Bulldozed.... and now abandoned
The Ambalangoda Rest House, a building of historical significance
dating back to the Dutch rule in Sri Lanka, was demolished in 2008
without any prior notice. Later a portion of the land was sold to a
private developer looking to construct a modern tourist hotel. Both the
demolition of the Rest House and the sale of the land have been deemed
illegal, amidst allegations of large scale corruption and
misappropriation of funds. Seven years on... the land, partly covered by
scrub jungle has become a haven for miscreants and their nefarious
Now a lorry park
The sleepy seaside town of Ambalangoda was once known as the Cinnamon
Town and deemed a place of significance because of the economic value
placed on cinnamon, a commodity found in abundance in the area.
The Dutch administrators monopolized the management of the cinnamon
industry, and the high officials who regularly visited the area to check
on the cinnamon processing and packaging, used a house built on a rocky
out- crop, with a panoramic view of the sea, as their base.
This was the origins of the famous Ambalangoda Resthouse, which over
time gained great historical and cultural significance.
It was viewed as a showpiece building of great architectural value
and a landmark on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka by both residents and
visitors (local and foreign) alike. Adjoining the Rest House is the
Dutch Period Courthouse, with its remand cell for the convicted.
Fishermen from the area have been using this cell for many years as a
storeroom for their fishing gear.
In a tale of contrasting development of two Dutch period buildings,
the Rest House though run down due to neglect, was demolished in 2008
without any thought to its historic and cultural significance, while the
Courthouse, had come under the Department of Archaeology and is being
preserved as a historic monument.
The demolition of the Ambalangoda Rest House, allegedly on the
instructions of the then Chairman of Ruhuna Tourist Bureau, shocked the
residents of Ambalangoda town, who couldn't quite understand the haste
with which a historic building was being rendered to dust. Reportedly
the demolition team, had on the instructions of the then Chairman of
Ruhuna Tourist Bureau (RTB), removed the valuable timber and the antique
doors, door posts, widows ,window posts and furniture, prior to
flattening the structure. The demolition had been done without the
knowledge of Anura Pradeep, the then Chairman of the Ambalangoda Urban
Council (UC). Councillors of the governing UPFA and the opposition UNP
lodged a complaint with the Ambalangoda Police against the RTB for the
illegal demolition of the Rest House, which was the property of the
The Councillors accused the former chairman of RTB of colluding with
the Southern Provincial Council to demolish the Resthouse.
They alleged that the former chairman had subsequently sold the
equipment, kitchen utensils, timber , furniture and window and door
posts, along with truck loads of lime stones and roofing material for
several lakhs of rupees and deposited only Rs.750,000 into the UC
account, in response to critical arguments during the monthly meetings .
The management of the Rest House was formerly handed over to the
Urban Development Authority, in 1982, with the stipulation that 90% of
the income earned by the Resthouse be transferred to the account of the
Ambalangoda UC. This was during the reign of assassinated President
The UDA leased out the property to a private hotelier based in
Weligama for a monthly rent of Rs.70, 000. However, reports reveal that
the hotelier had repeatedly defaulted on payment, accruing a debt of
several millions of rupees, while at the same time depriving the
Ambalangoda UC millions of rupees in revenue.
According to the then Opposition Leader of the Ambalangoda UC, J. W.
Jayantha, corruption and mismanagement had been rife in the Ambalangoda
Resthouse ever since its management was handed over to the UDA.
Arrears in rent
In the course of numerous monthly UC meetings, it was also revealed
that a UDA officer who had been assigned to discuss the outstanding
arrears in rent had subsequently become an intimate friend of the
hotelier who had leased the Resthouse from the UDA. Resultantly, the
exact amount in arrears had never been brought to the notice of the UDA.
Former Chairman of Ambalangoda UC, Aruna Pradeep, had in the
intervening years appealed to the then Minister of Local Government, to
return the management of the Resthouse to the Ambalangoda UC, stating it
had a great potential for development and could generate much needed
income for the UC.
However, Jayantha, the then Leader of the Opposition, revealed that
contrary to the request, the management of the Resthouse hand been
handed over to the Southern Provincial Council, following discussions
between Southern Province Chief Minister, Shan Wijayalal De Silva, and
the then Minister of Urban Development, Dinesh Gunawardena. This
transfer of management, the Councillors claimed in a letter forwarded to
the UC, was illegal, as the property belonged to the Ambalangoda UC, as
was the demolition and selling of the building material and furniture.
Compounding the original misdemeanour, several years alter the former
UC Chairman, leased out two acre of land where the Ambalangoda Resthouse
stood proud for more than half a century, to a private company to build
a tourist hotel.
Although the contract had been signed, the deal had not been
discussed at any of the monthly meetings of the Ambalangoda UC. Jayantha,
the former Opposition Leader, revealed that the contract had no legal
validity. The land that once proudly played host to the magnificent
RestHouse now stands neglected, making it more a shrub jungle than prime
real estate with historic significance.
Part of the land is now being used as a lorry park by businessmen in
the area. The overgrown confines have also become a haven for drug
addicts, drug traffickers, sex perverts and for individuals engaged in
various nefarious activates. Empty beer cans and liquor bottles
littering the area have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes as well.
The councillors and Ambalangoda residents are unsure what will happen
to the land that once housed a historic building, but fear the land
would be sold by the private company to another buyer. The large scale
corruption that has taken place since the day of demolition of the Rest
House has never been investigated by the relevant authorities.