Colombo and suburbs - transformation swift and awe-inspiring
All Governmental institutions work according to a Budget each fiscal
year. From time immemorial departments of state institutions prepare
relevant budgets for the ensuing year, allocating funds for different
activities within their respective institutions.
Some institutions earn revenue by providing services to the public
and conversely some provide services, sans revenue!
Governmental Institutions who serve and interact with the public closely
are: Provincial Councils, Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and
Pradeshiya Sabhas. Of course there are other Governmental Institutions
too such as Health and Education sectors who provide relevant services
and work very closely with the public.
The Defence Services provide their duties to the public and the
country as a whole in accordance with the regulations as defined by the
Defence Ministry as are many other Ministries. The majority of the
Ministries serve the public providing free services at the cost of the
UDA and SLLRC
This then is my cue to hone in on the Urban Development Authority,
popularly known by the acronym ‘UDA’ which has been in existence for a
long time developing the urban and suburban areas of the country.
The Sri Lanka Land Development and Rehabilitation Corporation (SLLRDC)
is another institution developing flooded or waste land. Of late these
Institutions have come under preview of the Defence Ministry.
With these two Institutions listed above performing their duties in
their fields of activity, may I ask what has been the progress or
noteworthy development, visibly and tangibly carried out prior to when
they were placed under the Ministry of Defence?
As one ponders awhile to respond to the above question, would you not
concur that since of late, at least after the UDA and SLLRDC came under
the wing of Ministry of Defence, there has been significantly rapid
improvement and progress of work in the city of Colombo and the suburbs.
The transformation has been so swift that it is awe-inspiring to
observe the development systematically and tastefully carried out apace.
In this scenario one must highlight and appreciate the work performed
by the state institutions. Should not the private sector too give a
helping hand in this inspiring and noteworthy development especially as
with such unprecedented progress, privately held lands and real-estate
too have appreciated in value exponent?
The most visible development has been the ‘Old Race Course’ building
renovation. These colonial edifices were an’ eye sore’ and virtually
crumbling! Yet after it came under development of the revamped UDA, and
indeed within a very short time it sprang up to stand beautifully and
majestically, restoring the ancient colonial architecture back to
existence and to its former glory.
This has been now put into good use bringing valuable revenue to the
coffers. Simultaneously the surroundings too were developed. The roads
and pavements in the vicinity which were sometimes virtual ‘ death traps
‘ were repaired and paved artistically and beautifully with colourful
cement blocks. Today even the blind can walk unhesitatingly and without
The old race course grounds were levelled and re-grassed’ and today
the beautifully manicured turf is being used as a top-notch sporting
venue, notably rugby.
The adjoining lands which had been neglected or ‘ignored’ were
suddenly transformed to resemble leisure parks! In the meantime, all
surrounding parapet walls came down in keeping with the ‘open-air
concept’, spotlighting the ‘hidden’ buildings – for instance the former
Auditor General’s Department complex and even the Sri Lanka Broadcasting
Corporation buildings suddenly came ‘into view’.
These and other such valuable lands occupied by numerous state
institutions too came under development. New perennial shade trees were
planted and the play-grounds spruced up and maintained as lawns with
well paved and lit pathways for use by a grateful public.
Similarly the old Dutch Hospital in the heart of Fort which was in a
thoroughly neglected state and a sight for sore eyes was renovated in
keeping with its past glory and today it is one of best addresses in
town as a business centre for the promotion of trade and tourism,
patronised by people of all walks of life. Not to be outdone the Pettah
area too is being developed and very soon the notorious congestion in
these areas will be eased. With CHOGAM in sight, the City was given a
face-lift with attractive flower plants and shade trees planted in every
nook and corner of the capital, especially the Galle Road. The Victoria
Park was developed too to resemble Peradeniya gardens. It is heartening
to observe that newly planted plants are well tended to regularly.
It is patently clear that the workforce carrying out the renovation
work are from the Tri Forces who are put in to good use after being
engaged in a brutal terrorist war of over three long decades. Their
inherent talents of engineering and civil construction skills have been
show-cased for the national cause.
It was no doubt a master-stroke by the Government and the Ministry of
Defence to make use of the Tri Forces without merely confining them,
unproductively to their barracks.
To carry out all aforementioned development work the core cost is
obviously the cost of materials only as planning and workmanship was
borne by personnel of the armed forces. What an immense saving was
effected by using the services of the skilled workmanship of the Armed
Forces! It is of paramount importance to mention that a burning issue of
slum-dwellers was focused upon and all unauthorised constructions done
away with and the inhabitants who were less privileged, found alternate
accommodation with adequate creature-comforts which they had never
Some of the existing dwellings which were in a neglected state from
literally the time they were built were renovated with additional
facilities, to the satisfaction of the dwellers.
