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Killing the proverbial goose

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I am an investor in tourism, in the southern province beaches. Along with me there are about 50 other, mostly foreign and a few local entrepreneurs who have put in huge amounts of effort and money into a stunning bay in Tangalle, called Mawella. This article is to highlight how ill-thought out and self-serving plans of government ministries and officials can jeopardize and ruin your investment. Suddenly we find out the fisheries ministry/department has come up with plans to develop it as a fisheries harbour/anchorage!! An outdated plan done without anybody’s knowledge or consultation. Not even the fishermen!!

This is one of the most pristine of beaches in Tangalle, untouched by any commercialization or destruction, or pollution. It’s a quiet, peaceful and secluded long stretch of a bay. It’s what the high-end tourists crave for, when they look at places like Sri Lanka and the Maldives for holidays. The unique features of Mawella bay are – the whole bay is swimmable, shallow and crystal clear calm waters almost all year round, a unique and natural long cliff outcrop in one corner of the bay protecting it (I don’t think there’s anything like it in the whole of Sri Lanka’s coast line). A wide and long perfect crescent of a beach (an hour long walk, one way), white powder sand all year round lies like a white carpet of welcome to everyone who visit it, from fisherman to tourist, and Mawella still remains untouched by ‘development’. Whatever tourism developments that has taken place here is well concealed, unobtrusive, low profile, luxury villas situated all around the bay. Majority of these are foreign investors making their home here or investing in tourism. Large amount of foreign investments have been poured into this bay. This is after the fishermen who owned these properties sold them. These lands and houses remained ruined, derelict and abandoned for nearly 10 long years since the tsunami destroyed them. When tourism began reviving after the end of the war in 2009, demand for these properties went up and the fishermen made a tidy sum out of selling them, having themselves been housed inland, by the government.

Now the Fisheries Department has unearthed some plans from a bygone era for the bay, to build a fisheries harbour/anchorage and is going ahead pell-mell with implementing it, with scant regard to the current developments already happened there. With their blinkers on, they have no inkling nor care for the current economics or the future potential of the bay. This harebrained plan was probably mooted by the ‘yahapalana’ government in 2017. But to go ahead with it, would spoil (if not ruin) the prospect of continuing high level tourism on one of the finest and largest beaches on the South Coast. This type of tourism is exactly what Sri Lanka needs and exactly what tourists want , in this fiercely contested international market.  Such tourism provides both local jobs and brings more tourists to Southern Sri Lanka who will be spending big money. Its prospect has recently been further enhanced by the completion of the Southern highway. But no tourist will want to visit a stinking mess of a fisheries harbour. It will be the end of tourism for one of the most stunning bays in Tangalle. People who fell in love with this island especially Mawella bay, have brought their investment to Sri lanka. They are the people who have already responded to the government’s call to ‘Invest in Sri Lanka’ launched by the tourism ministry. They have trusted in the Tangalle tourism zone hype made by the heads of government. All this is now in jeopardy, and risk of ruin because of the shortsighted action of another government department. This comes while tourism is reeling from the impact of Covid-19. In spite of expensive advertising it will be very hard to find investors in these unprecedented times. If adverse publicity of this debacle gets broadcast to the rest of the world, it would kill all investments that the government is trying so hard to woo.

The sad part is most fishermen of the Mawella bay are against this development project too. The fisheries officials have had several stormy meetings and clashes with them. Some fishers have already made their complaints/objections to higher officials and ministers of the fisheries department. ‘Maadal’ Fishing, the most ecofriendly and sustainable form of fishing happens here. The Anchorage project will kill this instantly. But in spite of the uproar, the project seem to be steamrolling ahead regardless. Why is this unnecessary and forced development? May be it’s because some funds are available for fisheries development and it needs spending? Or pocketing ?! Rumour has it that an area politician has already got the contract to supply quarry to the project.

If the planed fishing harbour or anchorage happens all our years of effort of development of the bay for tourism will get washed out to sea. Our input to Mawella has been not just large amounts of money, but time and passion. We the investors, are not the only victims of this man made catastrophe. A vibrant environment, a proliferate ecosystem, a lively wildlife, a stunning beauty and the very nature and characteristics of this bay stands to be changed. For the worse. Forever. Thus our urgent appeal to all decision-makers of the government to intervene and prevent this destruction of a perfect bay, and the scuttling of a thriving tourist industry. There is no shortage of fisheries harbours and anchorages in this part of the coast. Matara to Tangalle boasts of the highest concentration of fisheries harbours in the island. New ones are to be added soon. There is a dedicated fisheries bay (Hummanaya bay) right next door to Mawella, if they need to shift this project to a more suitable alternate site. So a solution to this looks very simple, easy and most of all, accommodating for all. There is no reason why both industries can’t exist side by side. They may even complement one another someday in the future – Fishing as a tourist activity/attraction.

Tangalle is not just about beaches. Yes, Tangalle beaches are the next big thing in the tourism map of the world. But then there is Cricket. F1 (If Namal Rajapakse’s projects take off). Mawella Lagoon airport. Expressway connectivity. MIA, Yala, Kumana, and Udawalawe wildlife. Blowhole (By the way, ours is the only one in all of Asia!), home to unique landform – coves, bays, lagoons, cliffs, and headlands not found in any other beaches of Sri Lanka, New heritage and historical sites being discovered which could rival Anuradhapura. As such what facilities do you have to cater to all this? How many rooms? What kind of rooms? Everything is poised for Tangalle to be the gateway to high-end tourism in Sri Lanka.

But we have reason to hope. Because from what we’ve seen of the government so far, It has stuck to its vision. Hopefully there are knowledgeable people installed in the right jobs by now. Especially in environmental, tourism, investment, and economic portfolios. That is President Gotabaya’s secret for success. We hope this will catch the eyes of such. If not the government will be definitely killing the goose that lays the golden egg as far as foreign investment is concerned.

