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This once-mighty fort is now home to administrative offices, and though large sections of the structure are crumbling, it’s still an evocative sight. It was built by the Portuguese in 1628, but the Dutch took over after just 10 years, followed by the British. Inside the courtyard are some dishevelled, yet colonnaded, old colonial buildings. Look for English cannons, surviving watchtowers and a ruined bell tower. Views across the lagoon are magnificent.
The Dutch Fort is located at Puliyanthivu island, in the town of Batticaloa, close to the Weber Stadium and the public library. At present the Kachcheri (Government Agent’s office) is housed within the fort premises. Plans are underway to move the Kachcheri to another location and dedicate the fort for tourism activities, however it is possible for visitors to walk the walls and explore the fort even now.
The site has significant religious implications dating back to the 1st century B.C., evidenced by a Buddhist stupa and shatra from the Ruhuna Kingdom that remains in the area. Sea erosion, insufficient funding, encroaching development, and the tsunami of 2004 have all conspired to damage the structure and its surrounding fortifications. Further, ethnic violence that has rocked the island for much of the last 30 years has prevented conservation efforts while dividing communities and threatening security in the area. However, plans to open the fort for public use can help unite the community and have the potential to further promote the fort as a religious and historic symbol.180