Popular actor and leading figure in the Alliance For The Protection of The National Theatre, Neritan Liçaj has been told he will lose his job, a move he blames on Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Liçaj works for the National Theatre of Albania and for Arturbina and is one of the countries most well-known and respected actors.
In his reaction to the news that his dismissal from his position was imminent, Liçaj claimed that threats against him are retaliation fueled by the government and meant as an act of intimidation because of his involvement with protecting the National Theatre from demolition.
On the show “Our Day” on A2, Liçaj confirmed that he was at risk of losing his job.
“I have been informed that a letter has been prepared to be sent to dismiss me. This is revenge but this fact doesn’t scare me, it just shows how this hard-headed government is attacking us and degrading us. He [Prime Minister Edi Rama] attacked us first with the police and now he is attacking us personally.”
The actor also stated that he has always been successful and proper in his work and there would be no genuine reason for his dismissal. Whilst he has not been formally notified of the termination of his role, he is confident in the source who has informed him.
When asked if he believes Rama is behind it, Liçaj said:
“I believe it is the Prime Minister’s order. The Prime Minister is retaliating to annihilate art. Since he was Minister of Culture he has tried to destroy the National Theater at all costs.”
For some 18 months, a group of actors, writers, academics, and civil society activists have been protesting at the National Theatre in the centre of Tirana.
The government plans to implement a ‘special law’ that will allow them to sell public land to a private company which will then demolish the historic building and erect six towers comprising of commercial and luxury residential units and a theatre. The demolition of the theatre will also impact a number of other small buildings and businesses nearby as well as the pedestrianised street that runs adjacent to it.
The tender is expected to go to government favourite Fusha LTD who have won hundreds of millions of euros in government tenders.
Civil society is angered by the plans as they say that the Theatre is a valuable piece of Albanian history, a site of cultural importance, one of the last few historic buildings in Tirana, and above all, belongs to the people, not the government. They claim that the government’s determination to demolish and sell off the Theatre is illegal and unconstitutional, as well as designed only to make them rich at the detriment of the public.
During the summer, police, private security, and special forces descended upon the Theatre and tried to remove the peaceful activists. They resisted and were joined by hundreds of citizens who held the area, forcing the authorities to retreat. Photos emerged of citizens being beaten and throttled by private security guards and one man was hospitalised after falling backwards into an empty swimming pool located on the grounds.
Since then, the activists have been putting on regular performances inside of the Theatre, open to all, as a testament to its value in the community.