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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Political thuggery, murder, mayhem should end

(Harischandra Gunaratna)
The main suspect responsible for the killing of the British tourist Kuram Shaika at the Nature Resort t at Medilla in Tangalle using a T 56 assault rifle, Sampath Chandrapushpa Dissanayaka, Chairman, Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha has been arrested with three others.

The British tourist met with his death at the hands of a set of drunken vultures who were preying on a foreign woman holidaying here. According to eye witnesses the group of drunkards including the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman had made advances at a female girl friend of the slain tourist when he objected to the harassment meted out to his female friend by the highly inebriated men they attacked the British tourist and his Russian girlfriend Victoria at this guest house.

The slain tourist also had several cuts on his body caused by sharp objects.

The gun wielding thugs who caused murder and mayhem were partying at the hotel on Christmas Eve had attempted to sexually abuse the woman and in the ensuing melee she suffered serious injuries after the suspects attacked her with sharp objects. The young woman who was treated at the Karapitiya hospital was transferred to the Lanka Hospitals in Colombo with the assistance of Sri Lanka Tourism on Tuesday and she is now recuperating.

The key suspect Chandrapushpa is known to roam in and around Tangalle wielding a T 56 assault rifle most of the time, according to eye witnesses’ accounts.

No doubt that those found guilty and responsible for this heinous crime should be severely dealt with according to the law of the country.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that the perpetrators of this crime would be punished and justice will be meted out.

It is time that the political establishment of the country disarmed these mafias and let peace prevail in the whole country, including tourist resorts.

There are certain elements obviously with vested interests, both political and personal, trying to take advantage of the situation, whilst condemning the incident. They are spreading rumours that tourists who were already holidaying here are leaving the country in droves and there would be many cancellations of tourist arrivals.

These are only rumours and inquiries by this writer proved that there were no tourists who cut short their holiday and left the island because of this incident.

Both the United Kingdom and Russia have not issued any travel advisories not to visit Sri Lanka nor have there have been cancellations of charters or Free Individual Travellers (FIT) visiting here from any country.

Duleep Samaraweera, Sales Manager of Russian airline Aeroflot said its flights for the next few days have been overbooked and the trend is likely to continue.

A spokesperson for the National carrier, Sri Lankan airlines, also said that there were no cancellations from travel agents or FITs and tourists continue to visit Sri Lanka. In the contrary there is a huge demand for seats, she added.

Politicians, their henchmen and law and order

But the government must forthwith bring an end to politicians trying to take the law into their hands and incidents like what happened on Saturday are not repeated. They must see that the police are allowed to perform their duties. When a criminal is arrested most politicians would phone the OIC and force him to release the suspect claiming that the man arrested is one of their men.

Thus the henchmen of politicians are made to believe that they are more powerful than the police and this an embarrassment to policemen.

Thuggery in tourist resorts in Sri Lanka is nothing new. But never was a tourist killed. Number of unsavoury incidents have taken place in the resorts of Beruwala, Kalutara, Wadduwa, Negombo etc in the past and hotel managers and employees have been assaulted by thugs in the area who enjoyed the patronage of the politicians at different levels.

In one incident, more than a decade ago a hotel manager was assaulted by a group of thugs in Moragalle in Beruwala and when the OIC refused to release the suspects after a politician requested, the parliamentarian got the supporters of the suspects to launch a protest demanding their release and even went to the extent of putting up a shed at his expense to shield the protestors from the scorching sun.

In another incident which took place in the 70s in the Kalutara resort, the manager of The Merivier Hotel (now Kani Lanka) Oswald Jayasinghe was brutally assaulted by the area thugs on a number of occasions for not allowing them to enter the hotel. The police failed to institute action against these elements. In Negombo it is alleged that certain politicians are the god fathers of the drug businesses where narcotics are sold to tourists and procuring for paedophiles. When the peddlers on the beach were arrested, on a number of occasions these politicians have forced the police to release the suspects. Such incidents continue to happen at an alarming rate these days and the authorities should know better that tourists don’t come here to watch such antics and only visit here to enjoy a well earned holiday.

Anura Lokuhety, Chairman, Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka said that the Tangalle incident is a blow to the tourism industry and such incidents should not be allowed to happen again.

The seasoned hotelier warned those spreading false rumours, attempting to exaggerate the truth and take mean advantage of the situation would soon witness that their actions would have dangerous consequences on the country’s tourism industry.

He appealed to all parties concerned to unite and work together in the national interest.

He said even in the darker days of the country when the 30 year old civil strife was at its height, not a single tourist was targeted. “We just had the 800,000 tourist visiting the country and was on course to record the 850,000th tourist visiting here before the end of the year,” he said adding that revenue earned by tourism this year is 850 million US$ up from 575 US$ in 2010.The number of persons employed in tourism related jobs are around 500,000 and over 2 million people in the country depend on tourism directly and indirectly, said Lokuhetty.

We hope to attract 2.5 million tourists by the year 2016 and a US$ 2.75 billion industry with a number of leading hotel chains such as Shangriilla, Movenpick and amany others deciding to invest here on gigantic hotel projects, he said.

This incident, though an isolated one, has received world wide publicity and now we have to counter it.

Hence, the authorities must ensure that there is no room left for such incidents and let the world know that Sri Lanka is truly a paradise, Lokuhetty said.

When contacted Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr Nalaka Godahewa denied any tourists leaving the country because of this incident and said that tourists who were holidaying in close proximity to the area of the incident would have left the place for another location in Sri Lanka as the incident would have created a psychological impact.

He said that the hotel managements should make the places more secure for tourists.

Dr Godahewa also said that there was no truth in the reports that the Russian woman had been molested.The woman had not complained about being raped to any one, he added.

The SLT Chairman said that certain parties with vested interests are playing politics with the issue and urged them to refrain from doing so.

Nilmin Nanayakkara, President, Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka was of the view that this was an isolated incident and we don’t know how the tourist was killed, but no one has the right to take the life of another.

It is so sad that when tourism was just bouncing back such an unsavoury incident of this nature took place. Hooliganism and thuggery cannot be allowed to reign supreme if tourism is to thrive and the national interest is at stake if such gangs are not controlled, he said.

It is definitely a matter to be concerned of. By and large the Tourists who come to Sri Lanka talk very highly about the Sri Lankan hospitality, friendliness and warmth, but all that can be destroyed in a minute by such acts.

Indeed all in one voice are condemning this act and it must be known that Sri Lankans with the warmth that we are known for will do all possible to put a stop to this hooliganism.

Suresh De Mel, President, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism condemning the incident said that it speaks volumes about the need for a re-vamped, well trained responsible and strong tourist police to be established in all tourist resorts.

“The booking patterns show that all tourist hotels in the country are fully booked till January 10th and the trend would continue in the following months as well,” he pointed out.

On the other hand the political patronage enjoyed by these mafias should forthwith be stopped and they are disarmed, De Mel said.


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