Oct 08, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has rapped a former president for abuse of power and reversed a controversial transfer of state land to a private developer in a landmark case, a court official said. Justice Shirani Tilekewardene delivering the judgement has observed that a president exercises power in trust for the public.

The transfer of state land, which was originally a marsh that was used for flood retention purposes in the low-lying area, has long been a controversy.

The land was transferred through a 99-year lease.

The land was developed by Sri Lanka’s Access group.

The lease is to be cancelled within a month and the transfer back to state completed within four months, a UDA official said. The Supreme Court ordered the return of land on which the ‘Water’s Edge’ golf course was built to the government’s Urban Development Authority within a month.

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who was involved in the sale of the land was ordered to pay three million rupees as compensation, lawyers said.