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Leopards at Pilimagala and Kumana



by Walter R. Gooneratne

I have made frequent jungle trips over the past 50 years, and these covered most regions of the country. I have camped out on several occasions in the intermediate zones of both Ruhuna and Wilpattu National Parks, but however interesting and exciting these were, the first trip was the most memorable.

In this period about the 1950’s, which I write about, our jungles were teeming with wildlife, and in that unenlightened era, animals were referred to as game, and some such as the bear were officially called vermin. Shooting them was considered sport. Principles of conservation were just beginning to be understood. Attitudes towards conservation have changed now, and hopefully we should be able to save our dwindling species. At the beginning, when shooting was allowed on permits, I indulged in this so- called sport, but gave it up over the past 25 years or more and am now an ardent conservationist.

Leopards at Pilimagala

In June 1951 1 was transferred to General Hospital, Kandy as a house officer, and it was there that I met two kindred spirits, Dr.Mackie Ratwatte, who was also a house officer, and Dr. S. J. Lawrence, better known as Pervey, or Tango Lawrence, so named for his elegant performance of this dance. Pervey was an anaesthetist. We soon discovered that we had a common interest, namely that of nature, wildlife and adventure, and most of our “off’ week-ends were spent in the jungles in Dambulla, Inamaluwa, and Kibissa near Sigiriya.

When the new Department of Wildlife (as it was then called) was formed, areas around national parks were declared as buffer or intermediate zones. People were allowed, on permit, to enter and shoot a limited number of game in these zones. There being no bungalows to hire, only camping was available, and that too at any preferred spot. For the princely sum of ten rupees a party had the exclusive use of the whole block for ten days. The Yala Intermediate Zone was divided into two parts, north and east. The north was further divided into block one (Galge), block two (Warahana) and block three (Muduntalawa).

We decided that we should be more adventurous and go camping into an intermediate zone. Having made inquiries we decided to go to Galge. Fortunately for us, a friend of ours lent us an old war-model Willys Jeep, and another gave us a tarpaulin and a canvas ground sheet. Pervey’s armoury consisted of a 9.3mm Mauser rifle and a double-barrel shot-gun, and as for me, I had borrowed my father’s 7.9mm Mauser and his Stevens six shot repeater shot-gun. I also borrowed my brother’s 0.22 inch calibre Hornet rifle. Mackie had no weapons, for he did not shoot.

When news got around that we were going hunting, there was a special request from an old attendant of the hospital, Seetin Singho. He was a chronic asthmatic and wanted us to bring him some kara mus or flesh from the back of the leopard’s neck. There was a belief that the call of the leopard sounded like panting as in asthma, but it was unable to lick the back of its neck, and therefore eating kara mus was considered a cure for asthma.

Having loaded the jeep, we left Kandy early one morning in February 1952. In addition to the three of us we also took along a cook. The old jeep, groaning under its heavy load, brought us without further incident to Kataragama at about 11 am.

We now had to meet our tracker, Babun Appuhamy who was going to be our guide for the rest of the journey. He had informed us that he lived on the other side of Menik Ganga. Fortunately the river was at a low ebb, and the jeep, despite its heavy burden, had no problem getting across. Everybody at Kataragama seemed to know Babun, and we had no difficulty in finding his house. Our first meeting was a memorable one. He looked at us in surprise, for as he told us later, when he heard that the party consisted of three doctors, he had expected to see three staid middle-aged men. He changed his look of surprise to one of approval.

Babun was about five feet three inches in height and of a dark complexion. He did not seem to have an ounce of fat on his body, and his wiry muscles rippled under his dusky skin. His age was anybody’s guess. He inspected our weapons with the eye of a connoisseur and inquired closely about the Hornet. He said it would be the ideal weapon for small game such as jungle fowl and hare. When I told him that I could and would use it on larger game, he expressed his serious doubts. The Hornet, though of 0.22inch calibre had a muzzle velocity of 3,500 feet per second and fired a much heavier bullet than the ordinary rim fire weapon.

