Power sector reforms- urgent need to revisit them
by Dr Janaka Ratnasiri
The government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), in a policy decision made in 1998, expressed its commitment to power sector reforms and embarked on a programme to restructure it by unbundling the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) into separate companies for generation, transmission, and distribution, as reported in the ADB Report on Country Assistance Programme Evaluation: Power Sector Assistance Evaluation, August 2007. To give effect to this policy, a Bill was drafted to introduce reforms in the power sector as far back as 2002.
ELECTRICITY REFORMS ACT 28 OF 2002
The draft titled Electricity Reforms Bill was presented to the Parliament in 2002, outlining sector reforms comprising restructuring of the electricity industry by breaking the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Lanka Electricity Company (LECO) into several independent state-owned companies to carry out generation, transmission, and distribution functions.
The Bill proposed that independent companies be incorporated for the following purposes:
One company to take over the functions of the CEB relating to hydroelectricity generation and thermal electricity generation,
One company to take over the functions of the CEB relating to transmission and bulk procurement of electricity,
Three or more companies to take over the distribution of electricity, and
One or more companies to take over other functions of the CEB and LECO.
The Bill when presented to the Parliament brought in strong protests from many quarters including the CEB trade unions and other trade unions as well as from several political parties. They saw this Bill as an initial step towards privatizing the CEB and consequently loss of employment for its staff. Once the government gave the workers an assurance that the workers’ rights would be safeguarded, the protests died down and the Bill was passed in March 2002. It was gazetted as Electricity Reforms Act No. 28 of 2002 on 13 December 2002. However, the necessary order to give effect to the Act was not gazetted by the Minister and as a result the Act did not come into operation.
ENERGY EXPERT’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UNBUNDLING THE POWER SETOR
Prof. Priyantha Wijayatunga, Director of the South Asia Energy Division of Asian Development Bank (ADB) said at the launching of the Techno 2019 exhibition held in July 2019, that “Sri Lanka still needs to go a long way in relation to sector governance, compared to other countries in the region. It is time that we look at this closely so that we do not lag behind. Reforms will undoubtedly help the energy sector and hence the country’s economic development,” (Daily Mirror, 18.07.2019).
He specifically pointed out that improved governance in the energy sector in India and Bangladesh enormously helped conceptualizing and implementing clean energy initiatives, while enhancing their energy security. He highlighted the important role played by independent energy regulators and separation of functions of the energy sector in these countries, which had paved the way for breakthroughs in clean energy initiatives.
Prof. Wijayatunga elaborated “By now, a large majority of the countries, including many in the developing world around us, have fully unbundled the energy supply industry with a reasonably independent regulatory environment. If we look at South Asia, India and Bangladesh have already significantly advanced and are rapidly progressing in these areas,”. Further, he noted that “reforms also led to an increase in private sector participation in all sub sectors, including generation, distribution and even in transmission business in these countries”.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
The GoSL, from time to time, engaged the services of international institutions such as World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to make recommendations to improve the power sector. Among the reports produced from these studies are:
JICA Master Plan Study on the Development of Power Generation and Transmission System in Sri Lanka, February 2006,
Asian Development Bank report on Assessment of Power Sector Reforms in Sri Lanka, 2015,
JICA Report on Electricity Sector Master Plan Study in Sri Lanka, March, 2018, and
World Bank Group study on Sri Lanka Energy Infrastructure Sector Assessment Programme (InfraSAP), April 2019.
The 2006 JICA report observed that “political intervention is making it impossible for the CEB to manage itself autonomously. As a result, its management has been criticized as inefficient by external parties. Moreover, it has piled up a debt big enough to jeopardize its continued sustenance. One of the areas where politics has been heavily involved is the tariff question. Thus far, political considerations have worked against attempts to raise tariffs, and tariff revisions to reflect the costs have consequently been delayed. To put a halt to political intervention in CEB management as well, it is necessary to lay down the proper conditions for corporate business. This is to be done by unbundling the current CEB, which is a vertically integrated government-owned monopoly; making the generation, transmission, and distribution divisions completely independent”. The report further recommended that “a fundamental reform of the sector is absolutely essential for promotion of long-term investment and increase in the overall efficiency. To this end, the government must present a detailed vision and schedule for CEB unbundling, and swiftly complete the reform, which is currently stalled.” But no follow up action was taken by the GoSL towards unbundling of the CEB.
The 2015 ADB report in its concluding paragraph said that “The next stage of reform requires establishing six independent companies out of the CEB’s generation, transmission, and four distribution licensees. The organization culture in the government-owned company LECO needs to be replicated in the CEB’s distribution licensees by creating corporate entities that report to the CEB holding company. The functional business units currently established within the CEB are adequately staffed and organized to enable the formation of six corporate entities. The corporatization need not involve privatization if political decision makers do not wish to involve private capital more fully in the sector, provided the state-owned firms operate as independent commercial companies”.
The ADB report further said that “The electricity sector was proposed to be restructured to ensure increased efficiency, transparency, autonomy, accountability, competition, and financial viability. The CEB functions were to be vertically and horizontally unbundled. For this purpose, the CEB owned subsidiary companies were planned to be established under the Companies Act No. 17 of 1982. The electricity sector was proposed to be restructured to ensure increased efficiency, transparency, autonomy, accountability, competition, and financial viability. The CEB functions were to be vertically and horizontally unbundled. For this purpose, CEB owned subsidiary companies were planned to be established under the Companies Act No. 17 of 1982”.
The 2018 JICA report reviewed and updated the 2006 JICA Master Plan. However, it did not refer to the issue of unbundling the power sector but recommended incorporation of renewable energy projects as well as natural gas in the energy mix for generation of electricity up to 2040 including consideration of financial commitments. It also considered the option of generation with 100% renewable energy sources by 2040, recommending that to meet the deficit of power arising out of continuing high cloud cover for several days, storage batteries need to be installed at an estimated cost of USD 1,000 million.
The 2019 World Bank report says “Apart from a few recent competitive outcomes, the country has not yet been able to develop utility scale non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) projects at tariffs comparable with other projects globally or in the region or to tap into commercial financing and private sector participation in larger scale projects. As part of the preparation of the InfraSAP, two pre-feasibility assessments for potential large scale NCRE park sites were conducted for sites in Pooneryn and Moneragala, respectively, totaling about 500 MW of potential generation capacity”.
