Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 30 March 2014





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

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!

The 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 state.


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 any fear.

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.

Burning issue

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 enjoyed before.

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.

Invasive plant

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 activities.


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 patriotically.

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 district.

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 gratitude.

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.


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