Camping at Pilimagala

Having had a lunch of rice and curry at a small eating house or buth kade in Kataragama, we started on the last lap of our journey to the campsite. The old Buttala-Kataragama road was a nightmare. The first three or four miles of the road were a drain four to five feet deep and just wide enough for our vehicle. Rainwater had gouged out deep channels on its floor, and when the jeep fell into these ruts it would tilt at crazy angles. We had therefore to dismantle the hood to prevent it from being damaged on the banks of the road.

At the sixth milepost, there was a shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesh. Babun hung a leaf at the shrine with a prayer to the deity for a safe journey. At this point we turned right on the track to Pilimagala, our campsite. After about four and a half miles we came to an open plain or eliya. This was Thalakola Wewa. The bund of this former tank or reservoir, as suggested by the name wewa, had breached many years ago and the resulting plain was lush and green after the recent rains. Here was a herd of about twenty deer. There were many does and a few bucks, which gazed at us in curiosity.

Babun wanted me to shoot the big antlered buck both for food and as bait for the leopard. I decided to use the Hornet, but Babun admonished me saying that I would only injure the animal and thereby lose him. Ignoring Babun’s advice I shot the buck in the shoulder with a hollow-point bullet. At my shot the animal collapsed in its tracks. Total disbelief was written all over the tracker’s face. He examined the rifle closely to make sure that I had not deceived him about the calibre.

We arrived at the campsite at about six pm and got about setting up our camp, which was a very simple affair. A rope was tied between two trees and the tarpaulin slung over it. The four corners of the tarpaulin were tied to some pegs driven into the ground. The ground sheet was spread on the floor and our tent was complete.

Pilimagala was a huge slab of rock, about 300 yards long and 150 yards wide. At the base of the rock, where our camp was located, there was a water-hole or kema extending some distance into the rock. This provided what we considered pure water (except for a few frogs!) for drinking and cooking. Towards the left corner of the rock, was a cave about twenty yards long and ten feet deep. It had a drip-ledge on the overhanging rock above the opening, providing architectural proof that centuries ago it was part of a monastery. It would have been occupied by monks, who would have worshiped the statue and the vihare, the ruins of which still existed at the top.

The rock itself was two tiered. The lower and bigger part had a large water-hole (kema) about 30 feet long and eight feet wide. The upper part was smaller and at its summit was a smaller water-hole and the ruins of the statue and vihare. It is this statue that has given the rock the name Pilimagala. (pilima = statue; gala = rock).

We washed away our grime and fatigue of the journey in a cool bath with water drawn from the kema and lingered awhile to enjoy the cool breezes that blew over the green canopy. The view too was breathtaking, an unbroken sea of varying shades of green around us. Back in camp, we relaxed with a drink, and now that the cook had prepared the dinner, we had a delicious meal of venison curry, pol sambol and rice. We then had unbroken steep till next morning.

Baits for leopard

After breakfast the next day, we set about tying up baits for the leopards. The first was taken eastwards to a swampy plain called Unawa, which was about a mile from camp. The bait was in fact dragged along the track, as Babun said that when a leopard, in its nightly wanderings spots the drag mark, it follows it to the bait. The next bait was tied up at Thalakola Wewa close to the water-hole.

That evening we did a trek to the other side of Pilimagala, where there were large plains, interspersed with high forest. We kept to the edge of the forest so as not to disturb any animals in the glades. Suddenly there was an alarm call of a deer to our right and in front. Babun immediately signaled us to freeze. There were more hysterical calls warning the jungle folk that there was a leopard on the prowl. Pervey and I were ready with our rifles in case the leopard should show up. However, after a short while, the calls ceased, indicating that the leopard had most probably spotted us and moved away.

Clapping for jungle fowl

As we went further along, a jungle fowl called in the thicket to our right. Babun immediately motioned us to squat and whispered to me to be ready with the Hornet.

rolled up the lower part of his sarong into a ball and having placed it on the palm of his left hand, clapped on it with his right palm. One sharp clap was followed after a second by four or five rapid ones. Each series of claps was immediately followed by the crowing of the cock. This went on for some time, and each time the bird got closer and closer, and suddenly it dashed towards us.

