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Vesak message: Buddha’s teachings build a society with boundless peace – President Sirisena

Posted on 17 May 2019 by admin

 

Saturday, May 18, 2019.

Born in the Kingdom of Shakya of Bharath Deshaya, in the sixth century B.C., Prince Siddhartha attained Enlightenment at the shades of Bodhi at Buddhagaya and Passed Away at the Sacred Sal Uyana of Kusinara and this day of Vesak, which is triply blessed those sacred events of the Buddha, is celebrated with much devotion and faith, states President Maithripala Sirisena in a Vesak message.

The message: “Strolling along the banks of rivers, researching the Dhamma sermons of great teachers, displaying tremendous discipline, strength, determination and commitment. Siddhartha attained the supreme bliss of Nirvana based on one’s own intellect.

“On this momentous day of Vesak, we must recollect the teachings of the Buddha to build a society with boundless peace by shunning all attempts to destroy each other for the greed for power.

For a society to blossom without fear, danger and mistrust, the Buddha has preached. “Hatred will not heal kindness will heal hatred”. It is the time we became strong enough to truly, meaningfully and honestly relate this eternal truth.

“We, with an understanding of the history of the that dates back to 2500 years, in which not a drop of blood was shed to convert non-Buddhists to Buddhism or in the name of the Great Teacher, have realized the temporary nature of power through weapons.

“Whatever the motive might be, knowing that the sins will lead the way to damnation, we must determine on this day of Vesak to evade the to make the teachings of the Buddha a path that leads our country towards prosperity and a society that is safe and secure.

“I wish a blessed Vesak Poya Day for the Buddhist people of Sri Lanka and the Buddhists around the world.”

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Bombers do not represent Muslims nor Islamic Faith – Muslim leaders say in one voice

Posted on 16 May 2019 by admin

 

Madrasas need regulation:

Community ready for self-retrospect :

Calls for calm, expresses solidarity :

 

Rukshana Rizwie – Courtesy: Daily News.

Minister Kabir Hashim and Imthiaz Bakeer Markar speaking at yesterday’s press conference. Picture by Shan Rambukwella.

Minister Kabir Hashim together with civil society representatives PC Ali Sabry, former Minister Ferial Ashraff and Imthiaz Bakeer Markar speaking on behalf of the Muslim community said that they would own up to the responsibility of self-retrospect in an effort to create communal harmony.

Filling a void of a unified voice representing Muslims in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terror attacks and communal clashes, they concurred that a close retrospection of their community ranging from lifestyles, schooling, preaching and even clothing was pertinent to ensure that Muslims maintain a Sri Lankan identity.

“We wonder if a section of our Muslim community by way of borrowing traditions of Arab nations, their practices and teachings have deviated from what we once were as a community,” said former Minister Ferial Ashraff.

“Although we didn’t pay enough heed to these differences, we are ready to take a stand because we can’t let our differences divide us.”

She appealed to Buddhists and Christians not to cast innocent Muslims in the same light as the suicide bombers adding that the bombers do not represent Muslims nor the Islamic faith.

“These Muslims are not responsible for what a handful of terrorists has done.

The more you antagonize ordinary Muslims, the more you thrust them on the path of retaliation and extremism.”

President Counsel Ali Sabry added that the role of Madrasas is questionable since it’s unregulated. “We should know the curriculum taught, calibre of teachers, the funding, governance, structures for which there needs to be an act, regulatory and supervisory body,” he said adding that they are engaged with the All Ceylon Jammithul Ulema on these matters. “But if we continue on this path, alienate the moderate ones, and if an individual becomes a terrorist as a result, we have failed as a society.”

He added that many individuals were prompted by the violence unleashed in Digana and Aluthgama to retaliate against those perpetrators which eventually led them to pursue extremist ideologies.

