Monday, 14 November 2011

Aren’t we going too far to develop tourism, and shouldn’t we be more selective in accepting foreign investment?

At last we know, that Sri Lanka is not to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Mr.Sunil Gunawardhana a veteran Sri Lanka athlete and coach has bemoaned that Sri Lanka had been denied the occasion after a thirty year war in its effort to reconcile the communities by  uncaring sportive bigwigs of the Commonwealth Games Federation voting 43 to 27 in favour of  Australia.

Those who voted against Sri Lanka were undoubtedly, mostly politically motivated Westerners  against developing Nation breaking new grounds in economic and social development.  It was expected , that despite the West becoming failed Nations to still bellow their war cries of NATO, and naval and air power in their united front against developing countries.  The 43-27 vote is another victory they claim over a developing poor nation after its failure to reprimand  and  send it to their “political gallows” for violation of human rights at the CHOGM meeting in Australia.

A pavement hawker Pradeep Silva, had said , "Why can't they give us a chance , This is the so-called mentality those rich countries still maintain. They think they are still the colonial masters, we have to obey them. I am happy that at least Sri Lanka made an effort."  How correct and that is how our ordinary  people feels despite what ever the BBC, Reuters, Agence France Press of the foreign Media, the  websites Sri Lanka Guardian, Transcurrent, TamilNet and Ground view ,  Al Jazeera and UKChannel 4 may have to say.
Sri Lanka today is a greater nation than the 47 nations that voted against us to keep the Commonwealth Games with them.  Because within a short time after elimination of a ruthless  terrorism, Sri Lanka has come out of its “poverty” label to become a middle income Nation. That is  no small achievement to a developing country that it was.  

Now it is time to turn to events taking place in Sri Lanka and question whether we are doing the right thing, and whether the Government should not be more precautious in some of its more ambitious undertakings.  Tourism is a great money earner.  Today it has become the number one preoccupation of the government as a source of income. But do we ask ourselves,  whether we are not over doing to  make money on tourism ? 

We cannot forget that tourism also has its  disadvantages   and a perilous dark-side.  Sri Lanka seems to be on its way to jump the boundaries, if the Government would not draw in reins.  There is  news of prostitution in a big way drawing in women from East Europe, while even some of our young film artists are being put on show cases of notoriety.   There are also news of Casinos for tourists and some even promoting tourist resorts for nudists.  Russia became very rich very quickly and is now in the grips of a moral decadence and fear of mafia.

What more is in stock in Sri Lanka by way of pleasing the foreign tourists specially those from the West ? Some time  back there was talk, of special plane loads of rich Germans taken to Philippines  for sex tours arranged for them , the baits being  young girls,  and pedophilia. It was recently reported by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) that they had received more than 7,000 complaints of child abuse since it established a telephone hotline.

Are these children  only those sexually abused or molested by their parents, guardians or people known to them, and are they children in out-of-home care, mainly living in foster homes or with relatives ?
There were some time back rumours  that children, whose mothers have left to Middle East for domestic service leaving  the children in the care of grand mothers or the fathers were being « taken for prostitution » in hotels.   Not only the Children but women working as machinists in some workshops were made to prostitute by the workshop owners.  These reports must be taken seriously by the government and serious investigations made, before it goes out of control.

Any projects and enterprises should have limits, but in Sri Lanka their seems to be too much of a hurry to promote tourism as the main money earner, therefore there is a dangerous attempt  to provide tourists every thing they  may demand.

Lot of statistics are being given about the numbers of tourist arrivals, but little is said about the earnings.  Are we really earning enough to setoff our financial commitments to make tourists happy ? Is the income from tourism justifiably high compared to the expenditure on account of it?   

The tourists coming to Sri Lanka should be given a Sri Lankan vacation in keeping with our cultural values they can enjoy, that should be the criteria to attract tourists. 

But do we respect that principle  or are we turning our tourist industry to keep in line with Western tourist resorts ?  If we have to spend large sums of money to import foreign alcoholic drinks, and aliments in keeping with Western tastes, and import cutlery,  table wear and interior decorations to be tasteful in the Western sense, the income over expenditure may not be very much, and the vacation in Sri Lanka will fail to reach national standard of hospitality.

Even the country’s natural heritage it had been said is in danger, by constructing roads  and constructing hotels close to these protected areas.   We cannot sacrifice everything in the name of tourism.  In the West money is everything.  They even put people to risk without taking timely action to prevent accidents not wanting to spend more than what they think is necessary keeping an eye on the benefits. 

Even the death of passengers in a Concord that met with an accident after the burst of a wheel, it is said that the authorities knew of the defect months earlier  but hat failed to take  appropriate action to replace the wheels causing the accident.

