Sri Lanka should show the world that it is not a country which is afraid of the open economy and take steps to modernize the city of Colombo and elsewhere while preserving its heritage, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said today.
Prime Minister made this remark at a seminar ‘Living Heritage’ organized by the European Union together with the British Council last morning.
“The civilization of Sri Lanka was a powerful commercial one. The modern commercialization came to Asia from Sri Lanka.. We were one of the important countries in Asia during the old days. Preserving buildings of Rajarata Kingdom and during the European colonial period is not enough. Our effort today should be to become the hub of the Indian Ocean. A new architecture and new buildings would be introduced to the country under this programme. If we introduced an economy based on trade in Rajarata during the old days we must not be afraid to do it today and introduce a modern architecture to the country which is essential for it. Let us try to create a perception that Sri Lanka is not a nation that is afraid of open economy,” the Prime Minister said .
“I find it ironic, that the government of Netherlands is spending money to preserve the buildings which were put up by destroying the Dutch buildings. Colombo together with Goa happens to be the oldest cities which were opened out to the Europeans. In this area is the Fort of Colombo put up by the Portuguese. There is also the residence of the Dutch governor. There are other Dutch buildings here. Subsequently after the British took over some buildings came down. They said the house of the Dutch Governor had to be brought down. However, one part of it is left. That is the mission to the seamen that is next to this Hotel GOH. There were other buildings such as Cargills and all those buildings were brought down by the British and their buildings were put in place. I am not complaining about it as in the process my great grandfather made money by giving the bricks, Don Carolis made money by giving furniture and Artigala by giving the plants. Artigala through the money he earned found Kahatagaha Graphite,” he also said.
“Colombo has a lot of old architecture, the warehouse building from Fort is from the Dutch period, Wolfendhal Church in the early British period, Srimathipaya, the Prime Minister’s office, Prime Minister’s residence which comes from Dutch period to early British period. Actually the transformation of out architecture taking in the national design where you find Edward Reed did the Kelaniya Temple in the format of Lankatilaka Vihara, subsequently which Abaknodi Will Jones has done with the Lake House building with the Independence Squire and the Peradeniya building and the National Art Gallery which was destroyed. Wherever you go you find old buildings of Europen heritage in the country. We have a history of architecture going down to the era of Thuparamaya. We have already seen some of them getting converted. How do we preserve them and build them up? We put a group of our officials to come up with a final report on the situation with regard to old buildings. Help us to identify and see how they should be preserved. There are many more old buildings that have to be preserved. Are there any groups to undertake it?. There are students from University of Moratuwa, if they are willing to do it we will fund it,” he added.
Ambassador of European Union and in Sri Lanka and Maldives Tung-Lai Margue said the challenge of balancing conservation and development and marrying each other is faced not only in Sri Lanka but everywhere in the world. “This is a challenge we have accepted. I hope Sri Lanka will not face the hardships which countries such as Singapore has faced in conserving old buildings and undertaking development ,” he said. (Yohan Perera)