Most Sri Lankans are unaware of the disappearance of the banyan tree, which was a historic landmark at the Janadipathi Mandiraya or the former Queen’s House in Fort. It was planted by then-Governor Sir Joseph West Ridgeway to honour the 25th anniversary of the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne. She ascended at the [...]


Axe falls on historic banyan tree at President’s House


Most Sri Lankans are unaware of the disappearance of the banyan tree, which was a historic landmark at the Janadipathi Mandiraya or the former Queen’s House in Fort.

It was planted by then-Governor Sir Joseph West Ridgeway to honour the 25th anniversary of the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne. She ascended at the age of 18 in June 1837.

Now, only pictures of this magnificent tree — admired the world over as one that had withstood time — remain. Who has ordered the tree to be cut down is not clear but the Sunday Times learns that the demise came after falling branches had earlier damaged part of the roof.

One episode that reflects the significance of this tree occurred when the then Foreign Minister, the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, met the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. The latter had recalled a visit to Sri Lanka, soon after the ethnic disturbances of July 1983, in the company of the then Defence Secretary Casper Weinberger, and the then Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Of all the memories of Sri Lanka, Gen. Powel had cherished most was the sight of the banyan tree when he held a meeting with the late President J.R. Jayewardene. Upon return to Sri Lanka, Mr Kadirgamar sent Gen. Powel an autographed copy of a large size photograph of the historic tree with a narrative on the tree’s history written by the head of the Botanical Gardens.

The precincts where the tree was located was first the residence of the Dutch Governor John Gerard van Anglebeek and was called the Governor’s House. When the British took over then Ceylon, its name was changed to Queen’s House. The name change to Janadipathi Mandiraya or President’s House came in 1972.
Under the previous Government, a statue of Queen Victoria which was a little distance away from the historic tree was shifted to the Vihara Maha Devi Park. This part of the precincts was then called Gordon Gardens.

Top sleuths speak out against big boss
The top body that keeps an eye on those maintaining law and order had a high level meeting on Friday. The idea was to obtain views on current matters of importance.

At least three of them who took part were outspoken. Two among them were sleuths heading probes whilst the third was from a specialised arm. Two more of equal status supported the trio who were, though polite, very strong in the language they used.

One said he would even go to the Supreme Courts on a violation of fundamental rights application if the august body that looks after their work did not act. Even some of those lesser in stature joined in.

An insider said they came out with some home truths about wrong doings and lack of professionalism. It was all about who else but a big gun, one who has had very high exposure in the social media for his peculiar conduct.

President to hold rallies in every district

President Maithripala Sirisena is to launch a campaign to educate the people on recent political developments and the work carried out by his Government.
For this purpose he will hold mass public rallies in every district, he told the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Central Committee meeting at his Paget Road residence.

He has asked parliamentarians and electoral organisers in the district to take part in these rallies. These rallies are in addition to the local government election campaign which has now been delayed due to an Appeal Court ruling.

CPC board on firing line
The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation’s board of directors is likely to be reconstituted in the wake of the recent countrywide petrol shortage.
Government sources say President Maithripala Sirisena will ask Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga to carry out the task. He would have to seek the President’s approval for the new nominees. The board is currently headed by Dhammika Ranatunga, brother of the Minister.

At last Tuesday’s weekly ministerial meeting, President Sirisena asked Minister Ranatunga to explain how rumours of another petrol shortage led to queues outside fuel stations around the city. The minister said he had asked the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to conduct a probe into the matter. He said an SMS sent by someone had been the cause for all the panic.

The President directed the Cabinet Sub Committee appointed to probe the shortage to continue to liaise with Minister Ranatunga and ensure supplies of fuel were not interrupted. For this purpose, the sub -committee will monitor impending fuel shipments and ensure correct decisions are taken. The sub-committee headed by Sarath Amunugama includes Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Arjuna Ranatunga.

Among other matters, the Committee noted in its report that “Initial indications were that the lack of unloading equipment and lack of sufficient pipelines to transfer fuel to Muthurajawela and Sapugaskanda as well as failure to maintain buffer stocks were reasons, senior officials of the CPC should be responsible for purchases, maintaining stocks and distribution activities. However, it is difficult to clearly identify the specific officials responsible due to long term deficiencies in the management of fuel stocks. Therefore, we propose that a three-member investigation team with sufficient technical expertise be appointed.”

Gallant officer gets doctorate in economics also

Major General Boniface Perera

Military officers usually receive their academic honours in defence, security or other related fields.
However, the first exception in the Sri Lanka Army appears to be Major General Boniface Perera who has won a doctorate in economics after completing his PhD at the Kotelawala Defence Academy. He retires from service on December 4.

Maj. Gen. Perera RWP RSP USP ndu psc is an Infantry Officer from the Sinha Regiment. He joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1981 and underwent the basic Officer Cadet training at the Sri Lanka Military Academy in Diyatalawa. He served as Platoon Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Commander and Brigade Commander.

He won gallantry awards of Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP), Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP) and Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP). He has taken part in seminars including Regimental Signal Officers’ Course in Pakistan, Small Arms Course in China, Young Officers’ Course in India, Junior Command Course in India, World’s Latest Weapons Technology Seminar in Singapore, Senior Command Course in India, EX COBRA GOLD with Multinational Forces in Thailand and Search & Rescue Administrator course in Singapore.

He has also participated in the United Nations’ Seminar in the United States representing the Government of Sri Lanka. He was the senior military representative of the delegation to China and Russia. Further, he was graduated from Defence Services Command and Staff College in Sri Lanka.

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