- Swimming club accused of failing to pay outstanding lease
- Division Secretary claims repeated notices disregarded
- Last-minute talks heading for deadlock
- Proposal to construct supermarket on part of land shot down
One of the oldest clubs in Colombo, the Otter Aquatic Club, is facing closure as attempts to resolve an issue with the authorities has more or less failed.
The club has been given marching orders as the Government eyes the prime property for development work.
Thimbirigasyaya Divisional Secretary Priyantha Dissanayake told Daily Mirror, an eviction notice had been issued to Otter Aquatic Club after they failed to pay a huge outstanding lease.
The Otter Aquatic Club has been given time till 30th September 2020 to vacate the premises.
Ms. Dissanayake said that the lease for Otter Aquatic Club expired on 30 September 2019. She elaborated that the club also had an arrears payment due on the lease, and that the arrears due was to the tune of Rs. 31 million.
“There was a large amount to pay. They paid little by little. We gave them time to settle the full arrears, but as they never did so, we could not renew the lease. They are now illegally occupying the land,” she said.
Ms. Dissanayake said that the club had been given one month notice to return the land but since they failed to do so eviction orders were issued.
She says the Government has now earmarked the Colombo 7 property for development purposes. “We have been directed by the Government to acquire this land for city development purposes,” she said.
There had been reports that last-minute talks were ongoing with the relevant parties to try and reach a settlement to the matter. However, Ms. Dissanayake said that no such last-minute talks had taken place with her office.
“We had discussions with them since November last year and until last month. But they could not clear the arrears,” she said.
Otters Aquatic Club Managing Director Mahendra de Silva told Daily Mirror that they were facing a losing battle. He said that talks were underway with the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to try and reach a settlement.
“We are trying several things. We are having talks with the authorities,” he said.
However, Mahendra de Silva admitted that the club was fighting a losing battle as no solution had been reached as yet. The club had sought to sell part of the land to a supermarket chain to pay some of the dues, but the proposal has been rejected.
“We had even proposed opening a supermarket on the property together with Food City but that was also shot down,” he said.
Mr. de Silva said that the biggest issue faced by the club was that they could not settle the arrears.
Asked if there was no way the club could raise the money required with the support of the members, he responded saying the attempts were futile.
Longstanding members of the club, speaking to Daily Mirror on the condition of anonymity, said that the club had made appeals to its members to make contributions to save the club. One individual said that he had received several letters from the club, but he refused to pay. Another member accused the past management of the club of misusing its funds resulting in its current fate.
“It’s a shame. This club was one of the most prestigious clubs. Otters is a well-known name and this should not have happened,” the senior club member said.
The club, founded in 1933, is primarily a sporting club with focus towards aquatic sports. It has the distinction of having three swimming pools, one to Olympic standards, one as a training pool and a kiddies’ pool.
Additionally, according to their Facebook page, they have three clay Tennis courts with two of them flood lit, two indoor Badminton courts and two tables in air-conditioning for Snooker & Billiards with one for Pool. The club also has two Squash courts. The clubhouse consists of a separate dining area with two Bars, a Restaurant, Gym, Table Tennis and a Sports shop.
An interesting feature of the club is its location in the middle of an elite residential area – Colombo 7. As a result, the club is within easy access to all concerned at all times.
The club has had issues with the authorities in the past as well. Last year the kitchen of the club was found to be unhygienic. The kitchen was raided by food inspectors of the Colombo Municipal Council and Public Health Inspectors and the club was issued a warning.
The management had however played down the incident at the time and assured that they would rectify the matter.