However, on seeing us he immediately took flight. I took a quick shot, but missed completely. I learned two lessons, one being how to call up jungle fowl, and the other to use only a shot gun for shooting it. I have used this technique several times since then with spectacular success. I demonstrated this to Dr. Chris Uragoda recently at Malwariya Kema in Yala Block Five. The theory behind this technique is that every time a jungle fowl crows to announce its territory, it flaps its wings. The muffled clap on the sarong simulates the flapping of the wings of an intruder and he rushes in to meet his challenger.

Building hides

Early next morning we set out to inspect the baits. The one at Unawe had been attacked by a leopard as evidenced by the profusion of pug-marks around it. However, only a small amount of flesh had been eaten, but all internal organs had been carried to the edge of the jungle and devoured. Babun deduced that the leopard had found the bait only at day-break, and had therefore taken only the detachable parts and eaten them at the edge of the jungle. It would undoubtedly return to the feast. We now set about building a hide or kotuatte. It was sited about fifteen yards from the bait at the edge of the forest. Four stout saplings were cut from trees some distance away, so as not to disturb the area close to the bait. These saplings were now planted at the selected site to make a five-foot square. Thinner sticks were lashed to this frame to form a lattice. Strips of bark from the tree, maila were used as rope for this purpose. Next, small branches were threaded into the lattice until it was completely covered. In front were two holes or kapollas at eye level, one being for the tracker, and the other for the hunter to look and point his rifle through. These were covered with large leaves from the penera tree. At the back was an opening for the prospective occupants to get in, after which it was closed with a leafy branch. Finally, Babun inspected the contraption to make sure it was completely covered. He claimed that the leopard had such keen eyesight that it could spot even the batting of an eye-lid. Its hearing too was very acute.

As luck would have it, the bait or kuna at Thalakola Wewa had also been eaten. We built a kotuatte here too and returned to camp for a bath at the kema and lunch.

Mistaken identity

At 5 pm. we left for our respective hides. Pervey and Babun went walking to Unawe as it was not far, and Mackie and I took the jeep to Thalakola Wewa. Babun gave us strict instructions on how to conduct ourselves in the hide. We were to stay absolutely motionless, even if we were being drained of our blood by the hordes of mosquitoes that abounded there. Only when we heard the sound of the leopard eating the bait were we to open the kapolla and shoot.

At about 6 pm. we heard the alarm call of langur, a species of monkey, to the front of us but some distance away. A short while later a sambhur called, warning the animals that a leopard was on the prowl. For quite some time the jungle fell silent, except for the raucous calls of some Malabar pied hornbills from a tree behind us. It was now growing dark, and we thought that the leopard had spotted us and gone away. We were about to abandon our hide and get back to camp when a whole herd of spotted deer called from the track on our right and crashed away into the jungle.

The leopard was near at hand, but still no sounds of feeding were heard. Swarms of mosquitoes blanketed us, and it was quite dark by now. The moon had risen but was still covered by the wall of tall trees. Suddenly there was the sound of tearing of flesh and the simultaneous growl of the leopard. The growling and tearing of flesh continued for some minutes. We assumed that the leopard had spotted us and was trying to frighten us or maybe attack us.

By now the moon had just crested the trees and there was some light. We had to act fast before the leopard was on us. I exchanged the rifle for the shot-gun. I signaled Mackie to open his kapolla, and I did likewise. I then saw in the faint light what I thought was a gray head as it tore away the flesh. Taking careful aim I fired. At my shot, the animal crashed away and fell into the water-hole nearby. We, in our ignorance, had assumed that the leopard had been mortally wounded, and we could come the next day and recover the body.

When we got back to camp, the others had not returned yet. Half an hour later they were back. Their leopard had, for some reason not turned up. When I told Babun what had happened to us, he had a hearty laugh. He explained that it was a crocodile from the nearby water hole that was feeding, on the kill, and leopard in the thicket was trying to drive it away. No self-respecting leopard, he said, would jump into a water hole. It was not the leopard I had shot but the crocodile. Sure enough, the next morning Babun probed the water-hole with a pole and fished out the dead crocodile.

