The alleged land in controversy and how Sigiriya looks from there
- The issue with the said property is that it falls in the category which makes owners of such properties unable to transfer ownership
- Jayasuriya has said that regarding investigations that are going on he had contacted cricketer Kumar Sangakkara whose name has been allegedly dragged into this issue
- There is no political issue involved in this matter and the only issue is the sight of the Sigiriya Rock from this land
The sport of cricket continues to attract bad publicity and this time its retired cricketer Kumar Sangakkara whose name is linked with a an alleged fraudulent land sale in Sigiriya Mailaththawa area. The story unfolds of how an elderly and ailing couple was approached by an individual who has promised them help in return for being granted powers as the caretaker of the land apart from being given possession of the documents that supports ownership to this land.
With the news of this land appearing in the newspapers he has said that he is not in a position to finalise this matter. We now face serious difficulties in having no land and we are in constant fear that our lives are in danger
Ethul Pedige Padmini
The issue with this said property is that it falls in the category which makes owners of such properties unable to transfer ownership. According to Dambulla Divisional Secretary Piyal Jayasuriya there has been an alleged fraud regarding a transfer of a land. Jayasuriya has said that regarding investigations that are going on he had contacted cricketer Kumar Sangakkara whose name has been dragged into this issue.
Document pertaining to the land
Letter sent by Kumar Sangakkara to Registrar General of Lands complaining about the alleged land fraud
The lady who laments about giving away her land is Ethul Pedige Padmini. When we contacted her she had this to say. “The gentleman who came to get the land written in his name promised to look after us until we die. A date has now been fixed for the operation at the Kandy Hospital, but we have no money to travel to the hospital. With the news of this land appearing in the newspapers he has said that he is not in a position to finalise this matter. We now face serious difficulties in having no land and we are in constant fear that our lives are in danger,” said Padmini.
Padmini is said to have transferred this land in Sigiriya Mailaththawa area through the Dambulla Divisional Secretariat.
She said that a person by the name of Warnakulasuriya Mudiyanselage Ihalagedara Sanjeewa Asela was entrusted with duties as the caretaker of this land and house in Sigiriya Mailewa area as he was providing necessary medical attention to her. Accordingly all documents that supports ownership and the right to this land have all been vested with this person.
With the news of the ownership of this land having been transferred to a person it has been revealed by social media, through information obtained under the Right to Information Act, that the family which obtained the services of the caretaker maintains that despite the latter having promised to look after them he is now avoiding settling the financial commitments he has to this family.
At present Padmini and H.M. Wimalasiri, her husband, reside in this land which is located in close proximity to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress; the place offering a panoramic view of the Sigiriya Rock and its vicinity.
Economic setbacks and heart ailments prevent them from earning an income and make them depend solely on aid provided by the villagers. The family undergoing severe difficulties was provided with food on International Women’s Day by Dambulla Mayor Jaliya Opatha. Padmini is now unable to move about and refrains from speaking on medical advice.
Her husband Wimalasiri, who spoke on Padmini’s behalf, narrated that the extent of the land was ninety perches and it belongs to his wife. “We are ailing and nobody cares for us. Mr. Sangakkara owns the land adjoining ours; which is near the lake. My wife constantly falls sick and Sanjeewa, who is looking after the land belonging to Sangakkara, visits us and provides us with food and drinks. He helps us in providing transport to obtain medical facilities. These acts prompted us to vest this land in his name. We handed him all the documents connected with this land and in return he promised to look after us as long as we live. His promise to get us our medicine helped him win our hearts. We never thought that he would transfer the ownership of this land to someone else. The view of Sigiriya rock from our land and its sheer beauty are the only comforts we now cherish after having lost our land and suffering chronic diseases,” said Wimalasiri.