“The Solar and Wind power has the potential to further optimize the cost of power in the country. In line with what is being witnessed across the globe (i.e. low tariffs in solar and wind-based generation), it seems reasonable to assume that by opening the sector to international players with adequate incentives and risk mitigation mechanisms in place, a significant reduction in cost of power could be achieved in Sri Lanka. The solar and wind-based generation could be potentially used to replace some of the expensive imported oil-based power, which is currently utilized to offset the low availability of hydro resources” (p. 17).
Though the government sought the assistance from these multilateral agencies for improving the performance of the CEB, it has not taken any initiative to implement them, particularly those on reforms. The CEB is also rather slow in pursuing building of large-scale solar energy systems despite the government giving high priority for them and availability of funding from India on a credit line to the extent of USD 100 million specifically for solar energy project development (See The Island of 03.09.2020)
PRE-REQUISITES FOR UNBUNDLING OF CEB
Once the CEB is unbundled, separate companies are to be set up to take over the generation, transmission, distribution and other functions. There will be one company each for generation and transmission and three or more for distribution, according to the draft Act. However, it will be more prudent to have separate generation companies for each of the generation complexes, Kelanitissa, Laxapana, Mahaweli and others including large renewable energy plants. These companies will serve as independent power producers (IPP) and will have to sell the energy they generate to the transmission company, along with other IPPs. Electricity generated at power plants other than from small power plants, is transmitted to grid substations using 220 kV and 132 kV transmission lines.
When the available capacity exceeds the demand, the System Controller will have to decide the amount of power to be purchased from the IPPs based on a merit order system. Generally, plants providing firm output at low cost is given priority according to which power from renewable sources may get low priority. However, with the government policy to meet a minimum of 80% of generation from renewable sources, a mechanism will have to be worked out to accept power from RE sources, possibly by providing storage facilities which will even out their fluctuations.
Before selling energy, it has to be measured to an accuracy of at least ±0.1% using instrumentation which need to be type approved by the Department of Measurement Units, Standards and Services (MUSS) as required by the relevant law. Further, the instruments need to be regularly calibrated by an accredited laboratory. The CEB is already having a Meter Laboratory and this may have to be brought under the control of the transmission company with updated instrumentation serving as secondary standards with accuracy traceable to international standards. This can be verified by calibrating them against the primary standards available at MUSS Department, which is a legal requirement. Every generating unit before being connected to the grid for transmission, needs to go through the metering unit which will monitor the energy dispatched on a daily or monthly basis and transmit the data to the transmission company. It will then pay the IPP at rates agreed to in the power purchase agreement entered into between the IPP and the transmission company, based on the energy dispatched.
For distribution, the CEB has already divided the country into four regional divisions and a subsidiary company, Lanka Electric Company Ltd, covering the Western coastal townships from Negombo to Galle, excluding the city of Colombo. Electricity distribution from 220 kV/132 kV grid substations to the rest of the country is carried out using 33 kV lines which are again converted to 11 kV at load centres for local distribution. The 33 kV or 11 kV line voltage is again converted into 230/400 V for supplying to consumers. Currently, one 33 kV line may extend across two division boundaries, but if these two divisions are to be set up as two independent companies, there has to be separate distribution lines, each covering only one division receiving electricity from one or more GSSs located within the division. It will be then possible to measure the amount of energy transferred to this particular distribution company separately. Hence, certain amount or modifying the distribution system may have to be undertaken prior to unbundling.
FINANCIAL VIABILITY OF CEB
The CEB has been selling electricity to most of its consumers below cost price which is around Rs 20 per unit. For example, the tariff for households consuming up to 90 kWh per month is only Rs. 10 per unit for the last 30 units and less for lower slabs. For industries with demand up to 42 kVA and for other industries during daytime, the tariff is below the cost price. The average cost of generation per unit of electricity in 2017 was Rs 20.40, while the average selling price per unit in 2017 was Rs. 16.26. The corresponding values for 2018 were Rs. 19.12 and Rs. 16.29, respectively. These low tariffs resulted in the CEB incurring a net loss of Rs. 47.6 billion in 2017 and Rs. 30.5 billion in 2018 (AR, 2018).
In view of these losses, the CEB has not been able to settle its dues to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) for supplying fuel in 2016 amounting to Rs. 12.43 billion and also to settle the payments to IPPs for supplying power which amounted to Rs. 21.52 billion in 2016, according to General Manager’s Review appearing in the 2016 Annual Report (AR). Further, the total long-term borrowings as at end of 2016 were recorded as Rs. 220.5 billion, while that for 2018 were recorded as Rs. 281.3 billion, as given in respective annual reports. This poor financial status of CEB is an impediment for it to raise any borrowings from commercial banks.
The subsidies given to low-end consumers amounted to Rs. 70 billion in 2017 and Rs. 60 billion in 2018 (AR 2018). These were partly recovered by selling to high-end consumers at above-average cost price. The surplus recovered by these means in 2017 was Rs. 15.2 billion and Rs. 20.6 billion in 2018. Had the CEB was operating as a commercial enterprise, the logical measure that would have been done was either to increase the selling price above the cost price for all consumers and also reduce the cost of generation.
Being a government organization, the tariff is determined by the government policy to provide electricity to low-income households at an affordable price and hence the CEB is constrained against raising the tariff. However, this issue needs to be carefully studied and an upward revision of the tariff should be considered, removing the subsidies at least partly. Even for industries, to make them competitive in the global market, the government policy is to supply electricity to small and medium industries at below cost, but this policy too needs to be reviewed.
There is also the possibility to reduce the cost of generation. The CEB has been generating electricity from petroleum oil to the extent between 25% – 35% with the generation in 2017 being 5,000 GWh. According to 2016 Generation Performance Report of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the cost of generation from oil-fired power plants has been between Rs/kWh 22 and Rs/kWh 38. On the other hand, the cost of generation from NG fired power plant is no more than Rs/kWh 15 as quoted in the tender for the 300 MW gas power plant to be installed at Kerawalapitiya. If the thermal power plants presently operating with diesel are converted to NG, the saving is of the order of Rs. 50 billion annually.
The Cabinet of Ministers as far back as December 2010 decided to introduce natural gas (NG) in all sectors including power and industries and authorized the Ministry of Petroleum to pursue the matter, but no action was taken either by the Ministry of Petroleum or Ministry of Power and Energy. It is hoped that with the mandate given to the Ministry of Renewable Energy to convert all oil power plants at Kelanitissa complex for operation with NG, will inspire the CEB to give priority for this conversion which will reduce the losses incurred by the CEB.
