Ceypetco and its new office complex: Truth


At the ceremony held on 19-08-2011 to mark the opening  of the ‘CEYPETCO NIVAHANA’, the new office complex of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), at Dematagoda, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whilst almost reprimanding those officials responsible for the recent  import and distribution of low quality petrol in the country, stated that it was a great feeling for him to see the CPC had got its own office complex since the late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike established the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation some fifty years back. At the same ceremony Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Petroleum Industries, said that he was glad to see that CPC had come to own its first ever office building, which, he said, was a victory for all employees of CPC.

The statements by the President and the Minister that "CEYPETCO NIVAHANA" at Dematagoda is the first ever office building owned by the CPC are not factually correct. Obviously, they had not been briefed correctly by their respective officials.

The credit for the acquisition by the CPC of the ‘first ever office building’   for its Head Office Complex should fairly and squarely go to the late T. B. Ilangaratne, Minister in charge of the CPC in the 1961/1962 period, his then Permanent Secretary, the late K. Alvapillai of the then elite Ceylon Civil Service, the late N. E. Weerasuriya, QC, the then Chairman of the CPC and the late Sam H. Silva, the  General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of CPC at that time. (There was no Managing Director at the CPC according to the relevant ACT). They were instrumental in acquiring the approximately eight-acre property at 113, Galle Road, Colombo 03, for the CPC’s ‘first ever office building’, which was occupied by the CPC in the first quarter of the year 1962. The rectangular shaped property was adjacent to the Temple Trees’, the official residence of the Prime Minister.

The other boundaries of the property facing the Galle Road were Rotunda Gardens and the Duplication Road. In the middle of the premises there was a small area sufficient for a playground, where netball and badminton were played. With the construction of a two-storeyed building, with modern facilities bordering  the Duplication Road, within the premises, began the  commencement of construction of additional buildings and alterations to the existing buildings of the CPC. Due to various reasons concerning safety of Temple Trees with proposed high-rise buildings coming up adjacent to that place, the governments of Sirimavo and the Jayewardene  directed the CPC to find alternative accommodation and as a result it constructed a building for its Head Office somewhere around Battaramulla, which was subsequently sold to another semi-government institution as the government of President Ranasisnghe Premadasa had no objections to CPC’s construction of buildings for its office complex at the same venue, i. e., 113, Galle Road, Kollupitiya, provided adequate measures were taken by the CPC to ensure the safety of Temple Trees. Consequently, when preliminary steps were being taken for the construction of additional buildings and making alterations to the existing one, where CPC had already established its head office, the tragic demise of the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa put an end to those plans. One of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s first actions as Prime Minister was to take over the newly constructed two-storyed building within the CPC premises for accommodating his security contingent of nearly 200 officers thereby  forcing the CPC to find alternative accommodation for its displaced personnel at rented premises away from the Head office of the CPC.

Thus began the nomadic way of life for the CPC!  When Chandrika Kumaratunga became President in 1994, she acquired the rest of the CPC Head Office premises at 113, Galle Road, Kollupitiya without even paying any compensation to the CPC, the results being heavy recurrent financial losses to the CPC. The first ever  Head Office building owned by the CPC is now part and parcel of the abode of the incumbent President of the country!

I served the CPC from its very inception in June 1961 until May, 1993 and am writing this letter purely  for the purpose of putting the record straight.

S. Talpahewa

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