Minister Kabir Hashim is condemning the terrorist attacks, said that Muslims as a community have gone beyond the call of duty to ensure that extremism is rooted out. He cited the search operations in Sainthamaruthu and Mawanella where Muslims themselves tipped off police on the activities of extremist individuals.

“Three months before Easter attacks, when three Buddha statues were vandalized, we assisted the police with their investigations. One of my coordinating secretary Thaslim who gave information to police was shot in the head in front of his wife and a three-year-old child. Today that person is still fighting for his life. That is the price we paid.”

He added that despite the setbacks, they never took a step back or became complacent and still continue to assist the police and law enforcement agencies which he says is every Muslim’s responsibility.

Meanwhile, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar requested the media, politicians and clergy to not take advantage of the plight of Muslims. “Every few years we have to face such communal clashes, we cannot go on in this manner,” he said. “It is the aim of terrorists to divide communities and we should not assist them in this endeavour.”

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SRI LANKA: Top exporters and investors discuss key points in current situation for business

Posted on 13 May 2019 by admin

 

May 12, 2019.
 

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As per the instructions of Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Export Development Board organised a meeting with key exporters and investors on Friday 03rd May 2019 at the 3rd Floor Auditorium to discuss the current situation of the country for business among other important matters.

Malik Samarawickrema, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, S.T. Kodikara, Secretary of the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, Mangala P.B. Yapa, Chairman of Board of Investment, Mrs. Champika Malalgoda, Director General, BOI and Mrs. Jeevani Siriwardena, Director General, EDB and the business community attended this occasion.

The minister stated that there are financial schemes already in operation under the ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ programme and "Erambuma" Scheme for start-ups. Further, he stated that urgent measures are being taken to build up buyer confidence and Investor confidence. It was discussed to immediately take measure to rebuild confidence through diplomatic Missions and to provide financial assistance to be provided to mitigate losses, especially for SMEs.

It was also decided to form a committee consisting of Exporters and Investors, representatives of Associations, Chambers, etc. to follow-up on the issues. This meeting will be convened by the Secretary, Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade. This Committee will comprise of Tuli Cooray – JAAF, Anslem Perera – Tea Traders Association, Rohan Masakorala – SLAMERP/Hub Operators, Channa Weeratunga – Seafood Exporters Association, Ahasan Refai – SLGJA, Jeevan Gnanam – SLASSCOM, Mrs. Nadee K. Algama – SLEMEA, Ruwan Waidyaratne – CASA, Shiham Marikkar – NCE, Sean Van Dort – Logistics, A senior officer representing the Joint Operational Command Office and relevant government officials.

 

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SRI LANKA: Dent in tourist industry short term – GM Galadari Colombo

Posted on 13 May 2019 by admin

 

Sampath Siriwardena

Sampath Siriwardena

With Lonely Planet naming Sri Lanka as a must visit destination for 2019 it looked like we were heading towards a great year. Even though the recent incidents did dent our industry, I can assure you that this impact is short and we have the resources to offer the global traveller abundant marvell ous holiday experiences. Sri Lanka is once more breathing its way back to normalcy and with that the country is now more safety conscious than ever and the hospitality trade is reinforcing its protection for the local as well as foreign travellers.

Galadari Colombo has left no stone unturned with regard to safety for its guests as well as its employees. In the year 1997 we faced the brutal World Trade Centre bombing which heavily damaged the hotel where we lost seven of our staff members.We have experienced and is proof that it is successfully possible to overcome such treacherous and heartless outcomes of war and terrorism.

The hotel will be upgrading its security for the benefit of guests and employees. It has reinforced its security cadre by adding ex-military officers to overlook security operations. In addition it has invested in high-tech security equipment and applications which include state-of-the-art luggage and walkthrough scanners.

We have reached out to all our employees and have guaranteed that they will be looked after and taken care of during these trying times. The management has taken multiple steps to safeguard the livelihood of its employees specially the lower tier staff who would be the first to get impacted when the hospitality business takes a beating.

