Apr 20, 2018

Will request Navy assistance to secure Lankan beaches - Tourism minister

Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, John Amaratunga said he intends to request for the assistance of the Navy to further fortify security on the beaches of the country.

The minister was speaking during a media briefing held at the Hotel School Building today (20).

The Minister said in areas where issues have arisen, measures will be taken to by the police to increase security measures and the tourist police will be further strengthened to handle these issues and make Sri Lanka’s tourist destinations safer for tourists.

He also noted that after April 25, all Ambassadors and High Commissioners would be called for a meeting in order to notify them about the measures taken by Sri Lanka to make the country safer for tourists, in a bid to rectify the negative publicity the country is receiving due to such incidents.

Excise Department, responsible

The Minister however, said that the main problem for such incidents is that there are many unlicensed bars and illegal liquor and drugs that is being distributed in the area.

He said the Excise department should be held responsible for not having taken measures to raid such illegal establishments and maintain proper standards.

30m allocated

Speaking at the media briefing, Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the government has allocated Rs. 30 million to establish police posts at 20 identified tourist hotspots in order to provide better security for tourists visiting the country. This measure was taken in the wake of the recent incidents that were reported in Mirissa recently, where a group of Dutch tourists were assaulted.

The Coast Conservation Department Director General Prabath Chandrakeerthi said, his department had  taken the decision to demolish all illegal constructions along the coastal areas, while 17 such locations will be demolished on May 01.

The Minister of Law and Order, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, John Amaratunga, senior officials from both Ministries, the IGP and police officers attached to the Weligama Police, the Weligama Urban Council Chairman and high ranking officials of the Coast Conservation Department held a meeting prior to the media briefing to discuss measures that needed to be taken with regard to this incident and how best to prevent such incidents taking place in the future.

Minister Madduma Bandara added that 14 arrests have been made already in connection with the Mirissa incident and the assault on five Israeli tourists at the Midigama beach.

He said the hotel where the incident had taken place has been sealed until the investigations are completed. He said  a court order had been obtained yesterday to get the CCTV footage of the relevant hotel and the adjoining hotels for investigations.

Police should control beach boys

Meanwhile, when questioned about the action needed to be taken by the Tourism authority to address the issue of beach boys allegedly harassing tourists, the Director General of the Tourism Development Authority Upali Rathnayake said controlling the beach boys is the responsibility of the police.

However, The Weligama Urban Council Chairman Rehan Wijeratne Jayawickrama said this is an isolated incident and it does not suggest that the Mirissa beaches are unsafe for tourists. “These sort of incidents do not occur frequently. Action was taken within 48 hours to address the problem. We intend to organise awareness programmes  in collaboration with NGOs and the tourism ministry to educate these beach boys on the importance of respecting women and on their behaviour and approach.”

He also blamed the police adding that they had not notified the LG authorities about the incident, of which they knew only through media reports.

The Matara Police OIC, meanwhile, defending the police said that while the incident had occurred in the wee hours of April 8th, no complaint had been lodged with the police until April 10,when a complaint was lodged by another party to the tourist police. “The police acted swiftly and by the 13th the suspects were arrested, based on investigations that were initiated by the police,” he said.

However, IGP Pujith Jayasundara assured that an investigation is underway on the police actions or failures with regard to  these incidents.