Thal Sevana Holiday Resort in Kankasanturai


By Nan

During a recent visit to Jaffna after thirty long years of separation of the Peninsula from the rest of the Island, we had lunch at the newly opened resort hotel – Thal Sevana. It was a memorable event in our two days in Jaffna. I will briefly expand on the statement I have made on the two hours spent at Thal Sevana being a high point of our stay in Jaffna. Firstly we were impressed by the warm welcome we received at this newly built, obviously functional hotel. Situated on a picturesque spot on the coastline of Kankesanturai, it was balm to the emotions made raw by the sight of deserted, desolate, bullet pocked houses and yellow taped areas declaring mine-danger. It was a hope inspiring experience and one that proved the benefit of the army’s presence in Jaffna. Here was a project of the army additional to its main function – that of peace maintaining and patrolling the Peninsula which could still harbour Tigers in hiding.

The holiday resort was a luxurious oasis in the shambles of a civil war against a terror group which had destruction of humans, fauna and flora, buildings and the very fabric of life as their way of claiming Eelam. The polished floors and clean walls, good toilets, cool within the dining area and rooms with the soft lapping of the waves as gentle background music was complemented by the happy smiling faces of the service personnel. The very fact of its normalcy gave hope for the situation of Jaffna being improved by the Army.

The resort is open to the public and the army welcomes passing the word around. This an added plus point to me since I felt I had to write about Thal Sevana and asking Lt Col Chandana Wijayasundara for permission, I received the encouraging answer that making the holiday resort known to the public was approved of thoroughly by the authorities and him. He advised me to access their website, which I did and read that the Commander of the Amy, Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya, inaugurated the ten day commemoration ceremonies to mark the army’s 61st anniversary on 10th October 2010 in Anuradhapura. On October 2nd he was in Jaffna to declare open the just completed Thal Sevana Holiday Resort.

Major Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe is the man behind this endeavour. He started the building of a hotel open to the public, as yet another constructive project by the army in rehabilitating the war devastated North. He is the incumbent Security Forces Commander (Jaffna) under whose supervision and guidance the holiday resort is managed. Lt. Col Chandana Wijayasundara affirmed the fact that Major Gen. Hathurusinghe is a great leader and a strong personality, both attributes gravely needed in restoring Jaffna to its former position of being the hub of the North and a home to a racially and religiously mixed population.

Three decades ago

Jaffna was my family’s favourite holiday resort. Often when siblings and families got together to share a meal my husband would suggest a holiday and the loudest shout for destination would be Jaffna. We have stayed in the circuit bungalow of the Cement Corporation; at Elephant Pass and Kankesanturai resthouses, those old post colonial bungalows that offered excellent food – pol sambal and deep fried red chillies inevitably part of the meal – OK rooms and dignified service. We have also landed ourselves on a retired teacher, his name and address given us by a Tamil friend of my husband. The teacher was not at all surprised when we called on him at the 21st mile post in Chenkaladi. He got a widow living in the neighbourhood to accommodate us. The dogs howling at night sent the men of the group seeking alternate accommodation and a nephew-in-law obtained the use of the guest house of Jaffna College. Mysterious noises and happenings convinced us that souls of Americans who lived, loved and died in Jaffna were loath to leave the place completely! We always found sincere hospitality and friendliness in Jaffna. But during my last visit in 1978, I sensed resentment in boutiques on the approach road to Elephant Pass. My obvious Sinhalaness was not approved of by the young boutique keepers. The `boys’ under Prabhakaran were just about then raising their Eelam demanding hands which soon enough would turn murderous.

Thus it was a delight to see that the old KKS Resthouse was not completely obliterated, though destroyed. Thal Sevana sits on its site and much praise for that.

The army maintains very well another resort – Kukule Ganga - with clean chalets, grounds immaculately maintained, staff working efficiently but unobtrusively, the swimming pool cleaned every early morning and a flautist in the evening to add to the restful ambience of the place. Maintained by the army, in addition to Kukuleganga resort, are hotels in Wadduwa and Kataragama.

Thal Sevana

What strikes one as one walks along the drive to Thal Sevana is the neat appearance and the greenery and flower plants enlivening this coastline site which could be arid unless attended to with effort. Three really lovely girls at the reception desk receive you with palms together and bright smiles lighting up their eyes in genuine welcome. They are soldiers but poles apart from what a girl soldier looks like with hair drawn back severely and uniforms that attempt hiding curves. The soldiers at the reception desk at Thal Sevana were in bright pinky orange saris with expertly applied makeup. The serving men at lunch were in white uniforms and while being efficient, gave the impression of being friendly too. The lunch served us was excellent. Thirty one rooms on the ground floor and first floor, priced very reasonably, are of two categories: nine luxury and twenty two semi-luxury. Luxury connotes air conditioning, a TV set and hot water on tap, I presume. Booking could be by telephone - 021 3219777.

What was emphasized by Lt Col Chandana Wijayasundara was that the army sees itself playing a different role now that the civil war has ended. In Jaffna of course it has much to do – maintain peace and see to the welfare of the general public. It also reaches out to the public with a facility that is much in demand now, everyone in Sri Lanka being an internal tourist. I am sure it won’t be long before the part collapsed Elephant Pass resthouse which we glimpsed as we alighted from our coach and gazed around on our way out of Jaffna, will be taken over by the army and restored as a resort hotel.

We delighted in what has been done with the old KKS resthouse and might very well be done at Elephant Pass too, but shivers went down our spines at the probable prospect of five or more star hotels being constructed along the coast of the Jaffna Peninsula. Please let the expected hordes of foreign tourists confine themselves to Bentota, Mirissa and of course the to-be-constructed super luxury hotels beside the Galle Face Green. Let Jaffna and historical and religious sites have low key hotels. One or two star class hotels in the Peninsula targeting the rich tourists is permissible but not a hotel studded northern beach like it is in Bentota. Never forget the fact tourism is a fickle business but the local sightseer is always present and increasing in numbers. Hence the delight over the army’s Thal Sevana Holiday Resort.

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