Artistes condemn new tax laws as a threat to culture



By Saman Indrajith

Artistes have decided to resort to protests against the government’s new Inland Revenue Act, which, they say, would sound the death knell for the country’s art and culture.

Addressing a Society for Socialist Art press conference held at the JVP headquarters yesterday JVP National Organiser MP Bimal Ratnayake said that artistes had now realised that the government had taken them for a ride. "None of the promises made by the government have been honoured. Instead, the government has introduced a new Inland Revenue Act to slap unprecedented taxes on artistes and their creations. Majority of artistes spend their own funds for producing films, teledramas and dramas. Returns on thier investment are low and now the government plans to tax them. The theatres in the country face many problems. The National Art Gallery has been shut down. It is now obvious Ranil Wickremesinghe and R. Paskaralingam with the support of a group of businessmen are trying to convert the area belonging to the National Art Gallery and John de Silva Memorial Theatre into a theme park."

Veteran actress Deepani Silva said: Tax increases had dealt a death blow to the tele drama industry. We have raised this issue many times before, but the government won’t budge. A new 14 per cent tax is levied on artistes. We have been promised that tax would be decreased to five per cent. But, that promise will never be fulfilled."

Senior artiste Keerthi Welisarage said the government’s tax on literary works would discourage the writers and publishers. "Progress in the field of art and culture is an indication of a country’s development. A nation cannot be developed without cultural development. We are fast becoming a cultural desert."

Senior artiste Lalith Rajapaksa said that artistes had fought to get the John De Silva Memorial Theatre for the artistes but the government would not listen. "The same has happened to the National Art Gallery, which has been now shut for months. The same fate has befallen Elphinstone Hall, Maradana."

Actor Jagath Manuwarna said: "This government came to power, promising assistance to artistes. The distribution of films has now been taken over by the Film Corporation, which did nothing for the cinema industry during the recent past. As a result there is a long queue of films to be released. We have brought this to the notice of the President, but nothing has happened so far."

MP Bimal Ratnayake: "We as a party are against new tax laws. There was a 50 per cent tax concession for dramatists during the first year of their dramas. That, too, has been removed by the new tax law."

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