Another night’s vigil

In the evening we left early as Babun predicted that the leopard would come to the bait early to thwart the crocodile. He explained that the sound of gunfire, as long as the leopard was not injured, would be attributed by it to the sound of thunder. I can now confirm this, based on what happened to two of my friends on later occasions. The late Mr. Simon Gunewardene at Galge, and again the late Dr Ivor Obeyesekera at Kumana each had fired at and missed a leopard. On both occasions the leopards returned to the kill a short while later.

At 5.40 pm we were alerted by the numerous alarm calls of peafowl, langur and spotted deer from quite a distance away. Obviously the animal had no reason for stealth, as he knew that a ready-made feast was awaiting him. A few minutes later there was the welcome sound of tearing of flesh and crunching of bone. Our leopard had come and was feeding. This was the moment we were waiting for. I signaled Mackie to look through his kapolla and simultaneously looked through mine. There was the leopard quite oblivious to his surroundings, gorging away at the meat.

I took the Mauser and fired at its head at that short range. At my shot the raised head came down and rested on its paws, and a shudder went through its whole body. All was now still. However, going on the old adage ‘never trust a leopard until he’s skinned’, we got out of the hide with the shot gun cocked. I asked Mackie to throw clumps of earth from a termite mound that lay nearby. Nothing happened. The leopard was dead.

The jeep was brought and the carcass hauled onto the bonnet in triumph. When we arrived at the camp, the others had not returned yet. A few minutes later, there was the sound of gun-fire. However, Babun had warned, that should we hear gun shots, we should stay put. In case the leopard should be injured, we would be blundering into an infuriated animal. An hour later they returned. Pervey had also got his prize. The jeep was taken and the leopard brought back.

After a bath in the kema, we drank the rest of the liquor in celebration. Then dinner and bed were most welcome The whole of the next morning was spent skinning the two leopards. At about 10 am, Pervey and I walked to Unawe. There we surprised a huge lone wild boar with prominent Lushes wallowing in the mud. We both got our rifles up, but it was too quick for us and crashed away into the nearby jungle.

In the evening, we walked towards Muduntalawa. About four miles from camp was a huge rock, with a long kema at ground level. The rock overhung the kema. Its surface was adorned with a pale green water weed in the shape of a rose petal. This was Banawelkema. On the way back, there were large numbers of spotted deer, but we did not shoot any, as it was getting late and we were in no mood to carry carcasses. The place was a paradise for leopard, and the track was riddled with their pug marks. A bear had also walked towards Muduntalawa.

It was getting quite dark when returning to camp, and had to walk with much caution as we had forgotten to bring a torch, for we had not expected to get so late. However, we sang at the top of our voices to warn any prowlers that some tough guys were on their way. When we got back to camp, the cook informed us that a leopard had called from the rock. Late at night the leopard called again, and Pervey and Babun went to investigate, but as there was bright moonlight the creature must have spotted them and moved away.

The next morning was cloudy and there was a drizzle. Though we had planned to stay two more days, we were compelled to leave the next day as our food supply was running out. We had misjudged the appetites of Babun and the cook, who could and did eat double of what we did.

(To be continued)

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A devils’ drama in power politics



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa did say with pride the government’s decision to set up 100 new police stations, at his inaugural speech at the opening of the new session of Parliament.

There may be cause for presidential pride in having many more police stations, but the recent records of police activity, especially on matters relating to public security, does leave much to be desired of the Police.

The reports flowing in about the hand grenade found at All Saints’ Church, Borella – Colombo, do raise many questions about police activity: Is it inactivity or directed activity on this matter? The limited time it took to search  for the person who placed this grenade, the first arrest in this regard – the sanchristian of the same church; the Church’s own revelation of the longer CCTV on the same day, with a different player in this grenade match, and the police arrest of that person too; and the stories of weapons or fire-toys found in the home of a retired doctor, who is now said to be the brain or strategist behind this grenade match, is rapidly unfolding into a drama of political direction, where the police is playing more than a lead role!

