that they (the C.M.C.) had .appealed against the D.C. judgment of 2005, and proceeded to Final Appeal where their case was dismissed in November 2014 and decided in favour of the 19 owners. The C.M.C. should have safeguarded the property at least till the Final Appeal case concluded, instead they turned a blind eye when in 2013 the squatters were evicted and an underhand businessman barricaded and fenced the land without any right.

If the Muslim businessman from Mt. Lavinia claims ownership of the land, why is it he negotiated with the rightful owners to purchase their shares in Sep­tember 2013?

If according to the Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzammil, the land does not belong to the C.M.C. and the C.M.C. has not given it to any party or sold it, the heirs of the late Mr. A.C. Abdeen and others as set out in the Decree are the legal owners of the property and should be given possession of the land.

Perusing these facts it is evident that the C.M.C. cannot claim ownership of the property, nor can the Muslim businessman from Mt. Lavinia, who is an intruder who has illegally got onto the land through hooliganism, while a case was pending in Court of Appeal – to determine and establish ownership of the said land. The case concluded in November 2014.

Finally in November 2014, Court identified the 19 lawful owners of this valuable property, and the Decree registered through Court as fottows:

3 Comments for “43 Barnes Place, Colombo 07: True Story”

  1. gamarala

    Our justice system is organised to enrich lawyers by delaying court proceedings by judges who favour lawyers more than litigants.
    “Lawyers live on dates just like the arabs” said a former supreme court judge.
    More than 65,000 cases clog the legal system and enrich lawyers.

  2. Roshan

    Thank you very much for the detai of events chronologically and it is shame on CMC and another mahinda hora for carlton school, which he did for the land opposite to Dematagoda Police Station.

  3. Yasin

    Property encroachment must be made illegal and criminal.
    Property cases usually drags through time and in many such cases it come to rest on the third or fourth generation.
    The original owners or the judges who took up such cases have long gone to the final resting places along with the lawyers as well their owners.
    Land cases, I feel must be heard under under the Public Trustee and quick solution have to be found to close the cases rapidly.

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