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Raising of the Kotmale dam – misconceptions and facts

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By Asoka Herath

BSc (Geology Hons); MSc (Engineering Geology), CEng.

Over the past few months, there has been considerable interests among not only geoscientists and engineers but also ordinary people in the potential risks faced by two of the major hydropower projects constructed in the central highlands, namely the Victoria and Kotmale projects. These projects have come into the limelight owing to some minor seismic tremors felt in the Victoria area, together with the recent announcement of the intention to raise the Kotmale dam. Alarm bells are ringing that seismic activity may jeopardize the integrity of the Victoria dam and the raising of Kotmale may result in dam failure. Should these dams fail, they will be the biggest manmade disasters our country has ever faced. This risk has prompted suggestions from the people higher up that we should seek advice from foreign experts.

Various opinions from the leading geoscientists of the country, regarding the causes and effects of this unusual activity were aired through the media recently. Some have attributed the seismic tremors to limestone quarrying in the Victoria reservoir area, some as the result of neo-tectonic movements of the central highlands, yet some others said they are reservoir-induced earthquakes. Those who are interested in the fundamentals of such activity may find the presentation in this link useful (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7huzvuU9TEI).

The intention of this article is to provide an insight into the geotechnical issues that influence the Kotmale Project, the risks, and to address some misconceptions people may have regarding the project. I take the liberty of writing on these issues as a person who has an in-depth knowledge of the Project by working from the site investigation phase through to construction completion, the later years as the Senior Engineering Geologist, leading the project geoscientist team.

 

The Project

Kotmale was meant to be the main upstream storage reservoir under the Mahaweli development scheme launched in the 1960s. It will regulate the Mahaweli waters, while providing a substantial energy component. The capacity of the reservoir will be more than doubled by the proposed raising of the dam, approximately by 30 m. The project was inaugurated in 1979 and funded by Sweden. Sir William Halcrow and Partners of UK (Halcrow) with Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau of Sri Lanka (CECB) was the design engineer and Skanska of Sweden was the contractor.

 

Geology of the Project Area

To understand the project risks, it is essential to understand the geology and structure of the project area. The area is underlain by Pre-Cambrian age metamorphic rocks comprising predominantly of two rock types, charnokite (gneiss) and crystalline limestone (dolomite or marble) with minor quartzites. The limestone is sandwiched between layers of charnokite gneiss.

The rock units are folded into a gentle anticlinorium (an arch like structure-convex shape) which has a slight plunge downstream. The axis of the anticline trends northwest and falls on the right abutment in the dam area. As such the dam foundation rocks have a slight inclination (15°-25°) downstream and into the abutments.

Charnokite is a very strong resistant rock, which does not breakdown easily while limestone deteriorates and erodes more easily. The initial site investigation drilling in the Kotmale valley found limestone thickness varied from 20 m to 130 m within the project area.

The limestone consists mainly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and partly magnesian carbonate (MgCO3). Carbonates dissolves in acidic water (acid rain) and forms solution cavities. These cavities have the potential to create leaks from the reservoirs.

 

Formation of the Kotmale Valley

The Kotmale valley is an amphitheatre-like valley reshaped by the erosional activity of the Kotmale Oya for millennia. It is approximately 5 km wide at the widest point, is surrounded by high rock cliffs up to 300 m high on both flanks, which converge at the Kadadora village; the site of the dam construction. The valley forming process was a combination of differential weathering and erosion of the underlying limestone unit, resulting in the collapse of overlying more resistant rock units. The basal slopes of the cliffs consist of accumulated debris of rocks and soil derived from the cliffs (termed as scree or talus). Historically these talus slopes were in perpetual slow motion (creep) towards the river. They were subjected to numerous landslides, typically during or after heavy rain events. Generally, the Kotmale valley was infamous for landslide activity.

 

History of Kotmale Project investigations

The location of the dam site had been selected for the seemingly favourable topography formed by the converging valley flanks. One of the first jobs assigned to me when I joined the CECB in 1978 as a young engineering geologist, was to map four exploratory tunnels driven into the abutments of the proposed dam and report the rock conditions. Our evaluation indicated the left abutment had very poor rock conditions not suitable for a dam foundation.

In 1979, to evaluate the landslide risk to the project, Halcrow carried out a landslide survey of the project area. This survey was done due to the frequent landslide activity in the Kothmale area, and its similarities to the Vajont Dam disaster that occurred in Italy in 1963, which wiped out several downstream towns resulting about 2500 deaths.

This study identified the left abutment as a settled block (subsided en mass); limestone solution the likely cause. It strongly recommended to move the damsite downstream and monitor the impressive cliffs on the left flank of the valley for potential movements.

 

Evaluation by a panel of experts

As these findings were major issues impacting the viability of the Project, the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka as the owner of the project, in early 1980 engaged a panel of foreign experts who were the leaders in the fields of rock and soil mechanics, to evaluate the potential issues and provide recommendations. This panel endorsed the relocation of the damsite.

Subsequently, the dam axis was moved approximately 200 m downstream from the original location.

 

Nature and distribution of the limestone

At the new location, the limestone was at a much greater depth below the dam foundation compared to the original site as shown in Figure 1. Even so, solution cavities were observed in the contact zone and within the limestone itself identified by drilling and close circuit television (CCTV) inspections carried out in the drillholes. Our best estimate indicated small cavities, however a drillhole represents only a small area, therefore the existence of larger cavities could not be ruled out.