The other matter that needs to be resolved is the delay in public sector organizations not paying up their bills for electricity on time, and this has caused liquidity problems in the CEB. As a result, the CEB is unable to pay the CPC for the fuel it purchases from the CPC on time and also unable to pay the IPPs for the power it purchases from them on time. With the unbundling of the sector, this system could be improved. Every Distribution Company (DC) should collect the payments due from the consumers on time giving a grace period of say one month. The Transmission Company (TC) should collect the payments from every DC for the electricity sold to them on time and settle the payments due for each of the Generation Companies (GC) on time. The GCs could then settle the payments due for each of the IPPs for the electricity they purchase from them. With the availability of on-line banking facilities and smart metering systems, all these operations could be undertaken without human intervention, other than occasional verification.
PRESENT STATUS OF SRI LANKA’S POWER SECTOR
In 1969, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was established by an Act of Parliament for the purpose of developing and coordinating of generation, supply and distribution of electricity island-wide, taking over the functions of the Department of Electrical Undertakings. By the end of 2018, the total installed capacity has grown to 4,045 MW of comprising 1,400 MW of hydropower plants, 1,137 MW of oil power plants, 900 MW of coal power plants and 608 MW of other renewal energy plants owned by both CEB and independent power producers. The total electricity generation in 2018 was 15,300 GWh, with the per capita electricity consumption 650 kWh, which is only above the least developed countries in Asia. The forecast for generation in 2030 given in CEB’s long term generation plan is around 31,000 GWh.
In 1983, Lanka Electric Company was established as a subsidiary company of the CEB and took over the distribution of electricity in coastal townships between Negombo and Galle, which resulted in reducing the distribution losses. In 2007, the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) was established with the main objective to identify, assess and develop renewable energy resources in the country. However. The SLSEA has been operating more as a regulator than as a promoter of RE projects.
It is noteworthy to compare Sri Lanka’s power sector situation with that of another Asian country, Taiwan, where the population in 2018 (23.78 million) is similar to that of Sri Lanka (21.67 million) and land area (36,200 sq. km) is almost half of Sri Lanka’s (65,610 sq. km). Taiwan’s installed capacity in 2018 was a staggering 44,600 MW comprising 13,000 MW of coal power plants, 16,000 MW of natural gas power plants and 4,500 MW of nuclear power plants, generating 275,500 GWh of electricity in 2018 giving a per capita consumption of 11,585 kWh compared to 650 kWh for Sri Lanka (Wikipedia). The rapid growth of industrialization has been the main driver of the power sector, with a GDP (nominal) per capita of USD 24,800 in 2018 compared to USD 4,100 for Sri Lanka. It will be interesting to find out how Taiwan was able to achieve such high performance in the power sector – whether superior competency and dedication of professionals or correct policies in place or strong political leadership.
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN SELECTING MAJOR PROJECTS
Unlike in many Asian countries, Sri Lanka has been able to provide electricity to almost 100% of households, which was made possible through funding made available through decentralized budgeting in which provision of electricity to rural villages has been given priority. While the national grid was extended to cover almost the entire island to meet the power demands of every industry, commercial establishment and household, the CEB has not been able to expand its generation capacity correspondingly.
Efforts to build a coal power plant kept dragging for over 20 years at the beginning of the mid-eighties due to the CEB’s failure to initiate a dialogue with the public and concerned parties and vacillating policies of the government. Instead of inviting bids for building a power plant meeting performance and emission specifications from reputed manufacturers internationally and selecting a plant in a transparent manner, the CEB accepted a plant based on outdated technology offered by China on credit. The plant is known to breakdown repeatedly and the CEB is compelled to retain Chinese technicians even today to attend to its maintenance. Though the CEB claims that the coal power plant generates at the lowest cost, when the cost of financing is added, the cost gets more than doubled as revealed by a study undertaken by World Bank team.
On three occasions between 2000 and 2010, Sri Lanka government announced calls for expressions of interest for building thermal power plants on BOOT basis with capacity 1,000 – 1,200 MW, but pursued none. This gives a poor image of Sri Lanka within the international power industry, as the investors have to incur heavy expenditure on site visits and making bid bonds. In one announcement, the fuel option was kept open to solid or liquid or gas and the site to be selected by the investor while in another, the fuel option was specified as coal with the site to be near Hambantota.
In 2005, India offered to build a 500 MW coal power plant at Sampur, near Trincomalee on cost-sharing basis. Negotiations between the Indian party and the CEB kept dragging for five years before the final agreement was entered into and another five years to get feasibility studies and environment impact studies completed as well as other clearances obtained. By that time, the new government had changed its policy to adopt gas power rather than coal power on environmental grounds and the project was aborted. Had the CEB not taken such a long time to finalize the terms and commenced work sooner, the plant would have been built by now. It needs to be stressed that the proposed coal power plant at Sampur was abandoned because the CEB was dragging the project for nearly 10 years. The project took so long to commence work, obviously because it had problems both technical and operational which the CEB was unable to resolve. Hence, it was best to cancel the project and consider a new project afresh.
The latest attempt to build a 300 MW gas power plant at Kerawalapitiya on BOOT basis also got dragging for nearly four years mainly because of the manner in which the project selection process was handled by the CEB. A 500-page request for proposal (RFP) was announced in November 2016 seeking unnecessary details while the more important information essential for making a decision was left out. Such detailed information would have been in order had CEB was paying for the capital expenditure. With a BOOT project, the investor will ensure that a plant worth the money would have been purchased. The CEB will only have to know the price at which energy be sold to CEB and whether the plant satisfies performance and emission specifications laid down by the CEB.
The lack of clarity in the RFP resulted in the matter taken to the courts for a ruling. Though the approval of the Cabinet has already been granted for the project and the new President has directed this project be given priority soon after he was elected, the CEB has still not finalized its acceptance. Instead, the CEB is pursuing building a 300 MW coal power plant at Norochcholai against President’s policy. Incidentally, China was allowed to build a 400 MW gas power plant along with an LNG terminal at Hambantota with no such detailed RFPs announced.
According to a SLSEA Report dated 27.03.2019, several RE projects submitted by investors that have received the approval of the SLSEA since 2016 have been held up as CEB has not agreed to sign power purchase agreements with them, citing a section of the Electricity Act. This includes 101 RE projects with total installed capacity of 3,052 MW comprising 264 MW of mini-hydro plants, 2,028 MW of solar plants, 673 MW of wind plants and 87 MW of other plants, which could generate over 7000 GWh of energy annually. This situation is shown in Fig. 2 in 2018 Annual Report where the growth of energy added from RE projects to the system shows a stagnation between 2015 and 2018, with the value for 2016 showing a drop of 200 GWh compared to other years. It appears that there was no coordination between the CEB and the SLSEA.