I hastened to call Kumar Sangakkara to inform him that a fraud had been committed and investigations would be carried out in connection with the actions of the Grama Niladhari. I also kept the District Secretary updated of this situation
Dambulla Divisional Secretary Piyal Jayasuriya
Land sales halted
Mayor of Dambulla Jaliya Opatha making a visit to the land and doing an observation of the dejected family said that many people are leveling charges against the political authorities of the area including the Minister. No sooner Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon heard about this matter he summoned all the divisional secretariats of the area and ordered the halt of all land sales in the District. There is no political issue involved in this matter and the only issue is the sight of the Sigiriya Rock from this land.
“We admit that tourism must develop and hotels should come up, but it should not be done at the expense of the lives of innocent people. It is a time when aged parents are dragged out of their dwellings and dumped on the roadside.
“I was the first to complain to the Commissioner General of Lands on the alleged fraud”
- I told the broker that we need to purchase this land legally following proper legal procedure
- I don’t want to buy lands with distorted details about ourselves and told him to immediately stop the transfer of the land
- I was aware about the fraudulent activities relating to lands sales and I was the first to complain on this
- Following this complaint the Commissioner General of Lands thanked me for doing it as a responsible citizen
“I came to know about this land from a trustworthy person in Dambulla whom I knew for last ten years. It is he who looks after my other lands in Dambulla. One day he told me about another land in Dambulla. I didn’t check the files relating to this plot of land but only checked the deed. It was through a broker that purported land purchase took place. According to him there was no necessity to go to Dambulla and see the land and he said that he could arrange everything. “According to what he said through the Divisional Secretariat all the documents could be arranged legally with regard to the purchase of the land. Then we gave him all the necessary documents pertaining to us along with money with regard to purchase of the land.
“When the deeds were to be signed I realised that there was an issue. The details we gave were not properly indicated in the documents. There it was mentioned that we are a low-income family and I objected to that. I told the broker that we need to purchase this land legally following proper legal procedure but it had not happened. I don’t want to buy lands with distorted details about ourselves and told him to immediately stop the transfer of this land.
“Subsequently On January 5, I made a complaint to the Land Registrar General and it was following this complaint that the Grama Seva Niladari was interdicted. I was aware about the fraudulent activities relating to lands sales and I was the first to complain on this. It was following this complaint that the Commissioner General of Lands thanked me for doing it as a responsible citizen.
As a citizen I could only make a complaint and it is up to the responsible authorities act on this” said Kumar Sangakkara.
It is now evident that very discreetly this family had been deprived of their lifelong assets with the mere promise of being cared for until death. This is a serious issue.
They are now not in possession of any document to prove ownership of the land,” said Opatha.
When inquired about this matter Dambulla Divisional Secretary Piyal Jayasuriya claimed that he came to know of it only on January 2. “Forged documents had been prepared. Kumar Sangakkara speaking to me over the phone on January 3 said that he had found an investor for his land in Sigiriya and sought my approval for an investment programme to be implemented on his land.
I have known this lady for more than 10 years and that is why I decided to vest this land with her. She is the one who gave me money to be given to the elderly couple. Therefore I requested one Warnasuriya and Senevi to attend to the documentation in transferring the ownership of this land. I did not get involved
Warnakulasuriya Mudiyanselage Ihalagedara Sanjeewa Asela
I replied that no approval is necessary for an investment programme to be implemented on a private land. This conversation was then joined by one Sanjeewa who stated that the approval is not for the land belonging to Sangakkara but for a recently transferred land. I replied that no permission had been granted for this project. Later I realised on the same day that forged documents including identity cards had been submitted to obtain my approval.
“I hastened to call Kumar Sangakkara to inform him that a fraud had been committed and investigations would be carried out in connection with the actions of the Grama Niladhari. I also kept the District Secretary updated of this situation. Accordingly on January 11 the Grama Niladhari, who signed the documents, was suspended from service and presently investigations into the preparation of forged documents are continuing.