 

Citizen S



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Opinion

Can we return to English medium?

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B PERERA

Goolbai Gunasehera (GG) wrote in The Sunday Island (June 19) under the caption, “We need to return to the English medium”. When summarizing her long article, my conclusion is that what is necessary is not returning to English Medium of instruction in schools, but improving the teaching of English in schools. In the article she writes “Many of that 16.5 million people barely speak English and the majority certainly cannot read or write it, despite English being taught (appallingly badly) in all schools”, and “I quote from a WhatsApp message I received from a former maid now in Kuwait. She writes, “yers madam iam gud,” in response to my query, “are you well?” She has an O L pass in English. This would be funny if it were not so pathetic”. If the conditions are such, what would be the result if we return to English medium?

We have thousands of Sri Lankans who had their primary/secondary education in Sinhala/Tamil media, employed (even at highest levels) all over the world/in Sri Lanka effectively using not only English, several other world languages as well. Every effort should be taken to improve the ways and methods of teaching English. Another important thing is to encourage all levels of students to read books written in English, as it is not happening now. What Kumar David (KD) queried recently was whether English should be Lanka’s National language (“Should English Be Lanka’s National language?” Sunday Island, June 12), not about medium of education as GG mentions. [That would also be a different issue as KD wrote about (a) Lanka not Sri Lanka].

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Opinion

Irreplaceable Rajapaksas

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S K MUTHUKUMARA

MP Namal Rajapaksa’s (NR) name was recently mentioned in two instances where his official presence was not required. The most recent was when he appeared with Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera, when the Minister addressed the press about the fuel crisis. The earlier instance was when Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani, was in Sri Lanka in October, to meet the President and Prime Minister.

Although NR – a Minister at that time – had no connection with the subjects Adani Group is involved in, he had been attending their meetings and involved in other aspects of the Adani visit. Whose interests are looked after by NR and why?

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Opinion

A national strategy to alleviate suffering at fuel queues

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Dr B. J. C. Perera
MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The country is in turmoil. In addition to all of the other problems, our people are really suffering at these transport fuel queues. Tempers flare at fuel stations. Undesirable elements, thugs and all kinds of nefarious elements are making hay while the sun shines at these fuel sheds.Enough is enough. Given below are a set of strategies to alleviate this suffering, at lest, to a certain extent, for consideration by the powers-that-be:

Maintain law and order at ALL fuel stations with the help of the police AND the armed forces with a contingent of officers under one higher ranked Commanding Officer at EACH fuel station. All trouble-makers would be promptly dealt with by using minimal force. A few will need to be arrested and dealt with under the laws of the country. If this is instituted without fear or favour, these undesirables will soon disappear.

All fuel stations should be provided with adequate supplies of fuel, starting from 6.00 am, and ALL fuel stations to be kept open 24 hours a day for six days a week. ALL fuel stations will be closed on Sunday from 6.00 am till Monday 6.00 am. The security forces and police should be strictly instructed to prevent any unauthorised issuance of fuel during these times. That will prevent the general public reacting as it is the same for all.

From Monday to Saturday, ALL ambulances will get priority at ALL filling stations at ALL times.On Fridays, SELECTED fuel stations right round the country, will entertain ONLY the four-wheel vehicles of essential services. Two bowsers for petrol and two for diesel to be provided for these selected fuel stations for 24 hours, from 6.00 am. ALL envisaged recipients of fuel for essential services should provide proof of serving in such a service. Times should be allocated to different services as follows:

Healthcare Services

Nurses – 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm

Doctors – 10.00 pm Friday to 02.00 am Saturday

Other healthcare personnel, except Doctors and Nurses – 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm

All other essential services – Suitable times to be allocated within the 24 hours, from 6.00 am Friday to 6.00 am on Saturday, outside the allocations made for the Healthcare Services. Vehicles of police and the armed forces too should be given specified times.

ALL OTHER FILLING STATIONS, NOT INVOLVED IN THESE DEDICATED ESSENTIAL SERVICES PROVISIONS, WILL PROVIDE FUEL TO ALL OTHER PRIVATE VEHICLES AND TRANSPORT VEHICLES, INCLUDING LORRIES.

On Saturdays, from 8.00 am, ALL fuel stations will provide fuel ONLY for vehicles involved in passenger and goods transport, including buses, school buses, school vans, three-wheelers and lorries. These vehicles will not be entertained on any other day.On Mondays and Wednesdays, ALL filling stations will provide fuel to all private vehicles, including three-wheelers and motor cycles with Vehicle Registration Numbers, with an ODD number last digit.On Tuesdays and Thursdays, ALL filling stations will provide fuel ONLY to all private vehicles, including three wheelers and motor cycles, with Vehicle Registration Numbers with an EVEN number last digit. A zero is considered to be an EVEN number.No fuel will be supplied to cans and large containers. Fuel will be pumped only to in situ tanks of vehicles.Of course, all these arrangements will depend entirely on the ability to provide adequate stocks of fuel to the sheds. It is up to the government to make sure that this is done.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE MINISTER AND THE MINISTRY INSIST ON ALL CEYPETCO AS WELL AS ALL INDIAN OIL COMPANY FILLING STATIONS COMPLY WITH THESE STIPULATIONS. This is the time to use the power that is given to them.

If there are any abusers of these proposals amongst the filling station staff, arrest them, and just seal and close the shed for a few days and they will learn their lessons.

The scheme proposed above is a carefully thought-out strategy. Drastic changes in it will only defeat the purpose for which it was formulated. The writer hopes that the authorities will take note of the contents written with a lot of goodwill.

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