The All Saints’ Church is considered a holy shrine by those who attend religious services there, and those who come there to appeal for the blessings of saints, and God, too. But who would ever have thought that such a place of worship would be the defining authority on how many matchsticks a box of matches would or should have?

The Cabinet Minister in charge of Police was also heavily involved in this All Saints’ show piece – from matchsticks to joss-sticks and sellotape – and the ethnicity of the first suspect, too. As the country moves into the coming disasters on the economic and service fronts, as the dollar disaster keeps rising with Ajith Nivard Cabraal’s blessings, we may well see the All Saints being moved into an All Devils drama, with whatever dramatic expertise that key politico-police authorities possess!

President Gotabaya certainly has a way of his own. He is so fully supportive of his green agriculture programme. His desire for green is certainly not to do with his liking the UNP, although Ranil W may be supportive of any such moves.  But his continued support for green agriculture does raise questions about his memory capacity. Has he forgotten all the problems and the near disastrous situations that his green-agro policy did push this country into?

Does he know nothing of what his blanket ban overnight on agrochemicals did to the agricultural sector?  Has he not been informed of what this country paid to the shipload of Chinese fertiliser, which our own analysts found to be contaminated? Is he not taking any action against the officers of a state bank who signed a Letter of Credit, without the necessary information on financial security?

This is certainly playing with a green ball that gathers all the dirt on the field and giving all strength of profit to the Chinese player!

The President did say he would submit to Parliament the recommendations of the Expert Committee appointed to help draft a new Constitution. That means he has some faith in the Parliament of the people. That’s good. Let’s wait and see how this goes on.

What raises many problems is that he was so uninterested in the findings of the Special Committee appointed by him to study the gas disaster, caused by the gas dealers. Was he so ignorant or uninformed of the repeated and continuing blasts of gas cylinders, the deaths caused to mothers and children, the injury to gas users, and the huge damage to homes?  When will this Parliament have a proper debate on the gas catastrophe, as it may on recommendations of the Expert Committee on the new Rajapaksa Constitution?

The President’s speech was short. It was good, because the problems this government has caused to the country, since his election as President, and the huge election of a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which has given more than Green Agro Power, would not be a good, lengthy exercise.

Rajapaksa Governance is certainly calling for major changes in our political thinking, and system of governance. Making it even more brief would be of more service to the country and the people, than what the Family Power nor Pavul Balaya is doing today.

Even with the many twists of the current police exercise, and the rise of the new All Devils Drama that is unfolding, let’s hope the Rajapaksa Power Play gets run down to its end very fast!

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‘Sensuality Hospitality’



BY Srilal Miththapala

From time immemorial the female form has been exploited for diverse reasons, to achieve a wide variety of outcomes by various cultures, individuals, groups, tribes and business organisations.

At the same time, women have always been aware of the immense power of their sensuality, and how it can be subtly used to further their ambitions.

The tourism and hospitality is not an exception in this context, where a woman’s presence in the service delivery/customer contact points usually has a strong positive impact.

This discussion tries to analyse this phenomena in an objective manner, with special emphasis on how localised cultural contexts affects it, and the resulting implications

Women and sensuality

Sensuality is about ones sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviours towards other people. Sensuality is diverse and personal, and it is an important part of who you are. And manifests in various ways such as body language, tone of voice etc.

Many In today’s world believe that a wide variety of expressions of female sensuality can be empowering to women when they are freely chosen. It can also be utilised by women to further their personal ambitions and goals.

History is full of such examples. The very origin of humanity may have been vastly different if Adan did not succumb to Eve’s ‘charms’ in enticing him to eat of the forbidden fruit.

Delilah enticed Samson to reveal the secret of his brute strength, at the behest of the Philistines.

Eva Duarte, was an illegitimate child with dreams of stardom. She met rising political star Juan Perón in 1944 and unabashedly charmed herself into his life, ending up as the First Lady of Argentina.

Cleopatra is cast as the ultimate femme fatale, whose influence supposedly ruined many a good man’s career, with she herself succumbing to the complicated web she wove.

