Colombo, May 13 (newsin.asia): The human bones found at the Shangri-La hotel construction site on Galle Face here on Saturday, may well date to the period when it was a British military cemetery, police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said.
“However, we are investigating with the help of forensic experts,” he added.
It was in 1803 that a marshy area, now called Galle Face or Galle Face Green, was cleared and turned into a cemetery for British soldiers. In January that year, the British forces, which had invaded the Kandyan kingdom under the over confident Lt.Gen.Hay MacDowall, were roundly defeated by the Kandyans and had to retreat to Colombo with heavy casualties.
As the existing Dutch burial ground at Pettah in Colombo did not have adequate capacity to bury the very large number of soldiers, land that now forms Galle Face Green near the present day Presidential Secretariat, was cleared of marsh and turned into a cemetery.
It was named the Galle Face Burial Grounds. People at that time referred to it jokingly as ‘Padre Bailey’s Go-Down’, so called because an Anglican Archdeacon, Bailey, officiated at many of the funerals there. The cemetery was exclusively for the British..
In the 1920s, the graves were dug up, and the remains were interred in the Colombo Cemetery (Kanatte) in Borella which had come up in 1860 as the cemetery for all religions and denominations.
The cemetery on Galle Face was turned into a public park where all games including horse racing, golf and cricket were played. In 1859, the ground nearest to the shore had been converted into a promenade by Governor Henry Ward for gentlemen and ladies to stroll in the evenings “to take in the air”.
In 1930, the Presidential Secretariat had come come up, and in 1976, a bronze statue of former Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike, sculpted in the Soviet Union, was installed. It is pat in front of the site where the super-luxury Shangri-La hotel is being built.
(The featured image at the top shows the SWRD Bandaranaike statue with the Shangri-La hotel construction site in the background).