All night partying at ICRC premises a nuisance, say residents

Residents living on Layards Road, Colombo 5 have made several complaints to the Bambalapitiya police against the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operating something similar to a nightclub, which has been a continuous annoyance to the quiet neighbourhood.

The premises which is at number 80, Layards Road had been given on rent to the ICRC for the past 10 years and according to the neighbours its occupants had been hosting weekend parties for the past one and a half years on Friday and Saturday nights and Poya days as well.

On many occasions neighbours had called the 119 police emergency line complaining that they could not sleep due to the noise.

The premises from which the loud music and noise come

On several occasions the Bambalapitiya police who arrive in response to the call request the ICRC officials to reduce the volume of their music in deference to the residents’ complaints. However the music is said to be turned up once the police leave.

One resident who spoke to the Sunday Times said that he cannot get any sleep and his household is awake due to the loud music every weekend. He said that despite many complaints he made to the police the situation had not changed.

“I work at very unpredictable hours since I am in the airline industry. Soon as I come home after a flight in the nights during weekends I can’t get enough sleep because the ICRC officials are partying from late night till the break of dawn. I have tried to make requests to them to reduce the volume of the music but they don’t comply. They are supposed to be a humanitarian organization. But it seems they don’t care about the people living in the neighbourhood who are trying to get som sleep,” he said.

“At other times we cannot take our vehicles on to the lane because the ICRC vehicles are blocking the lane,” he said. Another resident whose house is in front of the ICRC premises had also complained saying that his 94-year-old uncle cannot get any sleep at night.

“We have complained to the police several times but nothing has happened. We hear drunken foreign ICRC staff members shouting at the tops of their voices and my uncle is up all night. A man at his age needs his sleep. Is this the way the ICRC behaves in the north and east as well. This clearly displays what type of a humanitarian organization it is. We are living here for generations and it is very inconsiderate of the ICRC officials to do this,” he said.

Bambalapitiya police Officer in Charge Chief Inspector J.P.S Jayamaha admitted that the police emergency had been sent to the area several times due to residents complaining.

“When the residents call us we send a patrol to look into it. We have not received any statements from any of the residents. They should make a formal statement so that we can proceed with the next course of action,” he said.

The premises have been called many different names such as Y&Y club and Cyrils bar. The operations in the premises are somewhat discreet unlike a normal nightclub where tickets are sold and membership given. The weekend parties are open to ICRC members and other expatriate NGO personnel.

According to one of the guests who was invited by ICRC personnel, guests don’t buy their alcohol but ‘donate’ the cost of the drink thereby circumventing the excise laws of the country.

A security guard in one of the houses near the ICRC premises said that on the night when Tiger planes were attacking Colombo last February, the ICRC was partying regardless of the situation.

ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne told the Sunday Times that the said premises are not a pub or a night club but a residence for the field staff. “When most of our field officers return after travelling to a distant location in the country this is a place where they stay,” she said.

However despite the many complaints made by the neighbours to the police and many requests made to the ICRC officials who come to the premises the party yet continues while many residents down Layards Road remain deprived of their night’s sleep.

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