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Colonial architecture, heritage must be preserved: PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with Minister Sagala Ratnayaka and EU’s Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue, Netherland’s Ambassador Joanne Dooneward and German Ambassador Jorn Rohde at the conference. Picture by Saliya Rupasinghe.

Sri Lanka’s colonial and Kandyan architecture needs to be protected and restored, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Wednesday.

He was speaking at the Living Heritage conference at the Grand Oriental Hotel in Colombo.

“Everywhere you go you will find buildings of the European heritage in this country,” he said, citing the Dutch Hospital and Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, as well as the Galle Dutch fort.

“But we also have other buildings from the same period, the Kandyan period, which are maintained. There are other, older buildings to renovate, going back about two centuries,” he said. “This is the living heritage of Sri Lanka, and this living heritage is what we want to make sure is preserved and also utilised as a part of our tourist industry.”

Premier Wickremesinghe said that the government has asked the Tourist Development Authority to identify buildings for preservation. He also promised funding to Moratuwa University students who were conducting architectural heritage projects.

“We need a plan,” he said, because “Colombo has some unique architecture, Colombo together with Calcutta is where the modern commercial example was introduced to Asia.”

Preserving those physical buildings is “valuable for history,” he said.“Colombo has a rich and diverse urban environment,” EU’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Tung-Lai Margue said.

But “without the yin of policy change, and the yang of demand for that change from civil society, the city of memories, the city of people’s youth, will be lost,” he said.

The architectural conference was sponsored by the EU, the Netherlands and German embassies and the British Council.