It is not wrong to say that we have learnt the hard way, but we are now getting stronger day by day and I have every confidence in our security forces who are working round the clock to bring us back to normalcy.

The Galadari Colombo has resumed normal operations and we have everything in place to ensure guest and employee safety at all times. For over three decades we have taken care and delivered exemplary service levels and the very best in hospitality. I personally guarantee that this will be our stance in the future as well.

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SRI LANKA: BIA SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS REVISED

Posted on 10 May 2019 by admin

BIA SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS REVISED

Operations are functioning smoothly:

Saturday, May 11, 2019.

Irangika Range – Courtesy: Daily News.

 

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) yesterday announced new arrangements to facilitate the entry of vehicles to the respective gates of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for drop off and pick up passengers. This is to minimize the distance that passengers have to walk with their baggage.

The airport taxi service will also commence at the arrivals terminal exit. Any passenger wishing to avail of such will be able to book at the terminal and board it just outside.

Any passengers arriving at the airport can also consult any airport or Air Force official for further information, a SLAF statement said yesterday.

The SLAF introduced new arrangements after it was made aware that passengers arriving at and departing from the BIA had to undergo considerable inconvenience because of the enhanced security checks implemented from April 21, 2019.

Passengers arriving on flights and passengers arriving for flights had to walk a considerable distance after disembarking from their vehicles or before boarding their vehicles due to the fact that the SLAF was compelled to prohibit the entrance of vehicular traffic to the airport entrances.

Meanwhile, Airport and Aviation Services Sri Lanka (AASL) Chairman Dhammika Ranatunga said yesterday that operations at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) were functioning smoothly.

He said the heightened security measures and proper traffic management and control plan has been a success as many travellers had adhered to the instructions given to them.

He said no flights have been delayed or cancelled as all security agencies and airport staff performed their tasks diligently and efficiently resulting smooth functioning and catering to all airport users amidst this difficult situation.

“BIA operations are progressing well and being managed efficiently and effectively. Security has been beefed up and the traffic plan being implemented is a big success,” he added.

“We requested all passengers to report to the airport at least four hours prior to departure to avoid any delays due to the additional security measures and refrain from accompanying visitors to the airport. All these requests have been adhered to by the passengers which have helped all operations from security to ground handling to everything else,” he pointed out.

“We had a great task of strengthing security at the airport in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks,” Ranatunga said on improving facilities for passengers to minimise the inconvenience faced by them. Accordingly, a free shuttle service is available between the car park and the arrivals outer porch. He further said that airport service assistants have been deployed at the entrance and exit points to help passengers while notices have been displayed for their convenience.

In addition, the airport taxi service will also commence at the arrivals terminal exit. Passengers wishing to avail themselves of such a service will be able to make the booking at the terminal and board it just outside,” he further said.

Meanwhile, new arrangements have been made to facilitate passengers arriving and departing the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA)Passengers have been complaining about the lack of adequate shuttle services to exit and enter the airportThere were anxious travellers who had travelled after a long flight having to wait in a queue for the shuttle service which does not operate on time.

 

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The need to face very unpleasant realities

Posted on 07 May 2019 by admin

By: Emil van der Poorten

Much of the examination and dissection of the horror of Easter Sunday 2019’s carnage in Sri Lanka, seems, almost deliberately, to avoid dealing with one very basic fact: what provoked the creation of ISIS and brought associated primitive fundamentalist organizations into existence?

While there have been violent fundamentalist organizations in the ranks of each of the mainline faiths, Buddhism not excepted despite the monumental contradiction in respect of its basic philosophical underpinnings, it seems like the world has never faced the kind of challenge it is today in what are supposed to be more enlightened times.

