In Sri Lanka, prison turned into a cultural center



Kandy: Once a maximum-security prison over 13 acres making it the second largest in Sri Lanka, Bogambara Prison is being transformed into the Bogambara Cultural Park featuring an open air theater, studio for traditional arts and crafts, a tourist information center and multiple recreational areas.

Phase I of the project was inaugurated this week by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who unveiled a plaque commemorating the event, the Government Official News Portal said.

The project is expected to offer considerable benefits to the country and specifically to the city of Kandy in the Central Province by generating new opportunities for employment as well as creating avenues for trade, tourism and investment.

“We want to develop the city of Kandy including the Bogambara cultural complex in the same way as the Galle Fort, Trincomalee and Anuradhapura were developed as areas of cultural interest, in view of growing tourist arrivals into the country,” Wickremesinghe said, quoted by the portal.

However, the significance of the project is not confined to the economy and better living standards.

The former prison is one of the oldest existing buildings in the World Heritage City of Kandy and considered an archaeological landmark.

When it was built in 1876 by N R Saunders, the Inspector General of Prisons and Police of the British Ceylon Government, Bogambara’s Prison’s main inspiration was the Bastille fortress in Paris.

Bogambara was Sri Lanka’s second largest prison and housed gallows, serious offenders and the death row.

To develop the Bogambara Cultural Park, a decision was made to conserve the buildings because of their archaeological and historic value.

In 2013, the government transferred the inmates to a new prison complex in Pallekelle.

The master plan for the project and design redevelopment was established by the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs on December 9, 2016 and will be implemented by the Ministry of Development Strategies & International Trade, Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, Urban Development Authority, Central Engineering Services Ltd and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka under the guidance and supervision of the Department of Archaeology.

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