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Life and times of a Surveyor



National Surveyors’ Day fell on March 21

A surveyor is a professional person with the academic qualifications and technical expertise to practise the science of measurement, to assemble and assess land and geographic related information, to use such information for the purpose of planning and implementing the efficient administration of land, the sea and structures thereon, and to instigate the advancement and development of such practices.

An ola leaf found in Madras, written thousands of years ago, describes a surveyor thus:

“His profession will be giving estimates of lands and areas of lands, preparing plans, bills and land charges.”

Once at a seminar, held in Colombo, a leading light of the Surveyors’ Institute said that surveying was the oldest profession. A famous surgeon contradicting this, said that surveying, though an old profession, certainly was not the oldest.

“It has been held for centuries that the oldest profession is prostitution or to put it more elegantly, street-walking,” said this renowned surgeon.

“Aha,” said a professor of Engineering “to do street-walking there must be streets. And who built streets? Engineers! Then Engineering is the oldest profession.”

“Back to square one,” said the surveyor gleefully. “For streets cannot be built without surveying being done first.”

A cynic once said that a land surveyor was a man who revels at hide and seek. He begins his job by dispatching a bewildered labourer with a red and white pole into the jungles, and then spends his time trying to locate him with the eye glued to a telescope.

The earliest reference to surveying or land measuring, is made in the Jataka Stories. According to Kurudhamma Jataka, on one occasion the king’s officers came to a border village to lay out the boundaries of a new field. The Rajjugahaka-amacca, literally, “the minister holding the measuring rope,” or in other words the Surveyor-General, gave one end of the rope to the owner of the adjoining field to hold on to his boundary and attaching the other end to a survey pole, proceeded to stretch the rope to its full measure. When about to drive the pole into the ground, he noticed that the mark was exactly on a crabhole, with the crab inside. “If I drive this pole in,” he reflected, the crab will be hurt. If I put it on one side, the king will stand to lose some of his land. If I put it on the other side the purchaser of the field will be denied his rightful extent.” This, in allegory, ventures to illustrate the integrity of the ancient surveyor.

There had been a well-ordered system of survey in ancient Ceylon, with a highly developed topographical sense. The ancient Pagodas with exact ellipsoidal shape and the low gradients of the Yoda Ela and the Jaya Ganga are marvels to be admired. The British, within four years of occupying the Maritime Areas, established the Survey Department by a proclamation, dated 2 August, 1800, issued at Point de Galle (Galle). This shows the importance the British gave to surveying, it being the first Government Department they established. Surveying developed as part of military science, hence the name Surveyor General. The first Surveyor General was Joseph Johnvillie while N.S. Perera was the first Sri Lankan Surveyor General.

The life of a surveyor was an ordeal. They pitched their own tents in the jungle, away from their loved ones, friends and relatives, for hours days and years. They had no air-conditioned offices but enjoyed the beauty of nature and the magnificent scenery, and in the night, the moon and the stars burning bright. They went to work at the break of dawn, when the birds start to sing. They had to go over difficult terrain, uneven bunds, struggle up steep hills, wade through water, walk long distances and face the hazards of the scorching sun, heavy rains, the storms and floods. Then they had to brave ticks, leeches, snakes, elephants, bears, leopards and other wild animals and live amidst mosquitoes and bouts of malaria and diarrhoea. Their camp meals were below par and had no fixed hours. The survey labourers (later survey assistants) and the shikaray (gunman) offered unstinted support. These are the stark realities of the harsh life of surveyors who were trained at the Diyatalawa Survey Camp.

Once a survey assistant was killed at Medirigiriya, by a wild elephant. At the time he was the father of an infant son. Keeping the infant in an improvised saree-cradle in his hut, his widowed wife sang this lullaby:


‘Doyya dong puthe

Bayya bang puthe

Minindoru bathe

Atha nothabang puthe’

(Beseeching the infant son, never to become a survey assistant, to lead a harsh life!).

They play a vital role in the development activities in the very important fields of agriculture, land development, irrigation, land reform, registration of title, colonization, mapping and other development projects. The surveyors were the first on land and without them it would be journeys to the realm of fantasy. Sometimes, the work of the Department was mirth-provoking. For the Bandaranaike assassination case, the Department was required to prepare a site diagram of the residence of Minister Vimala Wijewardene and to mark in it the room occupied by the Chief Incumbent Buddharakkitha Thera, and the place where he parked his car, during his nocturnal visits!

