The tragedy of Sujith Fernando and family with four children
Sujith’s House washed off by sea.
Pics by Freddy Gamage
Doowa fisherman K. N. Sujith Fernando’s (42) temporarily built hut was demolished on January 21, on a complaint made by a so called fishermen organisation representative. Sujith was forced to build this hut for his family after his permanent house was washed away by a raging sea in 2019. In Negombo, the massive sea erosion on July 18, 2019 was a repercussion of an extensive dredging of sea sand off the sea off Negombo and building of Port City project, experts, environmentalists and seasoned fishermen say. Having no alternative place to go, Sujith has been living for more than a year in this small hut built on a state land. However on January 21 it was demolished on a court order. Thereafter the villagers got together and built another temporary make-shift hut with polythene sheets to give refuge to Sujith, his family and belongings. But the area’s Grama Niladhari officer has made another complaint to Dungalpitiya police station, a sub police station from Negombo stating that Sujith and his family with four children had violated the court direction and had put up an ‘unlawful’ construction.
Violent destruction of Sujith’s house
In the presence of court officials with a fiscal order and police officials, it was a person named Milton who called himself a fisheries organisation representative who demolished the house in which Sujith’s family had been living for more than a year. The house had been demolished in a way that most of the items including iron sheets could not be used again.
This was against strong opposition by the entire village who condemned the destruction of the house and thereby displacement of three school-going children and an infant with their mother. To demolish Sujith’s house Milton was supported only by his nephew while the other fishermen supported Sujith and did not agree with what was happening. The family which became homeless due to sea erosion has once against become homeless.
“I don’t know where to go now. We waited in the hut build from polythene as there was no place to go. But the Gramasevaka Niladhari has once again complained to the police stating that I have violated the court order,” said Sujith who is completely helpless now.
Child studying in the hut
‘Police said I would be remanded for 3 months’
“I was summoned to the police yesterday and the Officer-in-charge warned that I would be remanded for three months without bail if I am produced in court for violating the court order. The OIC sir said that the judge would be very angry if he came to know that I have not vacated the land. But I have no place to go,” said Sujith. Finally Sujith had to agree to give an undertaking to the police OIC in writing that he would vacate the land today (February 1) so that he would not be remanded.
However Sujith earlier met area’s former Parliamentarian Sarath Gunaratne who has promised to give him a plot of land at Pitipana within a month. But the former MP has told him that if he did not vacate the land where he is now there would not be chance of him getting anything.
“I was promised a land within a month. But in case if I don’t get that and I don’t know what I could do. At this point I cannot afford to rent out a house,” Sujith said.
"The Divisional Secretariat has failed to carry out its duties. Besides there are two State ministers including State Minister for Housing in Negombo. It is a shame that a family living in a State Housing Minister’s village itself had to go through what this poor family was going through,”
- Gampaha District MP Kavinda Jayawardhana
Make-shift house the family was living more than a year
‘Family agreed to vacate the land’- Police OIC
When contacted the Officer-In-Charge of Dungalpitiya police station, Chief Inspector P. M. S. C. Ranasinghe told Daily Mirror that an inquiry was conducted on a complaint made by the Grama Niladhari (GN) in the area that Sujith and the family had returned to the same place violating the court order. We summoned him and explained the situation. Sujith Fernando who visited the police station yesterday agreed to vacate the land,” the OIC said.
Though poor, Sujith was independent and was living in his own house till July 18, 2019, the day on which a massive sea wave hit his house located by the sea in Doowa, the village in which several generations of his ancestors lived. It was the first time that sea erosion was severe in the area where inhabitants did not worry about any harm from the sea. According to the environmentalists, the sea erosion was a direct impact of Port City project, where there was heavy dredging of sea sands from the sea off Negombo coastal area. The Coast Conservation Department officials who visited the site on July 2019 directed that Sujith and the family vacate the house immediately. The officials also later gave a letter telling him to get an alternative land from the Divisional Secretariat as it was dangerous to live in his own house by the sea.
With the letter from the Coast Conservation Department, the family had initially moved to a relative’s house with much hope that they would get a house from the government or would get a state land to build a house. But Sujith went through the bureaucratic system visiting several government offices like the Divisional Secretariat, Disaster Management Centre offices and the Coast Conservation Department without success.
The Divisional Secretariat has said no state land was available in Negombo.
As the relatives wanted the house, Sujith with his four children including 17-year-old daughter who is sitting for her Advanced level examination next year, 14-year-old daughter studying in Grade 9 and two sons aged eight and two and eight months had to put up a temporary hut at a government land and there they were living for nearly one year. But from today, (February 1) Sujith has no idea where he could go with his family.
Gampaha District Parliamentarian Kavinda Jayawardhana who visited Sujith’s family has agreed to help to build a house if a land could be obtained. “This problem is completely due to the incompetence of the Divisional Secretariat and the political authorities in the area,” the MP said.
"I was promised a land within a month. But in case if I don’t get that and I don’t know what I could do. At this point I cannot afford to rent out a house,”
- Sujith Fernando
Sujith and the family
“This family had its own house with legal documents. These are people who had a legal land with a legal deed. But it was washed away and the Coast Conservation Department has issued a document to the Divisional Secretary recommending that it was dangerous to live in the original place they were living and they should be given an alternative land,” MP Jayawardhana said.
“The Divisional Secretariat has failed to carry out its duties. Besides there are two State ministers including State Minister for Housing in Negombo. It is a shame that a family living in a State Housing Minister’s village itself had to go through what this poor family was going through,” he said.
“They cannot be sent from pillar to post. They also have some dignity,” MP Jaywardhana said adding that he provided some financial assistance to the family and promised that he would help them to build the house.
“I also think the court was not given the right information about this poor family. I think the Divisional Secretary should also be summoned to courts,” the Parliamentarian added.
“I would be glad if the government could give me a plot of land but if not I want to buy a small land and start building a house. I don’t want my children to suffer like this,” Sujith said, indicating he was expecting support from somewhere.
If anyone wishes to help Sujith his bank account number is K. M. Sujith Namal Fernando, Account no 034-2001-4-6869221 People’s Bank Branch at Fishing market in Pitipana and he could be contacted on 0715909474.
If anyone wishes to help Sujith his bank account number is K. M. Sujith Namal Fernando, 034-2001-4-6869221 People’s Bank Branch at Fishing market in Pitipana and he could be contacted on 0715909474.
mohamed Sulaiman Monday, 01 February 2021 06:54 AM
Shame on you guys,how could you big shots do something like this to a poor family,Put your shoes in their place n see how you feel,Disgraceful dont forget every action has a re action,Shamefull.
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