Deputy Ministers in charge of Tourism Arjuna Ranatunga and Faizer Mustapha missed Wednesday`s launch of WOMAD SRI LANKA FESTIVAL OF DRUMS, a multi-million dollar project initiated during the previous UNP administration. The mega-project is part of the efforts to promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination, particularly in Europe, the US and Scandinavian countries.
Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike is away in the US and is expected to return only in early October. Bandaranaike accompanied President Chandrika Kumaratunga to this year`s world summit in New York, which concluded last week. Kumaratunga is expected to be back tomorrow.
The Island learns that the mega project was finalised on the eve of the change of government in the early part of last year. `The UPFA decided to go ahead with the project,` an official said.
Tourist Board Chief Udaya Nanayakkara delivered the welcome speech at Wednesday`s launch at the Bishop`s College Auditorium. Ministry Secretary Dr. R. Ramanujam was present.
There were performers from Cuba, USA, Iran, Burundi, Japan, UK, Brazil, India, Colombia, Singapore, Cote D`ivoire, and Sri Lanka`s Ravibandhu Vidyapathy and drummers and dancers. A person who sat through the three-hour show at the Bishop`s said that the Sri Lankan performance took almost half of the show.
The Island learns that international ticket sales have been extremely poor. The organisers are believed to have sold less than 50 tickets overseas. `Ticket sales suggest a bleak picture,` an invitee at Wednesday`s show said. The organisers are believed to be planning to stage a series of promotion activities overseas. `There is a need to review the entire project,` he said and asked ` Is it worth the money we are spending.` An influential minister of the previous government is believed to have finalised the project.