Viewing the origins of the Muslim fundamentalist organizations it is unrealistic to avoid dealing with the history of the Middle East in the scheme of things. People like Saddam Hussain and Muammar El Khaddafy who were toppled by the so-called “Western democracies,” in carefully-orchestrated and recorded “revolutions” did not qualify as “Islamic fundamentalists” even by the skewed, very well publicized, standards of the western world at the time.  In fact, in conversations with a friend who had spent several years in Iraq, trying to help General Motors, Canada undo an unholy mess they had created for Mr. Hussain by sending him a shipment of cars that had not been equipped to handle desert conditions, he left no doubt in my mind that, short of fomenting revolution against Saddam, you would be permitted to conduct your day-to-day affairs without let or hindrance in Iraq. A sort of “benign dictatorship,” if such a thing exists, but certainly more democratic than those prevailing in many of the Middle Eastern and North African countries that the West supported at the time, such as Egypt!

It has been after the so-called “Spring” of western-engineered regime changes in the region that the Muslim fundamentalist entities really began to make their presence felt.  Typical of such situations, things went from one extreme to another, there being, ultimately, no real difference between the original “problem” and the “solution” that supposedly replaced it!

One piece of history that unfolded in a part of that same world earlier, at the time that the Eisenhower administration was taking over the reins of US governance from Truman has been deliberately ignored since.  The Dulles brothers – John Foster and Allen – masterminded the return of a western puppet who could not even substantiate his claim to a manufactured “Peacock Dynasty” in Iran.  It was again the extreme of Islamic fundamentalism in the person of the Ayatollah Khomeini that emerged out of a nation’s grasping at straws to rid itself of a corrupt, violent imposter in the person of Shah Reza Pahlevi, imposed on it by the imperialist USA.  The role that the west played in removing the first ever democratically-elected leader in that entire region, Mohammed Mossadegh, is now a matter of accepted fact which it wasn’t in the Western media of the time, when Mossadegh was, literally, put in chains and depicted as some demented visionary at best.

In Iran you ended up with the Ayatollah Khomeini: from one extreme to another, perhaps, but inevitable, given the circumstances and the benefit of hindsight today.

What made the most recent US manipulation of matters in the Middle East worse was the paucity of basic “intelligence” coupled with not even a pretense of morality, no matter how hypocritical.

None of the leaders that the US was ultimately responsible for having executed in the most barbaric manner imaginable, could be described as of “fundamentalist Islamic persuasion,”

Not Saddam Hussain, not Muammar El Khaddafy.  Bashar al-Assad, as violent as he is, who inherited power from his father, military strongman Hafez al-Assad of Iraq, could not be described as an Islamic fundamentalist.  In fact, the branch of Islam that the Assads belong to are in the “infidels” column of the Jihadists. Not even the western powers who were instrumental in undermining/removing them levelled that particular accusation against any of them.

In fact, the fundamentalism that seems to lie just under the surface of mainline religious philosophies emerged, grew stronger and achieved acceptability after the US-engineered putsches in those nations.  That is a simple statement of fact.

In the circumstances, the “Western world” wringing its collective hands, wailing “woe is me” and trotting out ice cream and cakes for the survivors is something that must be viewed with more than the average quantum of suspicion.  In fact, conspiracy theorists who have, unfortunately, been proven right more often than wrong recently, would be justified in trotting out the old adage that goes, “Beware of the Greeks when they come bearing gifts!”

 

Helen of Troy, anyone?

 

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Counting the cost: Terrorism and its impact on the Sri Lankan economy

Posted on 06 May 2019 by admin

 

May 6, 2019 – Courtesy: The Island.

Terrorism is not an obvious subject for economic analysis. The greatest cost comes in the form of lives lost and injured. However, terror attacks also aim to disrupt economic life, and how far they succeed needs to be assessed and evaluated.

The immediate economic consequences of Sri Lanka’s brutal Easter Sunday terror attacks are obvious. The damage to tourism is the most apparent; investments decisions might be delayed. However, as a country that had withstood more than three decades of terror prior to May 2009 and an economy that had shown resilient growth averaging 5% per annum in that period, Sri Lanka is certainly not a novice in managing the expected economic fallout.