It is a time when aged parents are dragged out of their dwellings and dumped on the roadside. It is now evident that very discreetly this family had been deprived of their lifelong assets with the mere promise of being cared for until death. This is a serious issue. They are now not in possession of any document to prove ownership of the land
Mayor of Dambulla Jaliya Opatha
We also sought the views of the Colony officer of the Dambulla Divisional Secretariat Shanaka Warnasuriya who was entrusted by the Dambulla Divisional Secretary with the examination of documents connected with the transfer of lands. In his reply he stated that he had performed his duties in accordance with the regulations. “A woman who resembled the transferee appeared before me and after comparing the photo in the NIC with the person physically present before me I did not find vast differences in the appearance and accordingly I authorised the identity,” said Warnasuriya.
We also met the Grama Niladhari of Dambulla Ihala Erawula Laxman Premarathne who is presently on interdiction from service. Excerpts of the discussion we had with him appear below.
Q What have you got to say about this matter?
I have done my duty in keeping with the law.
Q Where does the woman to whom you gave the certificate of residence reside?
She showed me that she resides at that place.
Q Have you visited her place of residence?
No I haven’t. It is only a month since I accepted this appointment. I did not have much knowledge of the locality. There was no issue perusing the NIC and reading the resident address.
Q You mean that you did not inquire about this woman and also how did you give the certificate of residence when her husband’s name was also included?
True such a name was not there in the Voters list as well. I requested for a letter of change of residence. What was written was from the contents in that letter.
A woman who resembled the transferee appeared before me and after comparing the photo in the NIC with the person physically present before me I did not find vast differences in the appearance and accordingly I authorised the identity
Colony officer of Dambulla Divisional Secretariat Shanaka Warnasuriya
Q From where was the letter of change of residence obtained?
I cannot remember now, but I may be able to show that at the preliminary investigations.
Q Is she the woman who brought the documents relating to the change of residence?
No these documents were brought by a person known to me. It is mentioned in these documents that she is only a temporary resident.
Q Here are the documents. Kindly show me where you have written this fact. (These documents were obtained through the Right to Information Act)
Are these the only documents? The name does not appear here.
Q The Colony Officer said that a woman was brought into the District Secretariat who resembled that person?
I do not know that.
Q Then have you ever met Yehali Peiris and famous cricketer Kumar Sangakkara or seen them in person?
No I have only seen them in TV channels and not met them in person.
Q Do you know the person who produced these documents?
Yes I have known him for a long time and he resides close to my home
Q Did you oblige him when a request was made?
I signed them because I had confidence in him
Q When a Grama Niladhari has to issue a Certificate of residence does he simply act when someone makes a request for one without making relevant inquiries?
There was written evidence regarding leaving of residence, income and the type of occupation was mentioned as farming. I have mentioned accordingly.
Q Good. can you show me that letter?
I will produce that at the investigations.
Q The Governor of Central Province had mentioned about an incident regarding admission of one of your children to a school?
That is a canard. None of my children are attending schools in Kandy. Only one daughter of mine is continuing her schooling.
Letter issued by Commissioner General of Lands, Keerthi Gamage to Sangakkara thanking for informing the alleged fraud
In the course of our inquiry we were able to meet Warnasuriya Mudiyanselage Ihalagedara Sanjeewa Asela, who is the caretaker of a land belonging to Kumar Sangakkara. He has placed his signature as a witness in the land transfer documents.
He said that he helped this elderly couple as they begged of him to help them continue living and obtain medicine. “I have now fallen into difficulties by trying to help someone.
“I have known this lady for more than 10 years and that is why I decided to vest this land with her. She is the one who gave me money to be given to the elderly couple. Therefore I requested one Warnasuriya and Senevi to attend to the documentation in transferring the ownership of this land. I did not get involved. They were the people who got these documents prepared and I am not a party to this act,” said Asela.
When inquired from Warnasuriya he denied accepting any documents. He admitted that there were Brokers involved in buying and selling land and they earn commissions through the sale of lands.
