How many more incidents will it take for hotel industry to be held accountable? Crimes against tourists appear horrifyingly clear and present again, with the most recent attack and sexual assault being inflicted on a group of young tourists in Mirissa in the South. The restaurant and hotel staff are among the chief suspects. A [...]


Letters to the Editor


How many more incidents will it take for hotel industry to be held accountable?

Instances of harm befalling tourists within hotel premises are on the rise

Crimes against tourists appear horrifyingly clear and present again, with the most recent attack and sexual assault being inflicted on a group of young tourists in Mirissa in the South. The restaurant and hotel staff are among the chief suspects. A few years ago a similar incident took place in Tangalle, causing international outrage.

Over the past decade there have been numerous instances of harm befalling tourists within hotel premises. These have ranged from food poisoning to drowning, as well as cases of physical and sexual assault.

Just recently, another tragedy occurred in Huluganga, in the foothills of Knuckles, where five young executives fell victim to a sudden flood at a natural pool, claimed to be situated “within the premises” of a hotel.

But in almost all these places where crimes and acts of negligence have occurred, the establishments have escaped liability or accountability, either under civil or criminal law. At best some places were closed down, only to be reopened under a different name nearby. It’s almost impossible to recall an instance where the proprietors of these resorts had to face legal action or pay compensation or face a penalty.

Yet, a look at Sri Lanka’s law on registered hotels and tourist establishments makes clear the terms of institutional accountability when it comes to the safety of guests. For example the law on the safety of pools says: “Precautions should be taken in sea-side hotels and hotels with swimming pools for the safety of the users. Cautionary and warning signs conforming to international standards must be displayed prominently. Depth markings and internationally accepted safety signs should be permanently displayed at the swimming pool. Suitably qualified life guards should be available when the swimming pool is in operation”.

Further, the law stresses that hotels must be covered by a Comprehensive Hoteliers’ Insurance Policy, including public liability and workmen’s compensation. The law says: “When designing the Hotel, internationally accepted safety standards should be adhered to. Hotels should ensure adequate safety and security of the guests and their belongings. Necessary surveillance measures to achieve the above must be in place.”

The question arises then if the unfortunate victims of Huluganga received any of the above protections of the law from the hotel. If the said natural pool, as the hotel proudly claims, is a private natural pool belonging to the hotel, don’t these laws apply there?

Regrettably law enforcement lags way behind on the safety of guests. Had Sri Lanka learnt lessons from Tangalle, the national shame at Mirissa could have been prevented. A sheer lack of accountability, poor regulations, limited supervision and at times political patronage seem to have given some of these institutions the licence to ignore their legal duties towards ensuring even a basic semblance of safety towards their guests.

Law enforcement should also take a deeper look into the Huluganga tragedy and similar such cases of negligence. The deaths are reported to have occurred in a stretch of a natural stream which flows through the premises of the hotel.

The heavy rains upstream which resulted in a flash flood was an open and obvious danger in the Knuckles foothills, and the hotel should have adequately communicated this to their guests.  Mere warnings are not enough. The often repeated excuse of “We told. They didn’t listen” is not what the law means to be reasonable care, as far as the safety of guests is concerned. Hotels have a legal duty to protect their paying guests against any reasonable risk of physical harm.

It’s high time Sri Lanka approached each case of an alleged crime or act of negligence at a hotel with the sense of purpose towards the safety of the paying guest. We must investigate the utter despicability at Mirissa, and the owners of such places must be held liable under law. Closure of the unlicensed place and punishing the suspects alone is insufficient. Sri Lanka needs to punish all those who facilitate such violence.

 Kelum Samarasena  Via email

John Marshall’s  little known service to Buddhism

Your report on the Sarnath relics mentions that they were discovered by a British archaeologist in 1913 (ST News, April 29). The archaeologist in question was Sir John Marshall, who was the director of the Archaeological Survey of India. He was also in charge of the excavations which discovered the relics in Taxila, which have recently been sent by the Pakistani government.

Many people are unaware that Sir John worked closely with the Anagarika Dharmapala. Marshall helped the Anagarika with the design of the Sri Dharma Rajika Vihara in Calcutta thereby earning the Anagarika’s heartfelt gratitude which he expressed in an article in The Buddhist Annual of Ceylon (1921): ‘Thanks of the Maha Bodhi Society are due to Sir John Marshall, Director-General of Archaeology, for the kind-hearted sympathy and inspiring advice given to the General Secretary throughout the construction of the Vihara’.

The Anagarika greatly valued Marshall’s leadership of the Archaeological Department as noted in the following tribute he paid at the founding of the Archaeological Department in Hyderabad in 1914: ‘The Imperial Archaeological Department under the directorate of Sir John Marshall is doing religious work in conserving the ancient buildings in different parts of British India. Sir John Marshall is indefatigable in his labour of love. A classical scholar, and an archaeologist with a scientific knowledge of architecture, he has been able to do much in restoring the neglected buildings of antiquity in India. Under his supervision the Sanchi Topes are being gradually restored, and excavations are being carried out at ancient Taxila in the Rawalpindi district’.  Marshall came personally to Sri Lanka in 1917 to present a relic casket excavated from a stupa at Taxila to the Buddhists of Sri Lanka as a gift from the Government of India. The relic casket, enshrined in a gold casket was handed over, with much ceremony, at the Temple of Tooth in Kandy.

Sir John Marshall’s services to Buddhism deserve to be better recognised by the worldwide Buddhist community.

 Dr R.P. Fernando  Via email

Yahapalanaya Govt. showing its feet of clay

As a strong critic of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s style of government, and a supporter of the Yahapalanaya government, I must confess to a deep sense of disappointment at the lack of values that the latter has been recently demonstrating.

By tolerating Ravi Karunanayake and retaining him in the party hierarchy it is seriously tainting its own reputation.  It is common knowledge that the rent for RK’s luxury apartment was paid by a person who is presently in remand.  He did not deny it but maintained that he was not aware of it.  Only his wife and child knew! This is one instance where the adage that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty does not apply.  In those circumstances how does the PM continue to coddle and support him?  Does it not indicate that the PM’s own values are  suspect?  Is this not a very bad example to set when most politicians are either already corrupt or more than ready to seize any opportunity for corruption that may come their way? Surely the President should not permit this brazen disregard for the law?  The only conclusion that we can come to at present is that both the President and the PM think that their party’s interests override those of the country.  In the manner of Trump they declaim “Party First”.

The renting of RK’s apartment is an open and shut case of bribery is it not?  No intricate investigation is necessary.  Why is it not pursued?

Senior Citizen  Via e mail

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