The economic impact of a serious breach of security depends on whether it is perceived as an isolated incident or an endemic threat. A swift and efficient response to bring the security situation under immediate control and restore ‘normalcy’ helps establish the former; confusion and disarray only reinforce the latter and delays an economic recovery.

In either event, what is clear is that the Sri Lankan economy is unlikely to emerge unscathed. Tourists have become extremely cautious once again; arrivals are estimated to have plunged by 70% in the immediate aftermath. In the next two months, the drop is expected to be 50%. Mirroring the plunge in tourist arrivals, cancellation of flight bookings was at over 80%, whilst new bookings too have fallen away. As tourists switch to other ‘safer’ destinations, luring them to return will require concerted efforts to tighten security, re-brand, and perhaps, re-price. The opportunity cost for the industry of not being able to leverage on the Lonely Planet’s ‘top country for travel in 2019’ ranking will be considerable, with the long term consequences yet to be determined.

The reaction of foreign investors will be equally important. They will become more cautious and delay investment decisions until risks are reassessed. During its decades-long conflict, Sri Lanka suffered from not being able to move beyond ‘fly-by-night’ investors, owing to risk perceptions. To avoid the same pitfalls, the country must act swiftly to restore confidence on the security front, and reassure investors – already unsettled by the October 2018 political upheavals and the prospects of electioneering ahead in 2019 – of continued policy stability.

In the long term, the economic impacts of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday terror attacks are likely to be relatively limited. But, there is no gainsaying that these short-term disruptions can take a substantially heavier toll on the economy. Not only will the plunge in tourists curtail demand for local goods and services, but domestic consumers too are apt to postpone their consumption. At the same time, costs for businesses are set to rise, as the economic cost of new security measures gets imputed. Aside from direct costs, the indirect costs arising from a loss of consumer and business confidence can never be measured accurately. As Sri Lanka’s successive governments discovered over three decades of conflict, concerns about the economic outlook wax and wane with each terror attack.

Loss of foreign tourism revenue and investments will hit Sri Lanka in its most vulnerable spot – i.e., foreign exchange reserves. With nearly 90% of Sri Lanka’s sizeable temporary workers still heading to the Middle East – with the Eastern Province accounting for the second highest share (17%) – remittance earnings may also see a dip. Whilst a fiscal stimulus as a counter measure can generate quicker results, Sri Lanka’s climbing public-debt burden, at 83% of GDP in 2018, does not make this the easy option. Understandably perhaps, efforts have fallen on monetary policy interventions to ease the flow of credit to the economy and stimulate growth. This reinforces recent attempts to roll out credit under various schemes announced in budget proposals, some of it subsidised by the government.

But, monetary authorities must also be wary of encouraging excessive lending. Sri Lanka’s fiscal financing needs can be expected to widen from the adverse impacts on the economy of the terror attacks, further escalating domestic financing of the deficit from the already high 4% of GDP announced in the budget. Together, these trends can destabilise macroeconomic stability without producing much by way of sustained growth. Indeed, the country has all too often seen the economy ride high on a wave of credit, only to come crashing down no sooner, in familiar boom-bust episodes.

Sri Lanka is already a regional economic laggard in recording a sluggish pace of growth, and a highly indebted country facing unprecedented levels of foreign debt settlements over the next few years. Its economic fortunes have also come to be intimately intertwined with competing regional and global geo-political interests. In this volatile mix, the country is also gearing up to face decisive elections around the corner. Under the circumstances, there does not appear to be any quick fixes that will assure a strong and sustained economic rebound. In all, it suggests that coaxing Sri Lanka’s beleaguered economy to health in the face of upcoming elections, and a renewed threat of violence from terrorism will require patience and a steady hand.

IPS will be releasing a forthcoming edited volume on 'Managing Domestic and International Challenges and Opportunities in Post-conflict Development: Lessons from Sri Lanka’ published by Springer, Singapore in honour of Dr. Saman Kelegama, former Executive Director, IPS to mark 10 years of Sri Lanka’s post-conflict economic transformation.

