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IIFA cost Rs. 850 mn, including Rs. 400 mn on stadium repairs

Amidst growing controversy over the expenditure incurred by the Sri Lankan government for the recently concluded International Indian Film Academy (IFFA) awards ceremony in Colombo, Deputy Economic Development Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena yesterday Rs. 850 million had been spent.

Responding to a query by The Island at a media conference held at the Information Department, Minister Abeywardena revealed that improvements to the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium had cost Rs. 400 million. The balance Rs. 450 million had been spent on the groundwork and events connected with the show.

He said that government had been compelled to undertake a major rehabilitation project due to the extremely poor condition of the venue. Minister Abeywardena said that the new management would have to explore ways and means of bringing in revenue to sustain the facility.

Earlier, the government estimated the total funding made available by the State at Rs 450 million.

Both the UNP and the JVP accused the government of squandering Rs. 600 million on IIFA, charging that the country had not received any tangible benefits.

Minister Abeywardena said that Wiz Craft, the Indian organizers of the mega event had accepted Sri Lanka’s bid, though South Korea had made a higher bid. According to him, Sri Lanka’s bid of Rs. 450 million had been approved by the Cabinet, whereas the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium had been restored as part of the infrastructure development projects.

Of the 5,800 seats at the Stadium, 2,800 had been removed to accommodate electrical appliances and other equipment, leaving only 2,700 seats for the show, Minister Abeywardena said. The organizers wanted 2,200 for the Indians leaving Sri Lankans with only 500 seats.

Minister Abeywardena said that the money spent on the Indian show was nothing but a wise investment.

Wiz Craft spokesman Sabbas Joseph dismissed criticism in a section of the Sri Lankan press that IIFA awards in Colombo had been a flop. He said that the Colombo event had been the most successful as far as the number of Indian artistes who attended a particular IIFA awards ceremony was concerned. The absence of a few stars including Amithab Bachchan did not make it a failure, he stressed and went on to give a list of artistes, who accepted their invitation to take part in the annual show.

Acknowledging there had been a spate of protests back in India when they announced their plans, many had felt Wiz Craft would quit the Colombo project, he said. Had that happened, Sri Lanka’s efforts to attract tourism, investment and also present the country as a tourist destination would have suffered an irreparable loss, he said.

According to him, an IIFA would have cost $ 14 to 20 million, though Sri Lanka’s contribution was nowhere near it. He emphasized that they did not regret their decision to go ahead with the show despite protests in India and a section of the Tamil Diaspora.

He said that they had probably spent $ 6 to 8 million in Sri Lanka.

Responding to another query by The Island, Joseph said that a section of the media had turned the recent protests directed at IIFA awards ceremony into an opportunity to grab public attention.

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