Are our tourists safe in Sri Lanka?

| A statement issued by the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations
( January 24, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) wishes to draw the attention of the Australians and New Zealanders planning to travel to Sri Lanka, Governments of Australia and New Zealand, the media and the human rights organisations to the two serious reported incidents in the recent weeks where foreign tourists were exposed to violent confrontations by the Sri Lankan locals. These are merely symptoms of the complete breakdown of rule of law, and the prevailing culture of impunity and anarchy in Sri Lanka.
On Christmas day a British tourist and his Russian girl friend who were at the pool side in a resort in the tourist southern town of Tangalle, when rushed into the adjoining dance floor to help the resort owner who was being involved in a brawl with a local politician, were attacked by the local politician and his gang.
The local politician slit the British tourist’s throat with a broken glass bottle and then shot him in the head and killed him. His gang is reported to have dragged his Russian girl friend who was already bleeding from a head wound sustained in the dance floor incident, to the adjoining beach, stripped her naked and gang raped her according to an eye witness. For details;
Now another similar serious incident that happened earlier this month has been revealed to the public. A Dutch couple was holidaying in Polhena, Matara early this month. The 25-year-old woman and her husband in the early 30s, were relaxing on the beach, when the husband decided to visit the nearby market. A little while after the husband had left, the lone woman on the beach was approached by a guest house owner who told her there was a spa nearby and, if she was interested, to follow him. Not suspecting anything, she had followed the man. Once inside the ‘spa’, the woman was sexually abused. The husband, on his return, encountered a distraught wife who related the sordid crime committed on her.
The couple made a written complaint to the Matara police, but, as their visas were expiring on the following day, they had to return to their country and hence could not pursue the case further. This is why this incident was not reported in the media earlier. The Matara police arrested the hotelier (identified as one Ruwan) and produced him in Courts, where he was initially remanded and later released on bail.
Netherlands Colombo Embassy First Secretary Jaco Beerends said, “The sexual abuse of a female Dutch national at a guest house in Matara can be considered a ‘terrible’ incident and the authorities must act upon any incident that concerns the safety of tourists arriving in the country. One such incident can create a huge impact, as safety is the important factor for a tourist on vacation, and we are concerned of the safety of Dutch nationals,”.
Condemning the incident, Southern Hoteliers Association of Sri Lanka President Priyankara Wickremasekare said, there is a need to increase the number of tourist police officers and a mechanism or body to monitor unlicensed tourist guest houses. “In this case, a motel owner was involved in the sexual abuse. There are unprofessional motel owners within the tourist industry, with no tourist body to guide or train them, or set a code of ethics. There are no laws in place in this regard,” Mr. Wickremasekare said.
United National Party’s (the major opposition party) Lakvanitha Movement president Ms. Shanthini Kongahage, this week, handed over a petition to the Child Development & Women’s Affairs Minister Tissa Karalliyadda, expressing concern about incidents of rape and sexual abuse of locals as well as foreigners visiting the country. “If women coming to Sri Lanka, looking for hospitality, are being raped or sexually abused, that would not augur well for the country. We are worried about mothers and daughters,” the petition said.
As a responsible organisation serving the Tamil community in Australia and New Zealand for more than 27 years, AFTA feels it is our responsibility to let the fellow citizens be aware of these possible dangers they could face if they visit Sri Lanka. As these incidents are not reported in the media either in Australia or New Zealand, AFTA appeals to the responsible media in both the countries to inform our public on these serious incidents for the benefit of the safety and welfare of our citizens. AFTA calls upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both the countries to consider issuing appropriate travel advisories to avoid our innocent citizens getting caught up in similar situations.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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