(Dushni Weerakoon is the Executive Director at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). To talk to the author, email dushni@ips.lk. To view this article online and to share your comments, visit the IPS Blog ‘Talking Economics’ – http://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/).

 

 

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UPDATE ON FOREIGN NATIONAL CASUALTIES AT EXPLOSIONS IN SRI LANKA–06 MAY 2019

Posted on 06 May 2019 by admin

 

Media Releases | Mon, 6 May 2019

As at Monday, 06 May 2019 1600 hours, the number of foreign nationals who have been identified as killed is 44. The fatalities were: one (01) from Bangladesh, six (06) from China, eleven (11) from India (10 Indian nationals and 01 Sri Lanka Passport holder with Overseas Citizen of India status), three (03) from Denmark, one (01) from Japan, one (01) from the Netherlands, one (01) from Portugal, two (02) from Saudi Arabia, two (02) from Spain, one (01) from Switzerland, two (02) from Turkey, six (06) from the UK, one (01) from USA, two (02) holding US and UK nationalities, one (01) holding Swiss and Dutch nationalities, one (01) holding Dutch and Sri Lankan nationalities, and two (02) holding Australian and Sri Lankan nationalities.

Human remains of 31 foreign nationals have been repatriated to date.

Additionally, 10 foreign nationals are unaccounted for at present, and could be among the unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s mortuary.

The Ministry continues to liaise with the JMO office and Diplomatic Missions concerned in the identification and repatriation of human remains.

Representatives of the relevant Sri Lanka Missions in the countries concerned attended funerals and memorial services for the victims and expressed condolences on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka. Official condolence messages were sent by the Heads of Mission to the bereaved families. All over the world, many, including political leaders and dignitaries visited Sri Lanka Missions to sign the books of condolence, expressing sympathy and solidarity with Sri Lanka at its time of grief.  Sri Lankan expatriates joined interfaith religious observances, including candlelight vigils organized by Sri Lanka Missions in memory of those who were killed in the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Colombo

06 May 2019

 

 

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‘Political stability imperative if Sri Lankan tourism is to be revived’ – Hiran Cooray

Posted on 04 May 2019 by admin

 

May 4, 2019 – Courtesy: The Sunday Island.

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Hiran Cooray
(Pix by Dharmasena Welipitiya)

 

By Randima Attygalle

Speaking to The Sunday Island, Chairman, Jetwing Symphony PLC, Hiran Cooray, one of the most respected hospitality leaders of the country, elucidates on the challenges the Sri Lankan hospitality sector and the country as a whole need to counter, to emerge from the rubble and the pain caused by the brutal Easter Sunday attacks.

Q: From being recognized as the tourist hotspot of 2019 by global forums such as Lonely Planet, overnight we have being pulled into an abyss with travel advisories imposed on the country. How challenging will it be for the tourism industry to navigate this sudden transition?

A: It’s going to be extremely challenging. Earlier, we were prepared for this kind of eventualities and for the last ten years thankfully, we did not have the necessity to be prepared for a calamity of this nature. Hence, we were looking only at the brighter side of life all the time. In terms of the industry, it was all about improving our services, our products, the experiences we offer the traveller, planning to bring in our destination marketing into our own marketing at company level and so forth.

Big investments were done, new hotels were being put up and suddenly we had to reverse everything overnight. So, it is going to be an arduous journey for the industry. If we are to restore our image as a sought-after destination once more, it is imperative that we eliminate the instability in the country.

If we look beyond tourism, which is only a by-product of a stable fabric, as a country we have to come out of this rubble. We have gone through several turbulent times. We have gone through insurgencies, a war and a tsunami. Yet, we were able to believe in ourselves under an able leadership in the country.

It is only if we are to have clear short term and long term solutions for this crisis under proper leadership, we can come out of it quite gracefully and in a way that is acceptable not only to Sri Lankans but to the world at large.

