Shabby treatment at a grand hotel On February 9, my husband and I , his brother and wife, all Sri Lankans with the latter two living in Canada, went to the Thai Restaurant at a grand hotel in Nuwara Eliya, to have lunch.  Five minutes into our sitting down and chit chatting, a waiter walks [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Shabby treatment at a grand hotel
On February 9, my husband and I , his brother and wife, all Sri Lankans with the latter two living in Canada, went to the Thai Restaurant at a grand hotel in Nuwara Eliya, to have lunch.  Five minutes into our sitting down and chit chatting, a waiter walks up to our table and says we are too loud!! At first we did not realise the gravity of his accusation. Then the penny dropped!

So we called back the waiter and asked him what he said and he said that the foreign guests at another table had complained that we are loud!! Before leaving the place we demanded that we speak to the manager and asked him what all this is about, and he said the same thing as the waiter.

We asked the manager on what basis he determined that the complaint should be taken up? Would he have taken it up if it was vice versa? What was his idea of loudness in his restaurant?

We asked him to put up a notice at the entrance of the restaurant on the allowable decibel level of noise in this restaurant!! That would help many people decide whether they want to go into that fly-infested restaurant or not!

Fly-infested – yes!! We had three flies hovering over our food and settling on the food. On being asked to do something about the flies, a waitress brought a candle, saying nonchalantly “Oh this section has flies”!! However, the determined flies seem to be permanent residents of the Thai Restaurant!!

Later we wondered if we were directed to that fly-infested area for a reason!!
Twice, waiters asked us if we were done, while it was obvious to them that we were still eating!
The entire unpleasant experience stinks of segregationist tactics aimed at discouraging Lankans from patronising the place.

I have been to restaurants in several countries and this is the first time we experienced such despicable treatment.
A Facebook post by me on the issue generated scores of comments by others on worse experiences of apartheid treatment they faced at this hotel and some other hotels/boutiques in the South and in Colombo.

One Facebook commentator said when her brother-in-law ordered risotto and cuttlefish at this same hotel the waiter brought rice and cuttlefish saying “since you are a local we thought you would like rice better”!!

Recently a weekend newspaper had an article on hotels openly and shamelessly practising apartheid against the locals. Apartheid practices breach the fundamental rights of consumers. Hence, the business licences of such places that practise apartheid should be revoked.

Over to the Minister of Tourism and the relevant authorities like the Tourist Board, Consumer Affairs Authority, etc. to investigate places that practise apartheid on the locals and take appropriate action.

Champa Fernando

Remembering a  gentleman politico
Apropos an appreciation of K.N.Choksy that appeared in the Sunday Times of February 7, I wish to pen a little vignette of this amiable gentleman. Some years ago our family was holidaying in a hotel down south. Whilst we were there K.N.Choksy and his gracious wife also checked in at this hotel. At that time he was Finance Minister and we gathered from the hotel staff that he had come there for a bit of “peace and quiet” as he was preparing the Budget.

Not once during those few days were the hotel guests disturbed or checked by his Security and it was indeed a refreshing sight to see him and his wife queueing up at the buffet table and mingling with the other guests in that inimitable genial style of his. What a stark contrast to the behaviour of some other ministers of the previous regime and their “brat pack”!

As we all know, he belonged to that wonderful community- the Parsees (alas sadly dwindling) who are well known for their refined way of life and their largesse towards the Arts and Culture.

Via email

Political blessings important for any emergency medical care system to work
I was pleased to note that the Government is planning to have an Emergency Medical Care system running with Indian help using around 88 ambulances and 600 personnel to provide emergency care for the needy in the country. This has got political backing from the top with the Prime Minister getting involved by proposing this scheme.

The terrorist activities during the past still linger in my mind where many wounded were left on the spot of blasts and explosions, waiting for some sort of first aid or help. Most of the time that help came from bystanders or people who rushed to the scene. Apart from that several accidents and emergencies occurred within this bustling city each day, leaving several individuals injured and stranded on the streets. Devastation by storms, fires and the tsunami increasingly convinced me of the importance of having trained first-aid workers and a specially equipped ambulance service.

So in 2003, my Public Health Department of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) along with the Department of Fire Services of CMC, the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, St. John’s Ambulance Service, SweRoad, Ministry of Transport, Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Authority and other stakeholders made similar plans to launch an Emergency Medical Service in Colombo and subsequently launched it in August 2005. I obtained the Emergency number 110 for the emergency service after making many visits to the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. We also obtained radio equipment for the ambulances to communicate with the centre. One of the catalysts for such a quick launch was the 2004 tsunami tragedy.

The Directors of the National Hospital and Kalubowila Hospital, the Chief Fire Officer, Dr. Shirani Hapuarachchi, the former President of the College of Anaesthesiologists, key officials of other stakeholders met with me regularly and implemented the plan where eight ambulances were donated by Johanitter of Germany to their counterpart St. John’s Ambulance Service here, and around 25 Fire-Fighters were trained in Emergency Care by Dr. Hapuarachchi at NHSL to run the service.

Unfortunately, although a lot of time and energy were spent on training the fire-fighters especially by Dr. Shirani Hapuarachchi, the fact that key components of the programme belonged to other stakeholders outside the government institutions didn’t make it work after sometime. First, St. John’s Ambulance Service withdrew the ambulances which they received for this project and then when the Fire Department received ambulances from Netherlands, internal disputes at that department between the dispatchers and young para-medic-firefighters made it impossible to run the service. My attempts to get political and administrative masters to solve the issue also failed and in the end it became a skeletal service.

Therefore, if a similar service is to be started after 13 years there should be one organisation which will plan and implement the programme whether it is a Sri Lankan, Indian or perhaps a Chinese organisation which is given the opportunity to run it. The most important thing is it should have political blessings. Otherwise there will be many obstacles that will arise which would be not easily removed.

Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam
Via email

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