COLOMBO, March 14, 2005
One of Sri Lanka's most famous residences -- the home of two former, now late prime ministers and the country's current president -- will soon be turned into an exclusive boutique hotel.
Tintagel, the stately mansion down Colombo's fashionable Rosmead Place, will soon make way for a small group of architects and workers turning the home of the Bandaranaike family into one of the city's best-known venues for the rich and famous overseas visitors.
Bandaranaike, elder sister of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and
brother Anura, who is a senior minister in the government, is the only occupant
and the main reason for the temporary parting of the ways is loneliness
and the huge cost of maintaining mansions like this. All three own
The Bandaranaike family is one of the famous political dynasties in South Asia like the Gandhis in India and the Bhuttos in Pakistan.
"Yes, this house has had drama more than any other in the country. A majority of people in Sri Lanka considers this to be a treasure that should be preserved for posterity," said Bandaranaike, in an interview with The Sunday Times yesterday, adding however that mansions and palaces across the world were being leased out due to the high cost of maintenance.
"All the huge palaces in Europe, the chateaus in France, the castles and manorial homes in England and even the Maharajahs' palaces in India have been turned into plush, posh elegant hotels," she was quoted as saying.
Bandaranaike is the only member of the family that has stayed clear of politics. She runs the Sunera Foundation, an organisation she founded many years ago that provides opportunities through dance and drama for differently-abled and underprivileged children and youths to integrate into society.
"This was a lively house, full of people and noise. With Amma's (mother's) death the situation changed overnight. I felt lonely and isolated. During the day I filled the place with Sunera Foundation staff and people," she says.
The 1,116-1,302 sq m (12,000-14,000 sq ft) mansion on 101 perches of land is steeped in history. This is where Prime Minister Solomon Dias Bandaranaike was shot dead by a radical Buddhist monk in September 1959 in the veranda. Nearly a year later, his bereaved widow, Sirimavo, was elected Prime Minister and 34 years after that Chandrika became the country's president while younger brother Anura was already a parliamentarian.
In the past, Tintagel has been rented out twice by the Bandaranaikes between 1962-67, first to the Burmese ambassador and later to the Egyptian ambassador.
Fernando, its new tenant, said that while protecting and preserving the mansion for posterity, he hopes to create a unique Sri Lankan boutique hotel for the discerning tourists and visiting foreign dignitaries who themselves would know the value of a place of such old world charm and history.
Tintagal, built in 1929, will have eight suites, each with its own sitting room, attached facilities and private balcony. A few walls will have to be opened out in the house but no major alterations will take place.
There will be a swimming pool and a lap pool. The boutique hotel is scheduled to be opened by year-end.
[Copyright 2005 Pertubuhan Berita Nasional Malaysia, Malaysia General News]
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