An Open Letter to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
by P.Elmo J de Silva
The war is now over and the people of Sri Lanka are grateful to you for your contribution towards the country’s victory.
The government should now look at the post war scenario and formulate a development strategy for the City of Colombo.
The best and prime property in the Business District is occupied by the Armed Forces; this perhaps is a legacy from Colonial times when Colombo was a garrison city at the same time being the principal port and administrative centre.
The time is now right for us to move on, and as you have the unique position as chairman of the UDA and Defence Secretary, it is possible for you to address the situation and make these important changes. Around 500 acres of prime land are occupied by the Armed forces with the country’s five star city hotels, banks and commercial buildings clustered in the same area.
A few years ago an attempt was made by the UDA; the required land was acquired in Kotte for this purpose and preliminary plans were drawn by each of the selected consultants for each Service. Four architectural practices were selected to prepare plans for the relocation of the Army, Navy, Air force and Police. Unfortunately, due to the escalation of hostilities the projects were delayed and subsequently abandoned.
The time is opportune for change. Sri Lanka is marketing itself as a premier tourist destination, but faces a shortage of hotel rooms in the city together with urban recreational spaces and common areas.
It is also important to show the world that the city is free of appearances of war and that a new era of peace has dawned, replacing the tensions of the past and that Colombo will soon become a desirable capitol city to work in and visit.
This relocation will open up prime property in the heart of the city and also the sea front, and provide much needed land for expansion of the existing hotel, the construction of new hotels, office and financial buildings and setting up recreational facilities. Prime property will bring prime prices.
The process will have to be phased out with a Master plan identifying these areas and the sale of these plots of land can cross subsidise the expenditure of relocating the armed forces.
Ideally, the armed forces can be decentralised and housed in their own cantonment. The Navy can have its headquarters in Trincomalee/ Hambantota, the Army in strategic positions in and around the country. The Ministry of Defence and the Police headquarters could be moved to Sri Jayewardenepura where the land has been acquired by the UDA. The Air force can be located in Katunayake.
This will certainly give the construction industry the kick start it desperately needs and also would help beautify the city and restore Colombo to its former glory as the Garden City of the East.
(P. Elmo J De Silva is Chartered Architect / Town Planner)