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President Mahinda Rajapaksa has vested in the public the modernized ‘Old Dutch Hospital’ which is a world heritage site, as a sophisticated shopping complex. The landmark Dutch Hospital building within the Galle Fort, refurbished as an exclusive modern shopping complex by the Government. The President graced the opening ceremony as the Chief Guest. Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was also present at the event.

Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the driving force behind the urban development, directed the renovation which was carried out by the Urban Development Authority (UDA). The modernization of the ancient Dutch hospital has been done with the assistance of the 10th Engineering Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army while conserving the old architecture and antiquity. It has been done while taking into account the environmental sustainability with attractive green parks on the concept of Green Cities.

With the success of the redevelopment of the Colombo Dutch Hospital project, this project was launched by the UDA under the programme of the Galle Development Project as a tourist city while maintaining its old and historical appeal. The shopping complex has several trade stalls including gems and jewellery shops, tea and spice shops, antiques, collectibles shops, a traditional Ayurveda spa, restaurants and other facilities. There are eight trade stalls in the 1st floor and ten stalls in the 2nd floor.

The President who declared open the shopping complex made an inspection tour of the complex and exchanged views with the traders. Those who rendered their assistance for modernization activities of the old Dutch hospital which was in a very much dilapidated condition and was to be fallen down to the grounds,  were appreciated.

Ministers including Chief Minister of Galle, Governor and the Mayor of Galle, Parliamentarians, Secretary to the President, Chief of Defence Staff, Service Commanders, Provincial and local Councillors, UDA Chairperson and the Director General, Project Architect, Senior State Officials and a large gathering of distinguished invitees were also present at the event.

The Galle Fort was built first by the Portuguese, and later modified by the Dutch during the 17th century. Even today, after 400 years of existence, it looks new and polished with reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. Due to its historic importance, the Galle Fort was announced as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

The modern history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship, under Lorenzo de Almeida was driven there by a storm. However, the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter it, so the Portuguese took it by force. In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present Fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as Sun, Moon and Star. After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796, they preserved the Fort unchanged, and used it as the administrative centre of Galle.

Pix by: Nalin Hewapathirana


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