Q: In this context, what short-term and medium to long terms interventions do you suggest?

A: Short-term, through military work, the government has to ensure that this type of carnage will not repeat. At this juncture, we should be thankful to our armed forces for coming forward to rescue us once more. Although, the targets were hotels and churches this time, we need to be conscious at all times that the perpetrators may have other targets in future, hence security measures need to have a holistic approach.

During the recovery process, the government must have a clear communication strategy. Ideally, there should be a spokesman communicating the political and military situation to the public. This has to be clearly articulated not only to our people but to the rest of the world as well to convince the world that we are in control of the situation as a country.

The second blow after the carnage is the dysfunctional government. It is heart-wrenching to see international reports claiming that the Sri Lankan government is dysfunctional. If the country’s leaders cannot see this, it is such a shame.

Medium to long-term, we need to think of ourselves as Sri Lankans. We are a nation of only about 22 million people and if this small population cannot live in brotherhood, there is a serious problem here. One thing I personally enjoyed most about our country is the religious freedom we enjoyed without ever making it a burden- be it at the temple, church, kovil or the mosque.

We need to come together and, as I said before, tourism is only a by-product of the country, first and foremost, we should be able to live happily as Sri Lankans. This togetherness itself will be a solution.

Q: What incentives do you think the government should be offering the industry for it to be revived?

A: Huge investments have been made on loans and right now investors are unable to furnish repayments. So, there has to be a softening of the interests, grace periods to start repaying the loans etc. Then of course it requires working with foreign governments to relax travel advisories imposed on the country now.

Until the travel advisories are lifted, tour operators cannot actively market the destination. The Hotels Association has already communicated the needs of the hour to both the President and the Prime Minister and it is imperative that interventions are made in the best interest of industry players.

Q: Apart from the national-level security measures, what internal security measures can the industry take to assure the security of the guests?

A: Each organization can adopt its soft measures, which were not followed so far since there was no threat earlier. Now that there is a perceived threat again, we need to be more vigilant. However, the hospitality industry’s challenge is more than in the other sectors as it cannot create the impression that each guest is a terrorist or a suicide bomber.

Today, we need to equip our staff with new skills and training to cater to the security threat. Once again, these strategies will have to be region-centric. What is adopted in Colombo cannot be implemented out of Colombo. Each company has to look at its strengths and weaknesses and plan their action accordingly.

Q: Are there any arrivals despite travel advisories?

A: Yes, although not in significant numbers.

I was in Jaffna a couple of days ago visiting one of our hotels where I met some British tourists who were travelling from Jaffna to Trinco and from there to Negombo. Similarly, there are tourists in Sigiriya and Dambulla. So, there are those who travel despite restrictions. However, until travel advisories are relaxed, larger tour operators cannot officially sell the destination.

Q: How important is it for us to learn lessons from similar incidents in other parts of the world such as in the case of Bali, Kenya and France and come up with home-grown strategies to counter possible future threats?

A: It is of absolute importance that we develop our own tools, and of course, we can be inspired by similar global experiences and their reaction. We can study their modus operandi. In our company, we have a French director who is working with us and we are using his experience in Paris – what the French authorities did to bring Paris back to the tourism map after the attacks there.

I need to reiterate here that we cannot replicate the French experience or any other similar experience as we need to be sensitive to our psyche and setting. In terms of tourism promotion, we cannot immediately turn back the clock and start promoting the destination. We need to be sensitive and mindful of the fact that so many have lost their lives. We need to give them the due respect they deserve. Once all that is done, life has to move on.

One thing we are comforted with at this point in time is the overwhelming support – the love and compassion we have received from the international community at large. Once the situation is brought under control, I’m certain that the world will start patronizing our country again.

Q: At this decisive juncture, how crucial do you think it is to harness the potential of Sri Lankan skill to the maximum?