FLAWED LONG TERM GENERATION EXPANSION PLAN
The CEB during the last few decades has been preparing biennially a long-term generation expansion (LTGE) Plan and the mandate of the Power Ministry specifies that the sector should be developed to comply with the CEB Plan. It is supposed to determine which power technology will be the cheapest in 20 years hence based on current prices. With the cost of generation depending on plant capital cost and fuel prices both of which could vary widely within a span of 20 years, it is futile to make forecasts now as to which technology is the cheapest in 20 years hence and to adopt it. Therefore, to give a mandate to follow the CEB’s LTGE Plan which is highly flawed for the development of the sector, does not make sense. The CEB Plan for 2018-2037 recommends adding 2,700 MW of coal power plants between 2023 and 2037 under Base Case scenario saying it is the cheapest option. However, the 2019 World Bank report cited above says in p. 18 that “coal ceases to be the least cost source of power generation, as cost of power from LNG and NCRE could potentially be lower than US cents 9 / kWh” which is the estimated coal power price.
When the CEB submitted its LTGE Plan for 2018-37 to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) for approval as required by the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 31 of 2013, PUCSL did not approve it but proposed an alternative plan incorporating natural gas power plants in place of coal power plants included in the CEB Plan. The CEB refused to accept this recommendation and the dispute between the PUCSL and the CEB kept dragging for over a year, and the matter was finally referred to the President who gave a directive to the PUCSL to approve the CEB Plan, fearing disruption to the power supply in the country after the CEB Engineers’ Union threatened to resort to industrial action if their demand for coal power plants is not acceded to. This is a clear indication that Sri Lanka’s power sector is being governed not by the PUCSL nor the Ministry nor the Governing Board of the CEB, but by its trade unions. This justifies Prof. Wijayatunga’s statement that “Sri Lanka still needs to go a long way in relation to sector governance”.
The CEB ha a staff strength about 23,000 with over 1,400 professionals. It is the opinion of several international agencies that this organization be split into several organizations each responsible for different functions undertaken by the CEB, including generation, transmission and distribution. It is expected that such an unbundling process will improve the efficiency, transparency, autonomy, accountability, competition, and financial viability. The CEB has failed miserably in the recent past to increase the generation capacity to meet the growing demand with due consideration for environmental concerns even after granting Cabinet approval for many of them. It has also failed to initiate work on large renewable energy projects for several years, particularly during the last seven months even after the President’s policy of pursuing renewable energy and gas power projects was announced.
Possibly the high inertia of the CEB with its large staff prevents it from being flexible to undertake new projects in keeping with international trends and hence continues to insist on outdated technologies. Hence, it is desirable if the government initiates unbundling of the CEB urgently as recommended by reputed energy experts to make it more flexible. The unbundling will also give an opportunity for the government to get rid of dead wood after giving them a golden hand shake.
The Box of Delights – II
Seeing through testing times and future
Text of the keynote address by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
at the 8th International Research Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences,
University of Sri Jayewardenepura on 16 March, 2023.
Sadly, too, the GELT materials we produced are now forgotten, though in the end they were taken up by Cambridge University Press in India and prescribed too at some Indian universities. But in this country producing materials is a way of making money and so, though three years ago the UGC asked about using our materials again, they were prevented from making use of these, and individual universities demanded autonomy and nothing went forward as swiftly as our poor youngsters needed.
Delay also affected the curriculum reform I initiated when I chaired the NIE AAB [Academic Affairs Board]. I had told the then Education Secretary Tara de Mel that we should move immediately, but for once that normally efficient lady was diffident, and said we should wait. Six months later she told me to go ahead, and we did, swiftly, but then Chandrika Kumaratunga lost a year of her Presidency through carelessness and the new President and his Minister simply did not understand the need for continuity, and the vital changes we had embarked on were forgotten.
But Mahinda Rajapaksa and Susil Premjayanth did continue with perhaps the most important initiative begun under Tara—the English medium in secondary schools in the government system. That had begun in 2001, but was sabotaged by Ranil Wickremesinghe, who became Prime Minister at the end of that year. But his Minister of Education, Karunasena Kodituwakku, a former Vice-Chancellor of this University, was more enlightened, and ignored Ranil’s instructions that he halt the programme, and it continued. He was lucky not to be tear-gassed, but, in those days, there were some restraints on unbridled authority with the forces then more supportive of alternatives.
But the teacher training programme I had started with support from Paru and Oranee, had to stop. The NIE then took that over and completely destroyed the learner friendly approach we had initiated, with its hierarchy promoting formulas, such as three Ts and then five Es and seven Ks, gloriously asserted in lengthy sentences such as ‘Also the teacher should closely observe the children learning, identifying students’ activities, disabilities, providing feedback, developing the learning capacities of the students and making implements to extend the learning and teaching outside the classroom are some other tasks expected from the teacher.’
As I commented on this in English and Education: In Search of Equity and Excellence?, ‘It might seem churlish to cavil about the two main verbs in this sentence, were this not an instructional guide to English teachers, with three language editors who have doubtless been well paid for their pains, or the lack of them.’
Training then was in the hands of the NIE, and the programme began to flounder. But, fortunately, the contract to produce books had been for two years, and Nirmali continued in charge of this, so at least a good foundation was laid, though after that the Ministry and the NIE took over and the usual tedious stuff was reintroduced. Our efforts to introduce wider knowledge, and creative thinking, were abandoned totally, unsurprising given the ignorance I had found in those entrusted with producing textbooks at the NIE (which managed once to produce a history syllabus which left out the French and the Industrial Revolutions in the whole secondary school curriculum). Let me, to prove my point, give you an extract from what the NIE managed to produce
‘Red the story …
Hello! We are going to the zoo. “Do you like to join us” asked Sylvia. “Sorry, I can’t I’m going to the library now. Anyway have a nice time” bye.
So Syliva went to the zoo with her parents. At the entrance her father bought tickets. First, they went to see the monkeys
She looked at a monkey. It made a funny face and started swinging Sylvia shouted.
“He is swinging look now it is hanging from its tail it’s marvellous”
“Monkey usually do that’
And, so it seems does the NIE, was my comment. Unfortunately, I cannot in a speech make clear the carelessness with regard to punctuation and spelling, but a printed version will show just how appalling the NIE usage of English is and the callousness of inflicting half-baked stuff on our children.
Despite all this English medium has survived, but that it could have done so much better is obvious from the continuing proliferation of private English medium schools. Interestingly, the former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Dharmasiri Peiris, whom I met after many years, reminded me that in the early nineties he had wanted me to work at the Ministry to remedy the situation, but he had abandoned the effort when officials at the Ministry opposed this, understandably so given that I do not tolerate nonsense. And though Tara was made of sterner stuff, and did make use of my services, two changes of regime before things could be consolidated meant that our children still get short shrift as far as English Language Learning is concerned.
