High Commissioner of India, Ashok K. Kantha, laid the foundation stone for construction of the Mahatma Gandhi International Centre at Matale, Central Province recently.
The ceremony was held in the presence of Minister of Livestock and Rural Community Development ArumuganThondaman, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Muthu Sivalingam, Members of Parliament A.H.M. Azwar and P. Rajadurai, Minister of Tamil Education sports and youth affairs of the Central Provincial Council Anushia Sivarajah, Mayor of Matale Hilmy Mohammed, Assistant High Commissioner in Kandy A. Natarajan and members of the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Sabha’ Matale.
In his remarks, High Commissioner Kantha highlighted that the construction of the Mahatma Gandhi International Centre was fully funded by the Government of India at a cost of Rs. 88.60 million and that the Centre, with an auditorium, library, and a conference hall would cater to the wider needs of the society.
He appreciated the Matale Municipal Council for providing an 80 perch land to the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Sabha’ for construction of the Centre and announced that the project would be completed within a period of one year. Kantha emphasised that the spirituality flowing from all religions and communities would flourish at the Centre, which was one of the missions of Mahatma Gandhi.
The High Commissioner recalled that Mahatma Gandhi, during his three week-long visit to Sri Lanka in 1927, made a whirlwind visit to various cities including Colombo, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Bandarawela, Hatton, Galle, Jaffna, and Point Pedro and many other cities, to collect donations for his Khadi project.
He added that Mahatma Gandhi made at least 35 speeches to Sri Lankan audiences and also visited many schools, namely, Trinity and Dharmaraja Colleges in Kandy, Zahira and Ananda Colleges in Colombo and laid the foundation stone for a female education centre in Matale, now known as the Pakkiyam National College.
In their remarks, Muthu Sivalingam, MP Azwar, as well as the Mayor of Matale, thanked the Government of India for supporting this project and for India’s assistance for a number of other developmental projects including the flagship Indian housing project, Northern and Southern railway rehabilitation project, 150 bed base hospital at Dickoya, Hatton, setting up of three vocational training centres at Hatton, Nuwara Eliya and Helboda, gifting of buses and 350 CEWET scholarships to assist students from the plantation areas, besides 440 other scholarships that enabled students to pursue their higher education in Sri Lanka and in India.
They also spoke about Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings related to truth and non-violence and his visit to Sri Lanka in 1927, which fostered the friendship between India and Sri Lanka. The High Commissioner and Sharmila Kantha also visited the Pakkiyam National College and paid homage to ‘Gandhiji’ by garlanding his statue at the College.
The foundation stone was laid by High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha, with the assistance by India for the project of Rs. 88.60 million. The project is a special one, as ‘Gandhiji’ visited Matale in 1927 during his visit to Sri Lanka and laid the foundation stone for the Packiam National School and Mahatma Gandhi Sabha was formed in 1948 immediately after Gandhiji’s death to spread his ideals and message of universal peace and brotherhood.
The Mahatma Gandhi Centre was constructed when the Matale Municipal Council leased about 80 perches of land to the Sabha in 1963. During the 1983 riots, the Centre was completely damaged. The Mahatma Gandhi Sabha Matale had submitted a proposal in April 2011 for construction of a Mahatma Gandhi International Centre in the land allotted by the Municipal Council.
The project was approved by the External Resources Department of the Ministry of Finance and Planning to be taken up as a small development project to be implemented with the assistance of India and the Urban Development Authority prepared the architectural and engineering design for the Project. Tenders were invited subsequently and the work is being awarded to Wahid Construction to execute the Project.