The official residence of Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to the UK situated in the upmarket St. John’s Wood area of London has been reconstructed and is now ready for occupation.

All it requires now is for this residence on Avenue Road to be furnished which, informed sources say, can be completed by end March, if those responsible put their heart to it. 

If the residence is made habitable after all these years of indecision and delay, the Sri Lankan Government will save a large amount of money now being paid as rent to private landlords.

Three High Commissioners - Kshenuka Senewiratne, retired Justice Nihal Jayasinghe and the present incumbent Dr Chris Nonis - have all lived in rented premises at substantial cost to the Sri Lankan tax payer. 

Around Rs. 2.4 million (£12,000) is the monthly rental payment for the high commissioner’s residence, which was rented in September 2011, according to these sources. "Both Ms. Seneviratne and Justice Jayasinghe are said to have paid lesser rent (about £8,000) when they had to move into private residences".The last high commissioner to occupy the St. John’s Wood residence was President’s Counsel, Faisz Musthapha who served in London in the first half of the last decade. At the time, it was found that the house needed substantial repairs.

Later, there was discussion whether the government should sell the premises and acquire another residence elsewhere or whether the existing one should be renovated. This debate took some time to resolve and eventually it was decided to keep the residence and renovate it.

However, a decision followed to demolish the building and put up a modern residence. This saw the architectural planning undertaken by Colombo-based institutions, several trips made by planning and engineering officials from Colombo and the number of subsequent changes the plans to satisfy the whims of politicians and officials and conform to the regulations of the relevant London authorities resulting in inordinate delays.

Also the funds needed to complete the building work were not coming as freely as was necessary resulting in more delays.

Those acquainted with the project say there is a separate apartment block that could be built in the large ground space available which could house two or three diplomatic officers as there is an annexe there already with another road frontage.

If this could be completed, then the government would save the house rents now paid by officers living in private apartments in addition to the £12,000 or so saved from the rent for the high commissioner.    

 


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