I have spoken thus far of English at university level and in schools. I have also worked on English for vocational training, first thirty years ago when the World University Service of Canada commissioned a basic textbook for those starting on vocational training, then more comprehensively when I chaired the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission.
Having discovered that what were termed NVQ Levels 1 and 2, supposed to prepare youngsters for vocational training, hardly existed, I started Career Skills courses at those levels, to develop other soft skills and in particular English capacity, and these rapidly became the most popular courses in the system. After all, I had done a trawl and found that parents wanted something for their children to do in the fallow period after the Ordinary Level examination. Uniquely, Sri Lanka wastes the time of its youngsters by delaying the resumption of school, a boon to the tuition industry which embarks on recruitment and hooks youngsters for the next few years.
Needless to say, when I was sacked, the English courses were abolished, and successive Ministers of Education, who now have charge also of vocational education, bleat about the need for more English but do nothing to promote this. Least of all do they think of learning from the past, and far from reinventing the wheel, they simply talk about movement while allowing all means of transport to be dismantled, with parents and children who have been left in the lurch turning if they can to private education, tuition in particular.
As your former Vice-Chancellor perceptively put it, when I was last here, the education system is abandoned by those who have the means to pursue alternatives, and it is only the most deprived who cling to it. And whereas any country with a conscience would do its best by the deprived, decision makers in Sri Lanka do not care about them – like the Mr Lokubandara, who ranted against English in the state system and sent his son to an international school, and then when I reprimanded him told me sanctimoniously that it was his wife who had insisted on that.
Is there then no hope? I fear not, and now I can understand the despair of Mabel Layton in Paul Scott’s brilliant analysis of the failure of the British in imperialism, and her lament that “I thought there might be some changes, but there aren’t. It’s all exactly as it was when I first saw it more than forty years ago. I can’t even be angry. But someone ought to be.”’ I rather fear then that your Vice-Chancellor’s observation will prove even more apposite in the years to come. There was a brief moment three years ago, when covid first hit us, when I thought the system would bestir itself to provide alternatives, but I fear nothing of the sort happened.
But let me end now with what should have happened. Given that the onset of covid saw closure of schools and institutions, there should have been efforts to develop curricula appropriate for a time when face to face contact would not be easy. And this required, as I started by saying, thinking as learners do, and tailoring the content of curricula, as well as systems to convey it, to the abilities of learners, not teachers.
This was particularly important in the context of 2020 in which learners had limited access to teachers. But our decision makers could not think on these lines, nor understand that the key to this was simple materials, that are not just user friendly but that will allow learners to gain not only knowledge but also relevant thinking skills on their own. Provision could and should have been made for guidance, but this had to be minimal, and also provided through small group clusters, where students could learn from each other, in addition to getting guidance at a higher level as available. I recall vividly the brilliant initiative of Oranee Jansz, in insisting that all GELT students not only did a project, but that they dramatized this. This proved a wonderful motivating factor, and students in the remotest of areas worked hard together, and the synergy they developed, to use one of Oranee’s favourite words, led to rapid learning by even those who had been initially very weak.
Such a system was especially important for youngsters in rural communities, and could have been activated in 2020, at a time when communication was difficult, and where the panacea authorities developed, of online contact, was not easy, and in many instances not even possible. But as I have noted, those rural communities are of no concern to our decision makers, whose main motivation is to have their children advance through educational systems different from those the majority of our children have to undergo. They are not at all like Oranee, or one of the academics I remember most fondly from my time at this university, Prof Wickremaarachchi, who started an accountancy course in English medium only, and noted that one had failed as a teacher if one’s students did not end up better than oneself.
To continue, in the midst of a country in a desperate plight, with the positives this university could develop, I will revert to the last time I was here, in December, and highlight again the initiative I mentioned when I began, to work through the national library system to promote English through entertainment for early learners. The project which has been developed suggests at last, after two decades, an effective approach to extending opportunities and means of learning.
This can easily be taken further, at all levels – and work on this has begun – to fill gaps that the state has sedulously ignored for several decades. Costs would be minimal, if only innovators such as the personnel here responsible for the initiative were given a free hand. I can only hope that, with the support of the hierarchy here, and the other players who have combined to take this forward, from the Governor of the Northern Province to the Chairman of the National Library Services Board, that this initiative will lead to the proliferation of user friendly materials and personnel able to use them productively.
‘A Jaffna-man, an eminent surgeon with an European reputation’
180th Birth Anniversary of Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood
March 13, 2023 marks the 180th Birth Anniversary of the late Hon. Dr. William Gabriel Rockwood, MLC, MD, MRCP, MRCS. Born on March 13, 1843 in Alaveddy, a small agricultural town in Jaffna; was the second of four children born to Elisha and Ms. Jane Backup, based on Alaveddy Church Records in the custody of Rt. Rev. Dr. Velupillai Pathmathayalan, Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI), formerly the American Ceylon Mission. Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood died on March 27, 1909 at the ‘Emms’, Horton Place, Colombo 7.
His father, Elisha born Sinnatambi on April 06, 1820, was one of six children born to a Saivite Hindu, Perumalpillai who migrated from Karaikal, South India to Sri Lanka and married a land-owner’s daughter Ms. Vairavi of Alaveddy. He was baptised ‘Elisha Rockwood’ in 1831 in Tellipallai and was given US $ 200 to complete his education at the Batticotta Seminary, known today as the Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, by the American Congregational Movement, which later became known as the American Ceylon Mission. Elisha completed his education and taught mathematics at the same school. He later joined the Customs Department as a Sub-Collector.
Dr. W. G. Rockwood married Ms. Salome Muthamma Muttucumaru, daughter of Mr. Adam Cathiravel Muttucumaru on November 1, 1871. Mrs. W. G. Rockwood was born in Kalpitiya in the Puttalam District on March 15, 1857 and died at “Pembroke,” Horton Place, Colombo 7 on Saturday, August 29, 1925.
Thus born to humble beginnings, ‘Dr. W. G. Rockwood was a most skilful and distinguished physician and had by rare ability proved himself ‘the greatest surgeon in the East. His reputation was not confined to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) or the adjacent continent, but had extended far beyond the seas to Great Britain, where he won the esteem of such eminent members of the medical profession as Dr. Marcus Beck, Dr. Charles Stoiiham, Dr. J. Bland Sutton. Sir Thomas Barlow, Lord Lister, and Sir Frederick Treves’. Dr. Rockwood was also president of the Ceylon Branch of the British Medical Association (BMA).
