Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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John De Silva Theatre reconstruction work begins amidst economic crisis

The John De Silva Memorial Theatre, a Colombo landmark built in 1974 as a tribute to the playwright credited with the rise of Sinhala historical drama at the turn of the 20th century is to be reconstructed under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime ata time where his Finance Ministry has decided to suspend all on going projects to avert fiscal crisis.

This very popular theatre once famous for staging stage dramas in 1970’s was earmarked to sell at high price under privatisation by the Previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime which was responsible for demolishing it and started to reconstruct a new theatre.

Several leading artistes and performance arts associations have protested against this move alleging the Rsajapksa regime for corrupt practices and squandering money and the reconstruction work suspended as the aim of money making by then rulers and its cronies had been exposed. ,

For years Rajapaksas along with members of his familial cartel and their horrid cronies misappropriated from the public funds and they were planning to pilfer state funds from John De Silva Memorial Theatre development project at that time, local media reported at that time.

The renovation work of the Theatre was commenced in the year 2011 but the the construction activities had been delayed due to financial issues. .

Although the Cabinet of Ministers gave its approval for expenditure estimate of Rs. 322 million, its actual expenditure was Rs. 422 million, audit inspections revealed.

Hence an estimate of another Rs. 90 million was for the completion of the first phase, for which the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was received.

The renovation activities had been further delayed due to holding of allocations and the delay in carrying out other activities and an allocation of another Rs. 1 billion has not been released after the change of government.

However, the John De Silva Memorial Theatre reconstruction comes into light during this economic crisis to the dismay of the people who are struggling to survive under economic hardship, civil society activists said.

This theatre is to be given a new lease of life via a comprehensive refurbishment entrusted to Sierra Construction Limited, a pioneer in its own right, informed sources said.

The Department of Cultural Affairs has awarded the Design and Build contract for Stage II of the Refurbishment Project to Sierra Construction Ltd., a leading general engineering and construction company in Sri Lanka.

The refurbishment, based on conceptual designs by the Project Consultancy Unit of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Moratuwa, encompasses civil works, general engineering, stage engineering, supply and installation of mechanical and electrical equipment, testing, commissioning and maintenance..

The refurbishment work, expected to be completed by January 2023, the Company said.

Most of the equipment and materials required for the refurbishment are to be imported from prominent international suppliers and manufacturers, in order to meet international standards.

The million dollar question was the carrying out of this project as the prices of all building materials have gone up and without dollars there was no way to import necessary materials , they added.

However the Company said procurement of these specialised international-standard materials, equipment and elements will play a significant role in the project’s execution. Industry experts from France, USA, Singapore and India will collaborate with Sierra for specialised systems for acoustics, stage lighting, stage curtain and the movable stage.

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