ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 24, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 39
TV Times  

Censor Board in crisis

Members challenge Serasinghe’s appointment

By Susitha R. Fernando

Removing Professor Somaratne Balasuriya and replacing former National Film Corporation (NFC), chairman, Ashoka Serasinghe to the distinguished and responsible position, the head of Public Performance Board (Censor Board) has created much controversy to the extent that some of the members in the board demand that they would resign from their positions.

The post of the Chairman of the PPB, country's main body which has the authority over deciding the films that had to be released to the public is vital for the development of country.

Ravindra Randeniya in a scene from 'Aksharaya'

While newly appointed chairman Ashoka Serasinghe complains about failures and malfunctions of the PPB under the past chairmen and some of their decisions taken with regard to certain films in the recent past, the members of the board claim that Prof. Balasuriya who is a well-known and distinguished writer and novelist is the person who is most suitable for the post. Further they question about the qualification of Mr. Serasinghe to this top post and they demand that they would not sit in the Public Performance Board, chaired by Ashoka Serasinghe.

According to media reports removal of Prof. Balasuriya is mainly due to his stance with regard to Asoka Handagama’s film 'Aksharaya'. Prof. Balasuriya with the approval of other members of Censor Board passed the film for public screening, while his successor Ashoka Serasinghe, then as the NFC chairman opposed it. Joining with Mr. Serasinghe view was the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

However the members of the PPC also argue that the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa was not with the stand taken by the Cultural Minister or any of the authority. Otherwise he would not have appointed Ravindra Randeniya, the main actor of 'Aksharaya' as his 'Advisor on Cinema', they argued. And the appointment of Ashoka Serasinghe was purely in the interest of authorities of the Cultural Ministry, the claimed.

‘Serasinghe is not suitable for the PPB Chairman’s seat’ : Members

A member of the PPB and also the Editor of 'Irida Divaina' and film critic Gamini Sumanasekera protesting against the removal of Prof. Balasuriya said that he (Prof. Balasruiya) is an eminent writer and possesses all the qualification to hold such responsibility.

"However we believe that this was not the decision of the President but by certain members of Cultural Ministry. With the appointment of Ravindra Randeniya, the main actor of 'Aksharaya' as the President's Advisor on Cinema, we see that Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs are going in different directions. Mr. Sumanasekera alleged that Ashoka Serasinghe was a part of the movement that acted against releasing 'Aksharaya' and he is narrow-minded with regard to arts and cinema.

Professor Balasuriya Buddhadasa Gamini

‘Mr. Serasinghe is a person who is blindly following anything that is related to the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ ‘ he said. Mr. Sumanasekara further warned about the present trend with regard to the arts and cinema. "Dharmasiri Pathiraja who was removed from the Arts Council was the first victim of this trend while Prof. Balasuriya was the second," he added.

"We don't know who is next," he warned. Another member of the PPB and writer and poet, Buddhadasa Galappathi complained that Ashoka Serasinghe is not a competent person to hold a responsible position like head of the PPB. "He is not a competent person with regard to cinema or management,".

Citing an example he said that the 'corporate plan', he presented to the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) from the NFC was rejected. Mr. Galappaththi who served in the board of directors of the NFC but resigned later said he would resign from the PPB rather than sitting with Mr. Serasinghe.

Another member of the PPB Malani Govinnage condemned the decision to remove Prof. Balasuriya on the stand taken by all the members of the PPB by passing 'Aksharaya' for the public screening. "PPB is an independent body and it is governed by and Act. We are not governed by a ministry or any other individual," she said.

Ms. Govinnage who joined the others with regard to the appointment of Mr. Serasinghe said that was against the appointment.

‘Artiste cannot decide on Cinema’ : PPB chairman Ashoka Serasinghe

Newly appointed PPB chairman speaking to the TV Times said that when releasing films the present situation of the country with backdrop of war has to be considered. "We have special respect to the soldiers and we will not allow anybody insult them through films" he said.

Newly appointed PPB chairman, Ashoka Serasinghe,

Mr. Serasinghe complained that since 1994, the PPB had acted irresponsibly and it was from then underrated Sinhala sex films like 'Age Wairaya' were released. Later low-grade English films were imported and allowed to be screened by the past Boards. "While performing as the head of the NFC, I was able act on certain decisions taken by the PPB and now with the present position we will be able to implement guidelines with regard to releasing films in this country," Mr. Serasinghe said.

"However there is social responsibility and it is more important that the rights of the artistes be recognised," he emphasized. He complained that there were certain international nongovernmental organisations which were trying to promote certain types of cinema in the country.

The PPB has the full authority to issue licenses on releasing films as well as cancelling them. The license of the cinema halls which violate PPB regulations should be cancelled, he said.

Mr. Serasinghe said that ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ clearly states what type of cinema we should have. It has to be a cinema that is suitable for the society. "If the cinema created by the artistes is against public opinion that has to be controlled," Mr. Serasinghe said.

When inquired about screening internationally acclaimed films for the Sri Lankan audience, Ashoka Serasinghe said ‘International awards are given by a panel of judges but that is not a criteria to screen them here and they would not be suitable for this society’.

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