Are we also putting money before people ?  Is money every thing ? Should not we put at least a temporary  halt to unnecessary expenditure to give us time to reflect whether such expenditure is necessary or not? 
It was recently reported that a large extent of land in Sabaragamuwa is to be handed over to a company for a golf course.  Is that really necessary ?  How many of the tourists come toSri Lanka to play golf ?   Isn’t our land more important than to construct golf courses ?  Even in the West many golf courses are used only by the rich and those who could afford and that is not much ?  A golf course as much as a Nudist Camp are not essential elements to develop tourism in Sri Lanka.

While the Government speaks of  poverty elimination, it appears  that attempts are being made to enrich some, at the cost of others.

It is not correct that our ancient Tanks  are converted to provide  joy rides motor boats without taking into consideration pollution to the environment.

In Fiji  they say the land belongs to the people and foreign investors are given leases of land to construct hotels or other business venture.  In Sri Lanka it is said that prime land even in Colombo are sold outright.  If that is how foreign investment is  encouraged, the Government should re-think about the advisability of such methods of dealing with what belongs to the people.

The least seriously taken other foreign exchange earner is the Sri Lanka middle and lower class  women sent  to Arab countries  as maids. Much has been written about their maltreatment by the Arab employers, and the suicide committed by  some  unable to bear the physical and mental torture they are subjected to by their Muslim Arab employers. There are   others who return with nails driven into their bodies.

The last  sad news about our “maids” abroad  is about a body of a dead Maid returned to Sri Lanka without her internal organs. For how long is the government prepared to tolerate these  savagery of the Muslim Arabs employing our women not as their servants ;  but as their slaves making them their personal chattel, with rights over their bodies and lives ?

Finally  it is about the still more dangerous situation that 62 500 hectares of land said to have been “given”  to the American Fruit Company Dole.  It was reported in the Sunday Times  of the 21 August, 2011,  that , “State lands, including the region around the Somawathie Chaitiya Sanctuary have been issued to an American fruit company for banana cultivation, in various parts of the country, according to environmentalists.
“ The company Dole, has acquired 62,500 hectares in the following areas - Buttala, Uva Kudaoya, Galle, Puttalam, Dambulla and Somawathie, without  obtaining the  required Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
“The lands belong to several State bodies including the Mahaweli Authority, Forest and Wildlife Departments, and the Viharadevalagam (temple). “About 3,000 hectares in Uva Kudaoya, given to the company, is very valuable because of its rich biodiversity and water resources,” said Centre for Environmental Studies National Coordinator Ravindra Kariyawasam.
“About 500 hectares of land along the Menik Ganga reservation, 15,000 hectares in the Kantale region and 11,600 hectares in the Somawathie area have been given to the company, he added. He said the farmers in Uva Kudaoya were involved in chena and paddy cultivation before the company established the banana cultivation, but now the farmers are working for Dole. “ 

It is well  know that the American Fruit Companies have caused dangerous political instability in countries where they had grabbed land to open fruit plantations, turning them in to «  Banana Republics ».  Some of them like the United Fruit Company of American become a  law unto themselves using the land as they want without respect to natural resources ,  the danger to human and animal  lives by using dangerous fertilizers and the countries made poorer by  the people been exploited, and  depriving them of their own cultivation for their livelihood.
It was Jamaika  that was taken over to promote large scale Banana production by Captain Laurenzo D.Baker, followed by Henry Meigs to feed the railroad workers .  Meigs began the Tropical Trade and Transporting company which later became the United Fruit Company.

Honduras saw two Fruit Companies (the United Fruit Company and the Cuyamel Banana Company) vying for  land rights and employment of workers.  In 1911 one company hired mercenaries to effect a coup d’etat to dispose Miguel R.Davila the President of Honduras.  The Fruit Company deposed the President Davila and installed Manuel Bonilla as  a puppet President, which resulted in Honduras becoming a poor Banana Republic.

With regard to Guatamala it has been reported , that it  became a Banana Republic because of  the , “ inequitably distributed agricultural land and natural wealth  uneven economic development, and an economy dependent upon a few export crops, usually bananas, coffee, sugar cane. The inequitable land distribution is the principal cause of national poverty and the low quality of Guatemalan life, and the concomitant socio-political discontent and insurrection. Almost 90 per cent of the country's farms are too small to yield adequate subsistence harvests to the farmers, whilst two per cent of the country's farms occupy 65 per cent of the arable land, property of the local  oligarchy.” (wikipedia)

This is the new global land and water grab by American Fruit Companies.  America Dole Food Company is a multinational cooperation.  Dole had been named  as a defendant in a murder case in which it was accused of  causing death  through paramilitary violence in Colombia.

