Sri Lanka’s national security severely declined as a result of the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday, in addition to scores of deaths and damages to properties.
With the challenges faced by national security, people’s lives were negatively affected and the safety of the general public became questionable.
These attacks targeted tourists as well and consequently many tourists left the country immediately and those who had planned to travel in Sri Lanka canceled their trips.
Not only people lost their lives and peace, but also the country’s economy was severely affected.
Tourism industry, one of the most significant components of Sri Lanka’s economy, was rising. But with the attack, it collapsed considerably.
Nevertheless, everything has to be restored as soon as possible; and it’s vital that people regain peace of mind that was born after the conclusion of the war.
It is also extremely necessary in rebuilding the tourism industry.
To discuss challenges faced by Sri Lanka’s tourism industry and future plans to revive the industry, we spoke to subject minister John Amaratunga.
Concessions to registered hotels
Most professionals in the tourism sector, including tourist hotels, are going through a difficult time. They are expecting some kind of support from the government and they have explained it to the government as well.
President Maithripala Sirisena set up a Cabinet Sub-committee to look into reforms necessary for the tourism industry.
The committee has presented suggestions with regard to giving concessions to hotel owners and other tourism industry professionals register under the tourism board.
The minister said: “First and foremost, hotels’ security must be tightened. We have provided security to almost every hotel in Colombo. Hotels situated out of Colombo have also been provided with security as per their requests. We are also discussing with banks how to assist these hotels in terms of loans taken by the hotels.”
“On Tuesday, the Finance Ministry will announce what type of concessions can be given,” he added.
Air ticket prices to be reduced by 50% ?
The collapse of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which contributes to 5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is a severe blow to the country as well as to the current government.
So far this year, around 900,000 tourists arrived in Sri Lanka. If the Easter Sunday attacks had not taken place, the government could have most probably achieved its aims pertaining to the tourism industry.
Last year, we earned USD 4.5 billion as 2.3 million tourists came to Sri Lanka.
“We have to use various strategies to revive the tourism industry,” the minister said, adding that he has talked with airline companies and requested them to reduce air ticket prices by 50 per cent in a bid to attract more tourists.
We have only one month left
“We will have to show that we are stable by May. If we can show that the national security has been fully ensured, there’s no problem.”
If I knew, I would have saved churches
As the minister responsible for Christian affairs, in addition to tourism industry, the minister has a responsibility about the Catholics who were attacked on Easter Sunday.
Although it has been proven that defense heads were aware of this terror attack, Sri Lanka failed to protect Sri Lankans as well as tourists.
After a decade, the country again witnessed the destruction caused by terrorism. Despite the fact that there was a dialogue on reconciliation and co-existence, the Easter Sunday attacks have destroyed everything.
“At least, had I known about the warnings, I would have cancelled church services so that we could have minimized the impacts. When it happened, I was in Madu Church. My security personnel also went with me. They may also have not been informed of it.”
The minister said necessary action have been taken to pay compensations to those who died and were injured in the attacks, and also to reconstruct damaged churches and other properties.
Even though the United National Party (UNP) said that the government must reach an agreement with regard to the national security, and must entrust responsibilities pertaining to the national security to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, the president has not given an affirmative answer thus far.
Expressing his views with regard to this matter, minister John Amaratunga said the national security must be managed as a single responsibility, by a single institutions.
“President can’t do everything”
However, it is now evident that almost everything depends on the national security.
Ashika Brahmana/ Nishantha Priyadarshana