The stabbing of a British tourist and the attempted rape of his girlfriend residing in a tourist resort down south are sending ripples of concern among the authorities over the impact on the tourism industry. A 37-year-old British tourist was stabbed with a sharp knife allegedly by four men who came in a three wheeler [...]


Mirissa attack a stab in the back for tourism


The stabbing of a British tourist and the attempted rape of his girlfriend residing in a tourist resort down south are sending ripples of concern among the authorities over the impact on the tourism industry.

A 37-year-old British tourist was stabbed with a sharp knife allegedly by four men who came in a three wheeler in the early hours of Saturday last week.

The couple who were residing at the ‘No 1 Mirissa Hotel’ had gone for a DJ night at the neighbouring Water Creatures Resort, a couple of kilometres away from their hotel.

They had been stopped and waylaid by four men who came in a three wheeler and tried to kidnap his 23-years-old girlfriend. In the altercation that followed the British army officer had suffered stab wounds to his ribs and hands.

The incident has opened up old wounds bringing to recollection the notorious killing of 32-year-old British Red Cross worker Khuram Shaikh who was holidaying in Sri Lanka in 2011.

Shaikh, a physiotherapist was stabbed and shot at by a gang of eight men on Christmas day at a Tangalle holiday resort when he stepped in to stop an altercation among some locals in the bar; his girl-friend was raped.

It is recalled that the justice system was painfully slow in punishing the perpetrators, causing much tension between the British and Sri Lankan governments.

After much lobbying by the deceased’s brother the case was eventually heard and closed with the suspects being given rigorous jail terms.

In a similar case four years later, the police had acted promptly and apprehended the suspects. The men, all self-appointed tour guides in the Mirissa area were produced before the victims in an identification parade on Tuesday (22) of which two suspects were identified. Police are carrying out further investigations into the case.

While tourism experts have expressed disgust and much concern over the adverse effect the incident will have on tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka, they all stressed on the need to revisit the regulations governing the tourist industry in order to put the ‘house in order’.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Chairman, Paddy Vithana said that in the past months tourist arrivals from Britain have been increasing steadily, and the incident will dampen the spirits of the visitors, if Sri Lanka does not take appropriate measures to make amends. “This is a black mark on our country,” he added.

According to SLTDA statistics on top arrivals, the United Kingdom is third on the list of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka. The statistics reveal that up to August 2015 the country had received 111,131 British tourists. Last year in the same period, 98,347 tourists arrived in the country.

The suspects being brought to court

Mr. Vithana said that the tourists were happy visiting the island and had expressed positive sentiments about the country and such incidents, if allowed to recur, will mar the image of the country.

For this, he emphasized the importance of revisiting the regulations governing the tourist industry and called on the Provincial Councils which are responsible for licensing the resorts to regulate the tourist trade in the regions and ensure a quality service is provided.

At present it is understood that permission to start businesses is being granted to all and sundry. He said the lack of expertise in the industry is placing foreigners at risk.

Tourism Bureau tries to make amendsThe Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has quickly stepped in to control the damage caused by the incident. Assistant Director Chamira Peiris said the couple have been brought back to Colombo and offered seven days stay at a five star hotel in Colombo.However the tourists had opted to go back home but had promised to use the offer during another visit to Sri Lanka. They had also been offered business class air tickets on Qatar Airways and flew back home on Saturday morning.

He noted that discos, boutiques and bars are being operated by many unscrupulous persons who do not know the basics of the trade.

“We are at the top of the list of the safest countries to visit in the world, and we should maintain this,” he added. Tourism Minister, John Amaratunga who was also the Law and Order Minister during the government’s 100 day programme said that the incident has prompted him to strengthen the presence of the tourist police in tourist concentrated areas in order to discipline the beach boys.

He said that he will be looking at preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of such incidents, by educating the tourists on arrival on safety issues when travelling around the country.

The British couple in court

“This can be done at the airports or the hotels,” he said. Meanwhile he said that he has spoken to the couple and apologized to them for the unfortunate incident.

He also said that he had extended his regrets to the British High Commissioner in this regard and had discussed with him the sort of vigilant action which will be taken, in the future.

The Tourists Hotels Association’s President for the Galle region, Senaka de Silva, expressing his concerns, said there is a need to control the guesthouses and disco bars that are springing up like mushrooms in the booming industry.

He said that it is important to regulate the industry and stop giving licences to every ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ who wants to get into the business.

He is of the view that a responsible hotel or guest house would have warned the couple of the dangers of walking alone in the wee hours of the morning. “It is the agent’s responsibility to forewarn the tourists,” he said.

He said the incident cannot be ignored as a single isolated occurrence and taken lightly, as such crimes will be disastrous to the tourism industry.

He also noted that many discos, boutiques and bars down south operate sans a licence and are operated by non-professional people.

An official at the British High Commission declined to comment on the incident and said it had given sufficient guidelines in its travel advice to tourists to Sri Lanka.

The travel advisory warns tourists of an increasing number of reports of sexual offences, including those on minors, and the need to make travel arrangements through reputed travel companies.

The advisory while warning its nationals that ‘the Sri Lankan justice system can be very slow’ also recommends that women take particular care as western women have been the subject of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men, ranging from sexually suggestive or lewd comments, to physical advances and sexual assaults and stresses the need for women to carry personal alarms when travelling alone.

Police recall sequence of eventsInspector Rohana Olughala of the Weligama police describing the incident said:“We got the complaint on the stabbing and attempted rape on the 19th of September 2015.

The man had stab wounds and had been admitted to the Walana Hospital for treatment and later transferred to the Matara Base hospital.

 “We acted immediately and on investigation found the couple had been walking back to their hotel in Mirissa at around 3 a.m. on Saturday. They had gone for a DJ night at the Water Creatures 350 metres from the No.1 Mirissa Hotel where they had booked in, when a three wheeler and a motor bike had stopped by them.

There had been four men who had tried to nab and abduct the woman. The woman’s companion had fought back and was stabbed with a sharp knife.

“It transpired that the men thought the tourist had picked up the woman at the hotel. They wanted to kidnap the woman.
“The police arrested the four men immediately and two of the men have already been identified by the victims. Another suspect has also been identified but the tourists are in doubt.

“The three wheeler, motor bike and knife are in police custody and the men have been remanded till October 1.
“The blood on the accused’s t-shirt and the victims blood have been sent for DNA analysis for matching with the victim’s blood.”

The suspects are: Boda Hennadige Pramod Madumal (21) of Copramulla, Mirissa, alias Bari, Galbokkehewage Tharindu Vidushan (20) of Harbour Road, Mirissa, Geeganage Tharuka Peomal (19) of Mirissa and Usaeambewatte Wanigebadugge Tharik Madushanka alias Dawson.

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