In order to increase the number of hospital beds, the Government of Sri Lanka has converted the buildings left by the Voice of America in Iranawila, located on the western coast of the island, 70 km north of the capital Colombo. The VOA, the American international broadcaster, after having relocated their equipment to Kuwait and to Greenville (North Carolina), returned the land back to the Sri Lankan State in 2017. The original intention to develop the site as a tourist resort had been shelved due to protests by local residents. In the interim period before developing the area, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the army commander to use the buildings for Covid-19 patients in March 2020. The new hospital can take in fifty patients and was completed at the beginning of April 2020.
25 years of propaganda
The ex relay station of the Voice of America spans an area of 1.6 km² and includes four large buildings with seven high power transmitters: four 500kW transmitters and three 250 kW transmitters, that currently broadcast programmes of Radio Free Asia. RFA was set up by the American Congress in Washington DC with the aim to transmit news and information to listeners in Asian countries ‘where complete news was not available, accurate or timely’. In 2014, RFA transmitted in 47 languages, including a large number of local dialects, to about 236.6 million listeners all over the world.
With its 350 meters of height the Lotus Tower is the highest transmission structure in South Asia. The shape is inspired by the lotus flower, which in Sri Lankan culture symbolises purity: a thin, green stem with petals that change color thanks to a play of light. Under construction since 2012, it was opened on 16 September 2019 to ease a cost controversy ($ 104 million); the project was funded largely by the Chinese government within the scope of the Belt and Road project. The platform being 245 meters high, provides visitors with a panoramic view of the capital, Colombo.
Five floors of attractions and two of transmissions
The bud of the lotus flower conceals a seven-story structure: the first two host 35 FM radio stations, 50 TV stations broadcasting on DVB T2 and 20 telecommunication service providers. The other floors contain a museum, supermarkets, a revolving restaurant, banquet- & conference rooms and lastly a 1000-seat auditorium. The sixth floor is reserved for six exclusive suites.