Dr. W. G. Rockwood, in 1851 aged 08 years, had his early education at the Vembadi Boys’ School and later at Central College, Jaffna, which was founded by the Methodist Missionaries. In 1855, aged 12 years, he went with his father to Batticaloa and joined Central College, Batticaloa which was also run by the Wesleyan Mission.
Dr. W. G. Rockwood in 1862 was in the last year of his teens, when a maternal uncle, Mr. E. R. Chelliah Pillai told him to come to Madras University for a “good education.” Mr. E. R. Chelliah Pillai died on March 19, 1900 at the “Emm’s,” Regent Street, Colombo 7.
In January 1866, aged 23 years, Dr. W. G. Rockwood passed the Calcutta University Matriculation Examination in Madras and applied for the arts course. His father prevailed on young Rockwood to follow medicine which he did with many misgiving and much reluctance. His disinclination soon disappeared for Rockwood took to anatomy with such interest. In July 1866, he joined the Madras Medical College and received the scholarship of Rs.20 allowed for those who pass the London matriculation Examination.
‘On his obtaining the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Madras, a member of the Board of examiners paid him the following rare compliment, “I have lately had, on behalf of the Madras University to examine a man of the name of Rockwood from Ceylon, for the Degree of Doctor of Medicine, and certainly was quite unprepared to meet a candidate for medical honours of this country so remarkably proficient. I fully believe that in any English or Scotch University he would have carried the highest honours” ’. (Source: Jaffna Catholic Guardian April 03, 1909).
Dr. W. G. Rockwood while he was serving in Puttalam skilfully handled an outbreak of cholera and because of his experience in handling it, he was sent to Jaffna in1868 to control the outbreak of cholera. He returned to Puttalam and then was transferred to Hambantota (June 1875) and later to Gampola (1878). It was while he was in Gampola that the vacancy for the post of Surgeon in the Medical Department of the General Hospital in Colombo arose.
Dr. W. G. Rockwood in 1878 aged 35 years held the post of Principal Surgeon at the General Hospital Colombo now known as the National Hospital, Colombo for a period of 20 years. He was the sole surgeon of the hospital and at the same time he was Lecturer in Clinical Systematic and Operative Surgery in the Ceylon Medical College. Besides this what leisure he could snatch from his official duties was given up to the demands of a large and growing practice.
He travelled to London in 1884 when he was admitted as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and Member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP).
Dr. W. G. Rockwood retired from active service from the Medical Department after 31 years on March 13, 1898 at the age of 55 years. Upon his retirement and in recognition of his long-standing service he was immediately appointed Consultant Surgeon to the General Hospital in Colombo.
It is said of his authority on handling tropical diseases that there was an instance when a colour conscious Englishman who had an ailment was asked to consult Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood of Ceylon while on his way to Australia from England. The Englishman thinking from the name – Rockwood – was an Englishman made an appointment to see him at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo when the ship docked at the Colombo harbour.
On that day Dr. Rockwood was at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo waiting to see his patient. The patient was informed that Dr. Rockwood had arrived, came to the lobby and was pacing up and down the lobby impatiently when the management of the Hotel who were well acquainted with Dr. Rockwood had to draw his attention to the coloured man in the room. Seeing that Dr. Rockwood was coloured he had returned to his room. A year later the patient was back with his pride in his pocket to consult Dr. Rockwood.
Another story is related where a passenger ship had docked in the Port of Colombo and an SOS was sent out for a surgeon to attend to a German National. It turned out that the German National was the German Consul Freudenberg who was treated and cured of his ailment and later became a very close friend of the family. Dr. Rockwood was also physician to the Governor of Ceylon Sir West Ridgeway.
A combination of medicine and politics
The Governor of Ceylon Sir West Ridgeway appointed Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood to the Legislative Council representing the Tamil community for a period of five years from March 14, 1898 to March 12, 1903. Dr. Rockwood succeeded Mudaliyar Ponnambalam Coomaraswamy who was the eldest brother of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who served as the first Tamil representative in the Legislative Council for a single term. Governor Sir West Ridgeway in a private letter to Dr. Rockwood inviting him to join the Legislative Council as the Tamil representative said: ‘The Tamil community could think of no one who has earned the esteem and the admiration not of one community or of two, but of every community, of all men, of all races, as Dr. Rockwood’.
Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood was presented to His Majesty the King of England, Edward VII at St. James’ Palace on June 01, 1902 while he was serving as a Member of the Legislative Council. He was appointed to the Legislative Council for a second term on July 09, 1903. Due to continuing failing health, Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood in1906 laid off from all public activity.
The Legislative Council was the first Assembly set up under the Colebrook Reforms with 15 members in 1833 by the British under Governor Sir Fredrick North. There were two categories of members. Officials numbered nine and unofficial members numbered six. The official members were appointed directly by the Governor and their communities nominated the unofficial members. The six unofficial members comprised one each Sinhala, Tamil and Burgher and three Europeans.
The Legislative Council was altered in 1931 under the Donoughmore Commission and lasted until 1947. Ceylon gained Independence from the British on February 04, 1948. Ceylon changed her name to Sri Lanka on May 22, 1972 when she became a Republic. The second Constitution was enacted in 1972 when Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the Prime Minister. Today we have the third Constitution enacted in 1978 when Hon. Junius Richard Jayewardene became the first Executive President under that Constitution.
‘Dr. Daniel Anthonisz, of Galle had demonstrated the advantage of breaking the monopoly of the legal profession over the unofficial seats in the Legislative Council. Dr. Rockwood’s tenure of the seat emphasised that advantage. Dr. Rockwood illustrated his preferences for his principles at the sacrifice of popularity when he proposed a motion in the Legislative Council on October 18, 1899, asking the salary of the judges of the Supreme Court to be raised high enough to make it possible to secure English barristers for the bench’.
On that occasion Dr. Rockwood said: ‘To have the certainty of even-handed justice is the greatest blessing a community can enjoy and the purity of that administration must be above suspicion. In a small place like Ceylon, where every man is known to every other man, it is necessary in the interests of the public that the Supreme Court Judges, who administer justice between man and man, must be men who have no local or permanent interests or connections. By, these remarks I do not mean to shut out local talent. Those who have established a reputation for efficiency and who have claims for meritorious service are possibly eligible for a higher post and these may be sent to other parts of the Empire where they have no personal interests to serve and no connections’. (Source: The Ceylon Morning Leader: Sunday, March 28, 1909).