 

Leakage through cavernous limestone is widespread from the reservoirs built in our hill country. The Samanalawewa Project is the best example where significant leakage had been occurring through a cavernous limestone under the right abutment since the impoundment, which could not be sealed.

 

Continuity of the Kotmale limestone

Investigations were carried out to establish the continuity of the Kotmale limestone to downstream areas in view of potential leakage which were inconclusive. The recent geological map for the Kandy-Nuwara-Eliya districts (GSMB), I am convinced that the Kotmale limestone continues to Gampola-Atabage Valley and further to the Victoria Reservoir as a major rock unit. The limestone quarrying in the Victoria Reservoir area occurs in the same unit, which caused the recent furore about seismic events allegedly caused by blasting. Whilst I do not believe there is (or will be) significant leakage from Kotmale Reservoir, future raising of the dam may enhance leakage if it exists which needs evaluation.

 

Water tightness of the dam foundation

To eliminate the risk of water leakage through the limestone under the dam foundation, it was extensively grouted from a grouting gallery constructed below the dam level (see Figure 1). Generally, the grout intakes were low. Nevertheless, few holes required significant amounts of grout before they could be sealed. Subsequent water pressure testing indicated the limestone unit was properly sealed and the foundation was watertight.

 

Monitoring of the cliffs and other landslides

During the initial impoundment, the cliffs were inspected by walkover surveys and by periodic monitoring with geodetic surveying. Movements of any significance, precursor of an impending major failure were not recorded during the early years after construction.

 

Reservoir Induced Seismicity (RIS)

One important consideration in the construction of large reservoirs is the potential for reservoir induced seismicity (RIS). RIS is the incidence of earthquakes triggered due to the impoundment of water behind a dam. A simplistic explanation is that reservoirs trigger earth tremors due to the load of water which could activate otherwise dormant faults, the energy released causing earth tremors.

Halcrow decided to investigate the risk of movement of some major structures present in the Kotmale reservoir area upon impoundment, which could potentially induce seismic events. Consequently, a micro-seismic monitoring network (MSMN) consisting of four monitoring stations was established around Kotmale project in 1981. The monitoring program was managed by the CECB and continued until the early 90s.

Published data (Fernando & Kulasinghe 1985) show that the maximum event recorded at Kotmale during the first two and half years of monitoring, was an event of 2.25 magnitude (Richter Scale), located far away from the project area. The monitoring led to the conclusion that the potential for RIS at Kotmale was extremely low or non-existent. However, in view of the recent seismic events recorded around Victoria, it will be prudent to revisit the monitoring records from the Kotmale network, presumably archived by the CECB.

 

Potential risks from future raising

The Kotmale project infrastructure, were designed and constructed for future raising. Theraised dam simply achieves the original vision of the project, as the main upstream storage reservoir and increases power output.

 

In my opinion the geotechnical risks arising from the raising of the Kotmale dam are as follows:

= The raised water level in the reservoir will fully inundate the scree slopes and reach the base of the left bank cliffs with potential to create major landslides. Cliff monitoring should be re-established using modern methods such as satellite based synthetic aperture radar interferometry (inSAR).

= There is potential for leakage through the limestone with raised water levels. All evidence suggests the limestone under the dam was properly sealed. Leakage from the reservoir flanks cannot be prevented, which is not a fatal flaw to the project. Requirement for abutment sealing should be revisited.

= It will be useful to re-establish the monitoring program of stream gauging in the Gampola-Atabage valley to investigate if any leakage will occur from Kotmale to Atabage valley. This should be initiated before the dam raising.

= All evidence points to reservoir induced seismicity is a non-issue for Kotmale Project.

 

Finally, I strongly advocate the raising of the dam for the following reasons:

 

= The original project infrastructure was developed with the intention of future raising.

= There are potential risks but not fatal flaws to the viability of the Project. These risks can be mitigated.

= People were evacuated from their ancestral lands going under the reservoir and if the project is not completed as originally intended, then this relocation of people was without merit and a grave injustice to them.

= The country unnecessarily lost approximately 30 MW of power for more than 35 years.

 

The potential risks with the raising of the Kotmale dam discussed here need to be evaluated, and if the need arise, they should be mitigated and managed using local expertise. In my opinion, what Sri Lanka lacks is good project managers vital in successful implementation of projects of such enormous national importance. In hindsight, the Kotmale reservoir should have been built to the full capacity at the first instance.

 

(The author currently works as a Principal Geotechnical Engineer with AMC Consultants Pty Ltd, Perth, Australia, and can be contacted at hma1904@gmail.com).



Features

All communities should be treated equally without distinction

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by Jehan Perera

The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.

Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.

It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”

MUSLIM OUTREACH

Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.

On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.

In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”

 

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.

Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.

During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.

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Features

TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic

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No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.

Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.

In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.

Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,

Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.

On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.

It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.

Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’

Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.

“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”

So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.

Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!

Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.

Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.

In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!

He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.

Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme

Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.

“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”

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Heard at the club

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Part II

A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.

He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.

****

Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.

****

This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’

Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.

****

A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!

****

It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.

****

It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.

 

****

This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!

****

A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.

During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.

****

A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they

became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.

****

A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.

****

A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!

****

Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.

When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.

****

It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.

****

A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!

****

A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:

‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’

Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.

****

This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.

****

This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.

****

One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!

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