In the meantime, the trade unionists were also active. They fought for better field conditions, better camps, better pay, better postal facilities and better modes of travelling. S. R. Yapa was a militant trade unionist who had a great vision for the survey profession. He was a fiery, fearless trade unionist, far-sighted, with a no-nonsense approach. Among the other trade unionist giants were: Chappy Pate, C.S. Perera, D.L. Peiris, A.P.S. Gunawardena, M. B. Ranathunga, P.A. Robin Chandrasiri, M. Kaluthantiri, R.M. Chandrapala and several others. In 1980, lady surveyors were also recruited, in keeping with the equality of sexes promulgated in the 1978 Constitution.

They proved more than equal to the task, though the surveyors work was physically tough.

(It was noticed that with the advent of young girl-trainees, the staff of the Institute was seen better dressed!) Cupid also played his role, with several surveyor couples ending up on Poruwas. The lady Assistant Superintendents of Surveys recruited, also proved equal to the task, and went on to become a lady Surveyor General.

The Ceylon Government Ordinance No. 15 of 1889, titled the Surveyors Ordinance, gave all the authority and directions to those who opted to be private professionals in the field of land surveying. Now, it is superseded by the Survey Act No 17 of 2002. In the year 1926, the ‘Ceylon Licensed Surveyors’ Association’ was formed mainly through the efforts of Ben J. Thiedeman, H. Van Buren, M.I.L. Marikar, S. Sabaratnam, G.L. Schokman, W.P. Wickramasinghe, R.C. Dissanayake and others.

After he left school, D.S. Senanayake served in the Survey Department that came under his control years later, when he became the Minister of Agriculture and Lands. In the year 1937 he, together with G.K. Thornhill, the Surveyor General, went out of their way to help the Association. In the process Thornhill had to face an audit query. His successor L.G.O. Woodhouse was just the opposite of him. This Association was later to become the present Surveyors’ Institute of Sri Lanka. Most of its members are engaged in Court Commission Surveys with quasi-judicial powers, while in some instances they are engaged in national service, in addition to attending to the needs of the general public. In the year 1974, the Institute opened its membership to the state sector surveyors.

Mount Everest was so named after Sir George Everest, the Surveyor General of India. The first President of the United States of America, George Washington was a land surveyor. There is an interesting story about him. One day a teacher in an American School told a pupil: “Henry! at your age, George Washington was a surveyor.”

“And at your age he was the President of United States,” said the pupil.

Some survey professionals took to politics, D. S. Goonasekera and Gamini Jayasuriya were cabinet ministers. K.B. Ratnayake was a cabinet minister and also a Speaker of Parliament.

H. B. Abeyrathna was a District Minister, Sarath Welagedera and S.M. Asenkudhoos were MPs. R.L. Brohier was an outstanding surveyor produced by the Survey Department. He rose from the lower to the top most rungs of the Department. He was also a scholar, a historian, a researcher, a writer and an archaeologist. Two of his monumental works were ‘Ancient Irrigation works of Ceylon’ and ‘Land, Maps and Surveys’. In 1920, R.L.B. and his survey party were travelling through thick jungle to establish a trigonometrical station, when they surprisingly discovered the historic ‘Avukana shrine’. A digression, once Ruhunu Puthra was making an impassioned speech, at a meeting, with R.L.B. in the chair. Soon after his speech, RLB took steps to make the then 24-year-old Ruhunu Puthra an F.R.G.S.

Dr. T. Somasekeram was the head of the Institute of Surveying and Mapping at Diyatalawa for many years and retired as the Surveyor General. He was also the Chief Editor of the National Atlas and authored the book ‘Surveying Stories’, which describes vividly the life and times of the surveyors. Sunil Kusumsiri is a Licensed Surveyor who has published the book titled ‘Maimgala’ (boundary stone) in Sinhala. It provides a vivid description of the stark realities of the life of a surveyor in sylvan surroundings, sometimes laced with humour.

Across the abyss of years, the science of surveying has undergone dramatic changes with the introduction of computers, electronic distance measurements, laser technology, global positioning system using satellites, land information systems and geographical systems.

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To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur



by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!



In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL



The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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