Dr. W. G. Rockwood is described as one of Asia’s greatest surgeons who could operate with the use of both his hands (ambidextrous). He also promoted the choice of opium in the treatment of certain ailments. He was a member of the commission appointed by the then Governor of Ceylon to oversee the planning and construction of the Colombo-Chilaw railway line from Negombo. It was later extended to Puttalam. While serving on the commission he also suggested the construction of a railway line to Jaffna.
Six years after his death in 1915, Mrs. W. G. Rockwood donated Rs.20,000 to be utilised towards the construction of a 38 X 26 feet ‘Waiting Hall’ called ‘Rockwood Memorial Hall’ for patients who come to the General Hospital, Colombo now known as the National Hospital, Colombo for treatment. The foundation stone was laid in 1909 and the construction began in the same year. On April 16, 1912, ‘The Rockwood Hall’ was opened by His Excellency the Governor Sir Henry Edward McCallum (1907-1913). The plaque was unveiled in three languages – Sinhalese, Tamil and English to mark the donation: ‘The Rockwood Memorial Hall erected to the memory of Dr. William Gabriel Rockwood MD, MRCS, MRCP, Chief Surgeon of this hospital 1878 to 1898, Consulting Surgeon from 1898 until his death. Tamil Representative to Legislative Council from 1898 – 1905’. It is unfortunate that during the structural alterations made to the original building the three plaques and his photograph have been lost.
His character can be judged by his teaching. Once it is said that he rebuked a somewhat light-minded student and the latter, now an elderly man himself occupying a responsible position, remembers the rebuke. ‘Never make differences in your patients’, said Dr. Rockwood. ‘Every time a surgeon has a life depending upon his knife, it takes a fortnight off his own life, and the sense of responsibility is perhaps the greater when the man is a pauper than when he is a great and wealthy patient. The surgeon dare not take risks with the great man, for the world is watching him; but he fears still more to do so with the pauper, for then it is God who watches’.
He emphasised to his students that the surgeon must regard his treatise on anatomy as second only to the Bible. The words are characteristic of the man whose religion was always a predominant factor in his every thought and deed.
The ‘Rockwood Surgery Medal is awarded to the student who shows the greatest aptitude for surgery by the Medical Faculty of the University of Colombo, Peradeniya and Jaffna in memory of Hon. Dr. W. G. Rockwood.
‘A dutiful son, a faithful husband, an affectionate father, a loyal friend, a skilful surgeon, a good man, not slothful in business, fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.’ – Romans Ch 12; Vs 11-13
(Source: The Ceylon Morning Leader – Extraordinary Edition of Sunday, March 28, 1909).
(Excerpts from the book ‘From Williamstown to Vaddukoddai: The history of the Rockwood family’, published by the author William Sukumar Rockwood, MCPS, PgD. IHL, BA, JP, great grandson on August 21, 2011) -/end – 2280 words
LTTE writ on coral exploitation more effective than govt. orders
Tragedy and drama in the dry zone jungle
Excerpted from the authorized biography of Thilo Hoffmann by Douglas B. Ranasinghe
(Continued from last week)
North of Thenaddi Bay and a little inland is the village of Kathiraveli. In 1975 Thilo discovered there a folk art not found elsewhere. He described this in an article published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Lanka. For many years he was a Committee Member of that body. As recently as 2004 he wrote a sequel, which was not accepted for publication. Parts of it are reproduced here:
“In 1980 I contributed an illustrated article to the JRAS (New Series, Vol.XXV: 91) in which I described certain remarkable decorations in Kathiraveli, Eastern Province, on the outer walls of thatched mud-and-wattle houses, painted by women on the occasion of the Tamil New Year. The pigments used are lime and natural clays of different colours found in the village environment. The painting lasts about a year and is renewed before the next New Year.
“During the following decade I visited the village once or twice a year. Calamity soon befell the remote area in the form of the ethnic conflict. The village was occupied first by the army, the IPKF and finally the Tigers under whose control it still is. (at the time this note was written) It was, much of the time, in a war zone. My last visit had been in January 1992. By then the spirit of the villagers had been broken by untold tragedy.
“Only one house had still some basic decoration. Compounds were neglected and houses dilapidated, the people apathetic and subdued. Farming had become impossible. An aged couple whose neat and tidy homestead was a model for my paper had lost their only son who was taken to the army camp and never returned. Sadness and grief prevailed.
“In April 2003 I was able to pay a visit to Kathiraveli, although it is in an ‘uncleared’ area. After answering a few suspicious questions and establishing my bona fides, I was allowed to pass the LTTE checkpoint situated a little north of Mankerni. Up to that point the landscape had been devastated by the extensive and far-reaching destruction of all vegetation for security reasons.
“Thereafter I was passing through the familiar countryside which had hardly changed during so many decades, even centuries, in parts. The majestic trees are still standing along the road and on the coast. There are forests and a serene tranquility and seemingly timeless peace. Only here and there a jarring note: the memorial to fallen Tiger heroes, a large ‘military’ cemetery. new LTTE offices and installations with loafing youngsters around them. With considerable curiosity and apprehension I approached Kathiraveli.
“Nothing seemed changed. Soon we spotted the first painted house, rather simple but unmistakably in the traditional style. In all we found about a dozen such houses, each freshly painted, along the main roads, though generally there are fewer inhabited homesteads.
“Unfortunately ‘progress’ has reached Kathiraveli in the form of corrugated metal roofing sheets; two of the painted houses were covered with this material giving them a totally different and far less pleasing appearance than those with the cool and pleasant cadjan thatch.
“But the younger women had remembered the New Year tradition and had revived it in its pure, simple and natural form, some rather tentatively as if still trying to recall the old designs and motifs. The colours and basic patterns give these dwellings a clean, even festive and happy appearance.
“In December 2003 I was again in Kathiraveli, when I distributed nearly 100 colour photographs of decorated houses I had taken in 1977 and 78. They were intended to help strengthen the old tradition.
Otherwise the visit was a disappointment because in the short interval of eight months ‘development’ appears to have overtaken the village. There are glistening roofing sheets on old houses many of which have been replaced by stereotyped cement block constructions.
“For living comfort in this environment nothing can beat a well-constructed and maintained mud-and-wattle house generously covered with a thick and overhanging thatch of cadjan: cool during the hot season, dry and warm and cosy when the north-east monsoon is on.