Easily one of the most attractive and eye-catching development work
was the reclamation and development of the Battaramulla, Pelawatta and
Kimbulawela marshes, mangroves and waste lands now converted to
recreational parks. Natural lakes and-water streams which were clogged
up and covered with ‘water hyacinth’ (Eichhornia crassipes) which
invariably becomes a harmful aquatic and invasive plant like Salvinia
(especially Salvinia molesta) a floating fern – when growth is robust
and unchecked, poses a hindrance to lakes, especially in warm climates
that we have as then the Salviniya, like the water hyacinth become an
invasive weed have to be removed.
Such affected water-bodies been duly dredged and cleared up. These
areas were identified as some of the main causes for the flooding of the
Parliamentary Complex and the surrounding areas. Today these same
locations have been developed systematically whilst preserving the
environment and its natural beauty and transformed to leisure parks.
These areas were shunned earlier by the public as they were a haven
for pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts etc associated with nefarious
Today people of all walks of life use these areas freely for
recreational purposes after a hard-day’s work!
New paths, well paved with adequate lighting utilising Solar Energy
and surrounded by greenery have been made available for the use of
public, safely and well into the night. Restaurants with affordable
costs and hygienic food are available throughout the day. Most
importantly what is paramount is security, especially for ‘women folk’
who could now move about without a care in the world as well manned
uniformed security personnel under state control patrol the area
vigilantly. Ample parking facilities in these locations have enhanced
its image as a ‘must visit’ spot.
Simultaneously development of the marshy areas in the Bellanwila Bird
Sanctuary has commenced. The SLLDRC has converted the marshes to look
like lakes and very soon this area too would be developed similar to
Battaramulla, Pelawatta areas. The frequent threat of floods in this
area then will be a thing of the past.
This reminds me of Singapore where development took place
systematically and gradually over a long period of time when their hero
‘Lee Kuan Yew’ transformed that small island in to a paradise-state.
In Sri Lanka too we have only embarked to develop the city and the
suburbs during the past three years or so, but perhaps we can match up
to Singapore or even out-do Singapore in areas of cleanliness and urban
planning within a short period of time due to the commitment and
dedication of the ‘state sponsor’ and the 'brain child' responsible for
this marvellous transformation.
Of late we have observed that there have been less incidents of
indiscipline, especially after dark due to the presence of well armed
security personnel patrolling in and around the city and suburbs. We
have observed the police and personnel of Special Task Force patrol from
dusk to dawn giving necessary protection to the public whilst being well
prepared for any eventuality. To assist the security personnel CCTV
cameras have been installed at strategic points.
Refering to the backdrop of the on-going remarkable development, it
is relevant and pertinent to place on record that we had the same
governmental departments and organisations in existence then and the
same public servants from the top-most ranks to the lowest of the ranks
performing their duties, then. So were the Tri Forces and Police
department performing their duties during this period.
Here's a hypothetical poser: Why hadn't the very same public
servants, departments and institutions performed their duties in a
similar manner during such a short period of time to transform the city
and suburbs to the situation it is in today as described above, earlier
- before advent of revamped UDA?
Ironically were not the same resources and expertise available for
proper use to give the tax payer what they deserved?
The officials in high positions who were decision makers should be
ashamed to witness the excellent work carried out during the past three
years or so, giving a complete face-lift to the city and suburbs which
could have been done even in a small way by these very same officials
and institutions had they applied themselves positively and
Now that the example has been set and as 'seeing is believing'
everyone, irrespective of their positions should 'pull their socks up'
and get down to do a job of work to take the excellent work done
hitherto forward and beyond. Similar development or even better work
could be performed at district level harnessing all resources available,
especially of the Tri-Forces who are present in numbers in every
The public have observed the disciplined manner the Tri-Forces have
assisted the other Governmental Organisations in this important
development process. We are truly proud of our heroic Armed Forces who
not only freed us from terrorism but are now doing so much, apart from
offering us security, to beautify earlier neglected lands and restoring
old buildings to their former glory - we really owe them all a debt of
There should be a positive and rapid change in the lethargic attitude
of the 'servants of the public' who are maintained by the tax-payer and
give the public a fair deal by harnessing all expertise and resources
available to offer facilities they richly deserve.
All this was achieve due to the courage and dedication of Secretary
Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
You really are 'a true statesman' - an unflappable, courageous
officer and gentleman. Do continue your excellent work, transforming
this whole island to the paradise it really should be with strict
discipline and commitment.