This article is taken from the Reconciliation Website, www.peaceinsrilanka.org which subsumes the old site www.peaceinsrilanka.lk used by the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP).

 

The concert by former female combatants at Independence Day celebrations in Vavuniya - 2010

Mr Speaker, I am pleased to move this adjournment motion on the establishment of a National Theatre which in fact I suggested some months ago. To cite the full text of the proposed motion –

In view of the importance of the performing arts for education as well as national integration, this House do stand adjourned to urge the establishment of a National Theatre that would

a)    Establish a theatre group able to perform in all three national languages

b)    Introduce high level training in performance and production, including the capacity to develop productions for touring islandwide

c)    Encourage productions that use other art forms, in particular music and dance, to promote wider understanding of pluralistic cultural traditions

d)    Develop links with the broadcasting media to ensure wider dissemination of productions

e)    Act as a flagship for provincial and other troupes while providing opportunities to showcase local talent

 

The motion is based on a very simple principle that has stood several countries concerned with nation building in good stead. It is that the arts are a binding force in a nation, and that providing opportunities for young people to work together creatively will do much to promote social cohesion.

 

Sadly, where countries such as India and China, have institutions that bring young people together to train and perform together, we have done little thus far to ensure cultural cooperation and synthesis amongst our people. The nearest we got was the Dance Troupe of the National Youth Services Council, but that has failed to have the impact that a prestigious national institution would have.

 

That we recognize the importance of the arts in bringing people together is obvious from the programme arranged for Independence Day in Kataragama next month. Young people from the Uva Province will be performing a range of items representing various sections of society. But while such exhibitions are important, they will not have the lasting effect we must pursue.

 

We have a great opportunity at present, with the anticipated opening later this year of the beautiful performing arts centre that has been gifted to us by the Chinese government. But, as the motion makes clear, we need to think not only of infrastructure, but of the human resources that will alone make that infrastructure productive.

 

In this regard I was pleased that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs is thinking in terms of promoting multicultural activity in the Cultural Centres it has established, or plans to set up, all over the country. A recent letter from the Ministry to District Secretaries encourages them to ensure pluralism in the Centres, and also to provide facilities for training young people in arts and crafts. I hope very much that officials and community leaders in all areas will fulfil this request.

 

However, while such activity is desirable all over the country, as I mentioned we need also to establish a professional theatre that will attract talent from all over the country, and ensure disciplined and innovative training. And while, as proposed, productions of this National Theatre should use other art forms, as this country has seen exemplified for instance in the work of Prof Sarachchandra, I have deliberately used the word theatre, and stressed performances in all three Sri Lankan languages, to emphasize the need for verbal communication and analysis of issues of national importance.  Such an institution, welcoming trainees and artists from all areas of the country, would contribute immeasurably to the creative and constructive expression of a national identity.

 

Such a company, Mr Speaker, should also tour nationwide, to promote appreciation of its work and its message nationwide, with stress on the all-embracing national identity of its members. In addition I have mentioned the need to develop links with the broadcasting media, to ensure wider dissemination of productions quickly.

 

I am aware that the Ministry has an ambitious programme, and that a number of theatres are being refurbished. But it is worth considering why for instance the Tower Hall Foundation, established with so much fanfare, has thus far contributed little to the nation or the arts. I believe it is due to neglect of the human side of any institution, the need to develop dedicated and disciplined actors with a social as well as artistic mission. Theatre must educate and inspire as well as entertain, and for that purpose we must devote time also to planning for what will fill the buildings that are coming up, what will help our people to understand and appreciate and partake of the magnificient pluralistic cultural landscape of this land.

 

In thanking you, Mr Speaker, let me also express my gratitude in advance to the Hon Malini Fonseka, MP, who will second the motion. As an amateur in the field, I am honoured that a most distinguished professional will support this request.

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