“In this connection I might be permitted to touch upon another facet of personal contemporary history in this area. Not far away at Kayankerni on the coast I had for 30 years, a house, now a sad ruin. It was wrecked and the material looted in 1992. Even the well rings were dug up and carted away. For decades I had been fighting a mostly losing battle against the mudalalis who openly flouted the laws of the country by breaking and burning corals for lime. As a result erosion set in, the coast was altered and the protective reefs were destroyed, together with the trees and forests which provided the firewood.
“The process was aided and abetted by a lethargic and dishonest bureaucracy and a corrupt police force. Only once for a short few years was my campaign crowned with success when an energetic and honest GA at Batticaloa stopped the rapacious exploitation by ordering the police to destroy all the kilns in Passikudah, Kayankerni, Panichchankerni, and elsewhere in the district.
“When in 1990 the Tigers took over the area after the IPKF, they prohibited all coral breaking. The order was instantly obeyed by all, as non-compliance would have resulted in most dire consequences. Only ‘war widows’ were allowed to collect coral debris washed up on the shore and turn them into `sippi’, a traditional and acceptable ‘soft’ use of the resource.
“When the government regained the area the old abuse was resumed and as late as April 2003 did I note with dismay that more lime kilns than ever were in operation at Kayankerni, under the very noses of the security forces. (Note: The burnt lime is transported mainly to upcountry vegetable growing areas where it is used as a soil conditioner. Other uses are in mortar for construction and for whitewashing. Alternate sources of raw material are Miocene limestone and dolomite). All the more was I surprised when in December of the same year all the kilns had once again disappeared, again on the orders of the Tigers.
“Thus we have the absurd situation that in an area controlled by the Government an order from the LTTE is instantly and scrupulously obeyed, and the ordinary laws are brazenly flouted. Weak and disinterested authorities at all levels have long lost the will to enforce good laws, especially in the field of conservation. `Non- enforcement’ has been elevated to a fine art and policy under the influence of foreign gurus; doing nothing is so much easier than doing the right thing.”
The Vakarai area including Kathiraveli was retaken by government forces in early 2007.
Facets of the jungle
In the wilderness, too, there were aspects other than nature which engaged Thilo’s attention.Among the many parts of the dry zone he visited Wilpattu was a favourite. Several sections in this book describe his involvement with the area.
He explored extensively on foot the former Wilpattu West Sanctuary – now part of the National Park –especially the northern half of its 30 mile (50 km) coastline, between Kollankanatta and Kudremalai Point.
Much of this coast towards the north is formed by a cliff which is being eroded by the sea. To the north of Kollankanatta towards Pallugaturai this erosion exposes and destroys layers of the remnants of an ancient settlement. Thousands of clay and porcelain and worked seashell fragments litter the shore. There was even a clay-ring well. Thilo informed the Department of Archaeology, which then undertook a sample dig, but no further action.
It would have been a trading harbour during the Anuradhapura era, because in the vicinity on the track to Sinna Uppu Villu, not far away, he had discovered several baobab trees, as in Mannar, introduced from Africa. There must also have been, he thinks, a factory to make conch-shell bangles.
On the highest point, 225 feet above sea level, of the coastal ridge stands a chimney-like tower about 50 feet high. This and similar towers near Mullikulam and south of Arippu would have served as beacons during the time of the pearl fisheries.
In Kudremalai, at 123 feet, on the very edge of the cliff is the ruin of an ancient Hindu temple which, too, is fast disappearing with the erosion. Here is found the deep red soil, nearly purple or almost violet, to which is linked the ancient name ‘Tambapanni’ for Sri Lanka. It is said that Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala race, landed here. A motorable track provided by the Park authorities now leads to this point.
The beacon at Arippu is near the massive brick ruin of the `Doric’, built by Frederick North, the first British Governor of Ceylon from 1798 to 1805, for use as a residence when visiting the pearl fisheries. Again due to the erosion the ruins are now rapidly being lost. In the book The Dutch Forts of Sri Lanka, 2004 update, these are wrongly identified and depicted as being of the small Arippu Fort, the ruins of which are aboutfour km further north in the village.
Thilo also explored the North-eastern sector of Wilpattu which lies between the old Arippu road (now long abandoned) and Tantirimale. The ruins at this site, on the extensive rock outcrop (highest point 298 feet), were originally inside the National Park, the boundary of which in that sector was the Malwatu Oya. The place was entirely engulfed by the dense jungle. He first visited it on Vesak Day of 1966. Later the Park boundary was adjusted, the forest was cleared and people began to settle there.
To enable his explorations, from time to time he exercised walking through thick track and featureless monsoon forest with the help of a compass. The danger of missing the target several miles away was great because of the very restricted visibility, especially, where the nillu (Strobilanthes sp.) had grown high. Nevertheless, he always reached the goal with reasonable accuracy.
Observations at historical sites across the country were recorded in his notebooks, described later.Thilo also took an interest in the villagers who live in or by the jungle. Amidst his memories are tragedy and drama:
In a village called Manawa, some distance from Anuradhapura, Tikiri Bandara and 15-year-old Bandara Menike had fallen in love. Her family opposed the marriage. In desperation he shot to death three members of her clan. Then he took her by the hand and disappeared with her into the jungle, as witnessed by some women bathing in the village tank. He carried only his gun.
Tikiri Bandara was charged with three murders before the Anuradhapura Magistrate, in November 1957. The police mounted a search with dogs but failed to find the couple. Some months after this a poacher waiting for game in the fork of a tree at an abandoned tank observed a young man and woman coming out of the jungle in tattered clothes, she highly pregnant. They had a bath and vanished into the forest. Four years later, two skulls, some bones, two ear-studs and plastic bangles, a knife and the rusted barrel of a gun were found by hunters and produced before the magistrate.
Showers in Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in Galle, Matara, Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya districts
Outgoing BASL chief asks lawyers to continue struggle to safeguard rule of law, democracy, judicial independence
SC summons IGP for disregarding court order
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
Sunday Island 27 December – Headlines
U.S. Congress to probe assets fleecing by US citizens of Sri Lankan origin
Features3 days ago
Happy Birthday dearest Mrs. Peries !
News2 days ago
Mano says LG and PC elections equally important
News4 days ago
Decorated gunship pilot blacklisted for appearing on political stage
Breaking News6 days ago
SRI LANKA RECEIVES IMF EXECUTIVE BOARD APPROVAL FOR THE EXTENDED FUND FACILITY (EFF) ARRANGEMENT
Midweek Review5 days ago
Growing foreign dependency and India’s USD 4 bn lifeline
News4 days ago
No more selling of Hajj visas, assures Minister
Breaking News5 days ago
Property tax to be replaced with Wealth Tax, Gift Tax and Estate Tax – President
Editorial5 days ago
Celebration of debt