14th June 1998
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Some scenes from the scandalous video tape promoting tourism in Sri Lanka
A Cabinet approved tourist promotion documentary costing Rs 21 million (US $ 3.5 million) projected Sri Lanka as a sex paradise for Germany's single women.
Already shown on Germany's RTL 2 Channel, the one hour programme spoke of the easy availability of young men. Thrown in were shots of lurid transvestite shows and a male tourist going into a discotheque in search of a female partner.
Titled "Alles inklusive " Ina's Trip durch SriLanka" (Ina's Journey through Sri Lanka), a scantily clad German TV presenter, Ina shows herself off in various suggestive poses and performs an erotic dance on the beach cavorting with a python.
Full frontal naked pictures follow- a young Sri Lankan boy and girl re-enacting some postures from the Kama Sutra.
Then come lengthy scenes from the film version of Kama Sutra. Screened first in Frankfurt on March 25 and later on March 26 and April 2, the documentary also had a special offer for viewers. The first prize winner was to receive a free air ticket on AirlLanka to Colombo. 20 other consolation prizes came in the form of video copies of the Kama Sutra.
The move infuriated the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.
The first complaint came from its Promotions Manager in Germany, Mahil Goonaratna. He told his boss, J.F.R. Perera, Director General in Colombo that the documentary focused exclusively on the availability of erotic sex in Sri Lanka except for brief shots on temples, City of Colombo, the Elephant Orphanage and the Uda Walawe National Park.
An infuriated Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, H.M.S. Samaranayake, told The Sunday Times "this is a gross violation of the contract we entered into with the German producer. The documentary they put together was reviewed and approval was granted by the National Film Corporation. They have made changes to it."
The Tourist Board protested to the producer, PRISMA. Their Editor, Tanja Hehn's response was "It is our journalistic freedom and our order to produce what the German audience want to know." (See full text of letter on this page)
Sumith de Alwis, Assistant Director of the Tourist Board was assigned to the crew whilst they were on location in Sri Lanka. The documentary winds up with special thanks to him. Efforts by The Sunday Times to obtain his views failed. Officials said he was on the move and did not respond to phone calls.
The crew filming the documentary had visited Buddhist temples and filmed murals. They were projected as erotic art. Ayurveda has been introduced as a medication to relax after a hard night at a discotheque. Women who went through herbal massage spoke of being pressed at unusual places but said they got used to it. A young Sri Lankan said German women were nice, lovable and not shy.
According to Mahil Gooneratna, from the first time the film was broadcast, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board office in Frankfurt received complaints from tour operators .
In another instance, a lady German visitor to Sri Lanka complained to Mr. Gooneratna that her husband who did not join her had asked whether she came here for sex. The leading travel operator through whom she came had declared that some clients were reluctant to come to Sri Lanka after they saw the documentary.
Yet another case, Mr. Goonaratna has pointed out is about a school teacher from Germany who formed a Friends of Sri Lanka circle after her very first visit. She had done so in her school but found it embarrassing when her students who had seen the film questioned her.
When Mr. Goonaratne contacted Ms. Tanja Hehn, the Director/Producer of the documentary, she had said it was too late for her to make any changes. She had claimed the footage had been shot in the presence of Assistant Director de Alwis. According to her, the film is now being offered to regional TV stations in Europe for broadcast.
We're horrified says Tourist Board
The Cabinet granted approval in October, 1997, for the production of the documentary as a tourist promotion effort, Sri Lanka Tourist Board Chairman H.M.S. Samaranayake, told The Sunday Times.
He said the Tourist Board acted as the Co-ordinator since several State agencies were involved.
They included the Board of Investment, and the Export Development Board .The purpose behind allowing the production of the documentary was to not only promote tourism but also to improve the country's image and attract tourists.
"We heard there were certain scenes which were not in the original footage approved by the National Film Corporation.
We raised objection to it and have written to the production house.
"We are not in a position to take any legal action against the company. We have not paid any money to them so far. When shooting was carried out in Sri Lanka, facilities were provided by hotels and those in the travel trade.
"What they have done is a violation of the contract. We were horrified to learn that scenes of the Kama Sutra were included," he said.
If the documentary produced by the German production house came with Government approval, The Sunday Times has found instances where other dubious foreign production houses have produced pornographic films in the City.
A copy of such a video film was made available to The Sunday Times by a viewer who watched a TV programme in Switzerland.
The lurid pornographic footage has been shot in Wellawatte and other parts of the City. The footage shows Swiss women at a City market changing clothes. Other more lurid scenes are said to project both these women and Sri Lankans.
The titles give credit to the assistance and co-operation given by a Sri Lankan, a six footer who worked as an extra in films in the 1960s.
Counter- propaganda to be launched
W.P.S. Jayawardena, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka with the German production house.
He told The Sunday Times "I was shocked to learn of the inclusion of scenes that were not approved. We will have to work out an alternative propaganda programme to counter the bad impression created by the documentary in question. This is very unfortunate."
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