Alienation of state properties through Selendiva Investments Limited challenged in SC

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A Fundamental Rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court today by an engineer, seeking an order to prevent the Treasury Secretary from taking any steps to sell, lease or alienate state properties, vested with Selendiva Investments Limited Company or any subsidiary of this company.

The petitioner G. Kapila Renuka Perera, Secretary of the Professional’s National Front Sri Lanka (PNF) filed this petition through Attorney-at-Law Dharshana Weraduwage. The petitioner said he is filing this petition in a bid to protect public property and to combat misuse and waste of public property.

The petitioner has named Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, the Director General of Department of Public Enterprises P.A.S. Athula Kumara, Selendiva Investments Limited, Auditor General W.P.C. Wickremaratne, Security and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka, Colombo Stock Exchange, the Registrar General of Companies, Hotel Developers (Lanka) PLC, Hotels Colombo (1963) Ltd, Bank of Ceylon, Canwill Holdings (Private) Limited, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd, The Monetary Board (CBSL), Litro Gas Lanka Ltd, Urban Development Authority, Secretary to the Cabinet, Selendiva Leisure Investments Limited and Attorney General as respondents.

The Petitioner states that, on or around the 18th of May, 2021, he had seen a press briefing of cabinet decisions which included information relating to several approved proposals including; State-owned Canwill Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, Hotel Developers (Lanka) PLC and Hotels Colombo Ltd which have been already vested in Selendiva Investments Ltd at present.

The petitioner said Selendiva Investments Ltd has been incorporated in accordance with a Cabinet approval granted on or around 24th of March 2020 with 100% ownership vested with Secretary to the Treasury to form a state-owned Property Development Company with the objective of transforming the State-Owned Hospitality Portfolios to optimum performance level through appropriate restructuring.

He said that an Investment Facilitation Model based on Public Private Partnership has been planned by Selendiva Investments Ltd with a view to facilitating the identified state-owned institutes and investments. It has been identified to implement three investment portfolios as ‘Heritage Square in Colombo Fort’, ‘Real Estate Development’ and ‘State-Owned Hospitality Sector’, the petitioner added.

The Petitioner said the proposal made by the Prime Minister to bring Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd. (Grand Hyatt), Hotel Developers Pvt. Ltd. (Hilton) and the Grand Oriental Hotel under a single entity jointly owned by the General Treasury, Bank of Ceylon and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, was approved by the Cabinet.

The petitioner further said that cabinet decision dated on or around 17th of May, 2017 is said to have authorized the Selendiva Investments Ltd to utilize the services of Foreign or domestic Consultants or Marketing Companies to assist and promote its affairs contrary to the Government Procurement Procedures.

The Petitioner said that in the event the respondents attempting to implement the cabinet decision made on or around the 17th of May, 2021 which includes the incorporation of the Selendiva Investments Ltd and Selendiva Leisure Investments Limited would create a vehement breach of Rule of Law of the Country.  The petitioner further feared it could create irreparable damages to the cultural heritage of the country since some of the properties contemplated to be vested with the Selendiva Investments Ltd are said to be Historic and architecturally valuable buildings listed to be preserved including in the City of Colombo Development Plan 1999.

The petitioner further said it could deprive the petitioner and the citizenry of this country access to salient historical, archaeological, architecturally valuable sites located in the said lands if this cabinet decision was implemented.

The Petitioner further said that unless the respondents are stayed from implementing the said decision, irreparable damages shall be made to the public properties of the said qualities and irreparable impact on the Fundamental Rights of the petitioner and on the Fundamental Rights of all the citizenry of the Republic as well as the said rights of the generations to come.

Meanwhile, the petitioner has sought Supreme Court’s permission to nominate a Special Bench for the disposal of this petition in terms of Article 132(3) (iii) of the Constitution.

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