Again in Nicaragua a lawyer Juan Donguez sued Dole for use of pesitcies-Nemagon which sterilesed the workers.  The law suit was refused by the law courts in California on testimony that the plaintiffs did not work in the Dole’s plantations.  But, “A lawyer for the Nicaraguans, Steve Condie, however, stated that some of the witnesses who gave testimony that the claims were fraudulent, had been paid by Dole. The witnesses' identities were kept secret so that the plaintiffs' lawyers could not interview them”  Dole company bribed judges and witnesses and the lawyers representing the plaintiffs were accused of ethics violations.

« Swedish director Federic Gertten made a documentary film about Dominguez and the alleged banana workers. The movie Bananas-premiered in the 2009 LosAngeles Film Festival. Because Dole had serious concerns on what the film might reveal to the public, it urged festival officials to "immediately cease and desist" their sponsorship of the film.

The festival officials allowed the film to be screened, but it was not allowed to compete for placement in the competition. In addition, festival officials distributed information before the film's screening that indicated Dole believed the film to be factually inaccurate.

Although the film was screened with a disclaimer from the festival, Gertten was subsequently sued for defamation by Dole.The lawsuit was dropped on October 15 2009, and in November 2010 a court in Los Angeles found in favour of the movie crew making it possible to release the movie in the USA, and ordering Dole to pay SEK 1.4 million (roughly USD 200,000) to the filmmakers.
The last Nicaraguan DBCP awards against Dole were overturned in July 2010. »

Has the  Government investigated and taken precautions to avoid what happened in Guatamala, Colombia, Nicaragua and also in Philipines, happening in our poor Sri Lanka in giving land to open fruit farms to the Global land and water grabbers the  Dole Fruit Company of America  ? 

It is far better land is given to our own people for cultivation on a co-operative basis.

When the above article  appeared in the Lanka Web on the 16 November,2011.  There was a sarcastic comment by Cassandra on my anti Western sentiments.  The following are the two of the comments  I  made in  the Lankaweb as replies to Cassandra.

Cassandra Comments on my anti Western bias, and he thinks he is justified.

Who voted for or against Sri Lanka’s application   to host 2013 Commonwealth Games is not  known. But  following  excerpt from a report may give  an idea of how the voting may have proceeded.

« Hambantota 2018’s chances of making it the winning bid would be boosted by a guaranteed vote base from the Asian, African and the Caribbean regions. In contrast, Gold Coast would pin its hopes on voting that they lobby mainly from European, Americas and Oceania regions.
Out of six continents, Africa has the highest number of 18 member states in the CGF with the Caribbean having the second highest number of 15. The other member countries which will be eligible for voting would be 13 from Oceania and eight each from Asia, Americas and Europe.  »

There is no doubt that the Western  countries may have voted en-block against Sri Lanka followed by others for political and other reasons.   Sri Lanka certainly had a better case  to present itself as a candidate to host the  Commonwealth Games as it has within two years after elimination of a ruthless terrorism, which had eaten into its human, material and territorial resources for thirty long years, made a remarkable  ascension into a middle income group. 

The Western Countries which should have applauded its achievement as an example  for other developing countries who are far behind that remarkable achievement of Sri Lanka, thought it fit to accuse Sri Lanka for violation of human rights in the elimination of terrorism. Developing countries achieving economic development would be an asset to developed countries. 

We trusted and respected the Europeans and sought to emulate them often harping on their justice and fair play,  readiness to commend others for their efforts of development , and their democratic out look. 
But we saw their true “visage “only after Sri Lanka single handed won against terrorism through a military solution.   

The Government of Sri Lanka’s military operations were not directed at any time against  the Tamil people, though the self interested Tamils like those of the TNA,  Anandasangaree, Kumar David, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera try to make out that the Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism was  a war against the Tamils.

The stand taken by both David Cameron and Stephen Harper in Australia at the CHOGM was deplorable. 

There aren’t many European citizens who write in defense of Sri Lanka though they make a terrorism free Sri Lanka their favourite  tourist destination, which was made possible by the Government and the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka.


I do not like Cassandra’s sarcasm in his criticism of what I write

I left out  answering  Cassendra’s pertinent  question, whether it made sense for Sri Lanka to have made a bid for the Games, in the first place ?

Perhaps  he does not  known that Hambantotata a few years back was a poor remote area of Sri Lanka.  All development projects by previous governments  were for the Western, Central and few other Districts and the South was left as it was poor and undeveloped. 

The selection of Hambantota to host  the Commonwealth games would have,
(i)                 helped the further development of the neglected South. 
(ii)               It would have also enriched the country  attracting larger numbers of foreign visitors, 
(iii)             earned foreign exchange by leasing the stadiums constructed for the Commonwealth Games for International Sports events.
(iv)             It would also have been an impetus of our own local sports men and women to work hard to participate in more ambitious fields of  sports competitions such as the Olympic Games

Australia had apparently hosted the Commonwealth Games on four previous occasions, why not therefore  select a fast developing country like Sri Lanka to give it  an opportunity to host the Commonwealth Games ?

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