When the deeds were to be signed I realised that there was an issue. The details we gave were not properly indicated in the documents. There it was mentioned that we are a low-income family and I objected to that. I told the broker that we need to purchase this land legally following proper legal procedure
With regards to this land transfer we made an inquiry about it from Kumar Sangakkara who forwarded to us a letter signed by Commissioner of Lands Lakmalie Jayasinghe.
This letter makes reference to a letter dated 2021/01/05 thanking him for his honesty. She adds that proper action would be taken after discussions with the Dambulla Divisional Secretary.
This letter is addressed to both Kumar Sangakkara and Yehali Sangakkara.
Sangakkara says he and wife were misled
An attempt made allegedly by Yehali Sangakkara, the wife of former cricketer Kumar Sangakkara to obtain a government land close to Sigiriya using fraudulent documents is another version to the story. Kumar said that he and his wife were misled into creating the documents related to the land. Further investigations regarding the incident have revealed details of many more large-scale illicit land deals in Dambulla and Sigiriya areas. Kumar has made a complaint to the Commissioner General of Lands on January 5 when he felt that the transfer had been carried out in a fraudulent manner. He owns another four acre plot of land, close to the land in question, which he has obtained following the proper procedure. Reportedly plans have been made to transfer the land next to his four acre land using fraudulent documents.
The truth of this fraudulent land deal was revealed in an unusual manner. Dambulla Divisional Secretariat Piyal Jayasooria said that he had signed the documents to transfer the land to its new transferor from Arawula, Dambulla on December 11, 2020. On January 3, Sangakkara has phoned the Divisional Secretariat requesting his permission to start a business in his newly bought land. The Divisional Secretariat had replied that since Sangakkara has the ownership he does not have to ask for permission. When Sangakkara said the permission was not for the old land but for his new land the Divisional Secretariat has inquired about the new land.
Sangakkara has then contacted his dealer with the Divisional Secretariat with a conference call and has discussed about the land. (A recording of this conversation is available). After rechecking the files, the Divisional Secretariat has detected the fraudulent activity. He then has proceeded to report the incident to Matale District Secretariat and to the Land Commissioner General on January 4. Duly completed forms to transfer a land have been sent to the Divisional Secretariat to which he has placed his signature. When rechecking the files based on what Sangakkara had said he has identified the fraud connected with the deal. Sangakkara had received information about the land from W. G. I. Sanjeewa Asela whom he has known for ten years. Sanjeewa Asela has asked Sangakkara to buy the land. He has also told him that the deed and the ownership of the land would be transferred to him legally.
Following Sangakkara’s inquiry the Divisional Secretariat proceeded to find out about the woman who transferred the land. It has been revealed that there were no details about a woman said to be from Arawula. According to data in the Divisional Secretariat the woman was not a resident of the said Grama Niladhari Division. She was not registered in the Divisional Secretariat. Her NIC number was the same as Yehali’s. The Grama Niladhari who forged those documents has been interdicted.
Kumar Sangakkara maintains that details in the documents used in the transfer of the land have been changed. When Kumar informed the Land Commissioner General, the Commissioner had sent him a letter thanking him for informing about the land issue.
In the parcel fabric map check of the land, it has been revealed that the Athugal Pedige Padimini does not have a deed of transfer to her land which she transferred to Yehali Sangakkara. The question here is how Padmini with a land permit got a vesting certificate to transfer her land.
According to Kumar he owns only two acres. He has agreed to buy the land as the dealer has promised to fulfill all the necessities of the land in question and because the Divisional Secretariat had all the details of the land.
Dambulla Divisional Secretariat Piyal Jayasooriya said that an extensive investigation has been commenced with regards to the said land issue.
Matale District Secretariat S. M. G. K. Perera said that a wide investigation would be conducted and legal action would be taken against those who supported this deal.
Addressing the Matale District Coordinating Committee, Central Province Governor, Attorney-at-law Lalith U. Gamage said that illegal obtaining of lands belonging to low-income families is a grave offence. He said that a formal investigation should be conducted and the deeds of these lands should be taken to the government and they should be distributed to low-income families in Matale.