By Harry Bajraktari
Albanians who cherish their cultural history have condemned unequivocally the demolition of the Albanian National Theater.
I join them in their painful and legitimate outrage. This was one of the most recognizable landmarks of Tirana, capital of Albania. Artists and civil society leaders fought for more than two years to preserve it, but their voice was dismissed, and their protest crushed by force.
While countries and cities around the world invest in preservation of their landmarks, the municipality of Tirana has a record of destroying and replacing them with soulless large commercial structures. Suspicious ties between business and politics are considered to be behind this trend. Urban specialists and laws are ignored.
However, the main culprit is again the Prime Minister Edi Rama, who became personally involved in this project. He exploited the last day of the imposed lockdown from the COVID-19 crisis to demolish the theater, ignoring blatantly the call of the European Union for dialogue and understanding with the artist community.
He acted like a thief in the dark, scheduling the demolition secretely for 3:00 AM in the morning when Tirana was asleep. The capital woke up amid heavy police presence and entance to the City blocked. Not for the first time he used the epidemic as a justification for his moves.
During his rule, the country has seen democracy weaken, corruption rise, and free speech muzzled. Prime Minister Rama has run the country to the ground and his government has lost the moral right to rule Albania.
This last aggression against the nation’s historic and cultural heritage is the last straw. This was the demolition of any lasting hope for return to normalcy under his government. This dictatorial behavior that dismisses the will of the people and the autonomy of the institutions should stop. The illegality of this act adds to the profound political crisis that persists in Albania.
It is time for Edi Rama and his government to resign and step aside. A technical government should take over Albania as the country prepares for early elections. This is the only way for the country to return to the path of democracy after years of deep mistrust, division, and corruption. Rama, go!