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Friday, June 21, 2024

India-built Jaffna Cultural Centre awaits inauguration for two years

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Nearly two years after its construction, the India-funded Jaffna Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province awaits inauguration, amid persisting uncertainty over who will run the facility.

The structure, with 11 floors and facilities, including an auditorium that can seat 600 persons, a conference hall, an amphitheatre and a digital library, was completed in early 2020.

Built with an Indian grant of USD 11 million, the centre was envisaged as a public space to “promote, preserve and foster the cultural heritage of Jaffna”, and serve as “a hub of cultural activities” in Sri Lanka.

“We hope to open it soon,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a rally in Chennai in February 2021.

But there has been little movement since, despite India’s subsequent offer to Sri Lanka, to absorb the administrative costs of the centre for five years.

As per the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Governments of India and Sri Lanka in 2014 during Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term as President, the Government of India was to hand over the facility to the Government of Sri Lanka that would, in turn, hand it over to the Jaffna Municipal Council, which was given the responsibility of managing its recurring expenses and maintenance.

In effect, it was envisioned as a facility in Jaffna, that would be managed by the local municipal authority and not the Central Government in Colombo.

Now, amid questions about the Municipal Council’s ability to spare funds to run the centre, its future looks uncertain.

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