|07/09/1970: Bandaranaike Memorial Conference Hall|
|So, Ceylon after all, will have an international conference hall named after Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, and financed by People's China.|
If all goes well, the building should be ready for opening well before 1970.
Actually the building would have been in use by now but for the change in government in 1965.|
For work on the project as a plaque at Havelock Golf Links proclaims in Sinhalese, Tamil, English, and Chinese was inaugurated on March 17,1965.
The offer of financial assistance for the construction of the hall was made by Chinese Prime Minister Mr. Chou En-lai during his visit to the island in February the previous year.
The hall was to be a fitting memorial to the man who brought a new dimension and dynamism to Sino-Ceylon relations through the exchange of diplomatic representation.
It was Mr. Bandaranaike who steered the country away from its pro-West stance and on to the path of non-alignment in the process establishing diplomatic relations with all friendly nations- irrespective of their political ideologies. Finalized by the governments, the hall was to be constructed on a 35 acre at the Havelock Golf Links.
The building was to be a blend of ancient Sinhala and Chinese architecture.
The main hall, an octagonal having four floors would provide accommodation for nearly 600 delegates.
The main (delegates) entrance was to be from Builder's Road., with a row of circular water pools marking the driveway.
The entrance to the public was to be from Longdon Place, across a bridge spanning a large pool.
The entire project was estimated to cost Rs. 17 million, which was to be met by China.
On March 15, 1965, the two governments exchanged letters concerning the project and two days later a foundation-stone ceremony was held attended by Mrs. Bandaranaike and the then Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Hsieh Ke-hsi.
In June that year, the Dudley Senanayake government asked for a modification in the original design, reducing the scale of the hall and using the money saved to build a theatre and a hotel with a swimming pool.
The ostensible reason adduced by the government was that the hall - as originally designed - was too big for Ceylon.
China invited Ceylon to send a team of experts to discuss the modifications and the then Director Of Public Works, Mr. V. C. De Silva, and another person visited Peking the following year.
During the discussions , China suggested that the theatre and the hall be combined into one so that, on the one hand, the Ceylon Government's desire for a theatre could be satisfied and on the other, too much reduction of the scale of the hall could be avoided.
As to the building of a hotel as well, China pointed out that it would have to be regarded as a new project which would have to be reported to its government for approval.
The Ceylon team submitted a report to the government soon after its return.
That was the last that was heard of the project until in January,1969 Mr. T.B. Ilangaratne ( of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party) asked (in Parliament) the reason for the delay in the construction of the hall, and the results of the discussions in Peking.
The Junior Minister Of Public works, Post and Telecommunications, Mr. Wijepala Mendis, said that the Chinese Government had informed the Ceylon Government that it was " not the proceeding " with the agreement reached in Peking.
This brought an immediate denial from the Chinese charge d'affaires in Colombo, Mr. Hsi Yeh-sheng,. who stated that the answer given by the Junior Minister" is at variance with the facts: and had produced a wrong impression which is uncalled for"
He stated categorically, that his government "has never expressed to the Ceylon Government any idea of not proceeding with the project".
In other words, the offer was still open, and it was left to Ceylon to accept it or not.
Now, the United Front Government has decided to start from where the SLFP-LSSP Government left off in March 1965.