A: I believe if there is proper leadership, the best in, everybody can be brought out. Be it those in active service or retirement – if the correct leadership can be provided, the goodness in everyone can come out. This is the need of the hour. If the potential of every citizen is not tapped, we will go into slumber and depression. I sincerely hope even in the final hour, leadership will prevail to bring out the best in our people because we are as good as anybody else out there in the world.

Q: In the aftermath of the terror and pain, we saw the religious leaders coming to a common platform in the best interest of the country. How important do you think it is to sustain this solidarity in time to come?

A: It is this solidarity which will give us the greatest strength to heal the wounds and pain. It symbolized their condemnation of any attack on humanity because I believe the attacks were spurred by deep hatred towards humanity. People have so many unanswered questions right now – why was the Catholic community targeted? What wrong have they done to deserve this carnage?

In a setting, where people are baffled and political leadership has failed, it is this religious solidarity which will sustain a wounded nation. The leadership given by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at a time when nearly 300 of his people have been brutally killed is such a godly gesture. The support rendered to him by the Buddhist prelates and other religious leaders is exemplary.

Q: On a personal level, how did the tragedy impact the Jetwing family?

A: In terms of human loss, we lost two of our colleagues and the mother of another colleague in the Katuwapitiya Church blast. We also lost one of our guests from Jetwing Travels staying at the Kingsbury hotel. It was a devastating day, and the toll it will have on the affected families is unimaginable.

Business loss wise, the next couple of months is going to be very difficult for us, but we are looking, after all, our staff. Our strength is our people. We have to look after them in times of trouble and see how we can move forward together.

Q: As a hospitality leader who prides in the Sri Lankan spirit how do you think that it can be put into test once more in this national hour of need to bring back the signature ‘Sri Lankan smile’ to our hospitality industry?

A: We have gone through so many trials and tribulations in the past and if we look at the bright side of this catastrophe, the opportunity is there for us to emerge as a united Sri Lanka. If we are to realize an undivided Sri Lanka, the four main faiths of this nation should have a collective voice and the leadership must enable a framework to spur this unity. We got rid of one menace ten years back and we should not create another. Despite our pain and our suffering we continue to smile and help each other- this is the beauty of this island nation.

The majority of our people, despite their religious faith, are galvanized in times of adversity and if brotherhood can prevail, everything else will fall into place, including the hospitality sector.

Comments Off on ‘Political stability imperative if Sri Lankan tourism is to be revived’ – Hiran Cooray

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Pope condemns Easter Sunday terror attacks

Posted on 04 May 2019 by admin

 


Pope Francis has condemned the Easter Sunday extremist terror attacks in Sri Lanka that killed over 250 and injured hundreds. 

“In the wake of the brutal attacks on Christian communities gathered in prayer on Easter Sunday, and on several other sites in Sri Lanka, I feel moved to assure you once more of my profound solidarity and my continued prayers for all those affected by these contemptible crimes,” Pope Francis said in a letter dated 24 April to Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

“In union with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, I commend the dead to the infinite mercy of God our heavenly Father and ask the Lord Jesus, victor over sin and death, to bring healing to the injured and consolation to all who mourn the loss of their loved ones,” he added. 

Pope Francis said with the followers of all religions, and men and women of good will everywhere, he expresses horror at this unspeakable offence against the holy name of God and pray that hearts hardened by hatred may yield to His will for peace and reconciliation among all his children. 

“At this time of immense grief, may the faithful be confirmed in charity, consoling one another with the hope born of Easter and our unshakeable faith in Christ’s promises. Conscious of the wound inflicted on the entire nation, I likewise pray that all Sri Lankans will be affirmed in their resolve to foster social harmony, justice and peace,” the Pope said. 

“With these sentiments, I affectionately commend you and your brother Bishops, together with the clergy, religious and lay faithful entrusted to your care, to the loving embrace of Our Lady, Queen and Patroness of Sri Lanka, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Risen Lord,” he added.

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