And Harry Belafonte summed it all up in his famous song “Man Smart, Woman Smarter”-

“And not me but the people they say

That the man is leading the women astray

But I say, that the women of today

Smarter than the man in every way”

All these examples are of women who have leveraged their sensuality in a rather ‘aggressive’ fashion for personal gain, which often had them labelled as promiscuous, flirty and slutty, and looked down upon.

However in todays ‘sexually liberated’ world, the feminist movements have successfully transformed this thinking by radically removing the arbitrary shackles prescribed by tradition. Today a woman who is aware of her sensuality, and confidently carries it, is considered an emancipated person.

However when a woman’s sensuality and form, is used to achieve some results by a third party, implicitly or explicitly, it could be considered a form of exploitation.

Women in Hospitality and Sensuality

‘Sexual hospitality’ was an ancient custom whereby the host provided a hostess from his household to the male guest for their pleasure.

The Himba tribe of Nigeria, are known to practice the Okujepisa Omuka tradition, which involves a man giving his wife to his visitor for sexual entertainment and pleasure.

While such actions do stem from cultural norms, there are other numerous examples where there is an aspect of domination, where women are forced or coerced to provide these services, rather than of their own free will.

However in today’s commercialised and highly competitive hospitality industry, a women’s sensuality has become a commodity employed to attract customers, although it may not be officially endorsed.

When women and girls are repeatedly objectified and their bodies hypersexualised, the media contributes to harmful gender stereotypes. In a study of print media, researchers at Wesleyan University found that on average, across 58 different magazines, 51.8 percent of advertisements that featured women portrayed them as sex objects.

The hospitality industry today, not only legitimises and reinforces these historical gender stereotypes to some extent, but also eroticises hospitality, albeit in a subtle manner. Almost always front-end customer contact staff are attractive, well-groomed and well attired women. An establishment will go to great efforts taken to design ‘eye-catching’ uniforms for frontline female staff. (This is more prevalent in resort hotels in the Asian region, which are seen to be more exotic destinations) .

The hospitality industry is a “looks” industry, in which women are expected to use their appearance as part of the service experience. Restaurants often have strict grooming and uniform rules, requiring employees to maintain certain “looks.”

There is no doubt that women in the hospitality industry do brighten up and add colour to the industry by their sensuality, charm , physical form …call it what you may. Ask any hotelier and he will conform that the charming smile of a girl at the front esk has neutralised many a guest complaint!

This in turn often attracts sexists remarks and sexual innuendo from customers, which are possibly relatively ‘mild’ and female frontsline staff usually learn to cope with. ( “The food is as good as you” and “Are you on the desert menu? Because you look yummy.”)

However this environment of the hospitality industry which to a certain extent ‘accepts’ this status, could also lead to other forms of more damaging issues.

Women in Hospitality-The Sri Lankan context

Women in the industry

Women’s under -representation in the labour market is high in Sri Lanka. The population comprises of 52.8% females but when it comes to labour force participation their representation is only 35.6%, which is the lowest in South Asia (Department of Census and Statistics – Sri Lanka, 2014).

Howev, Sri Lankan females are among the most literate in South Asia, and the country tops the sub-continental rankings for female literacy. According to the University Grant Commission of Sri Lanka is the only country in the region to produce more female graduates from its local universities.

The Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) – Colombo School in 2017 had a representation of only 21% of female students, 12 % in Kandy Hotel School and only 6% in the Anuradhapura Hotel School. Similarly the three privately managed hotel schools namely Mt. Lavinia Hotel School, The Winstone Hotel School and William Angliss Hotel schools representation is 11%, 10% and 24% respectively.

Sri Lanka’s overall female labour force participation is lagging behind many Asian nations. Presently, Sri Lanka’s female labour force participation rate is around 35% compared with male participation rate of 75%

Despite its importance to the economy (was the third largest foreign exchange earning Industry before CoVid), Sri Lanka’s tourism industry and its growth was facing several constraints, among which the lack of skilled human resources is prominent.

However, in contrast to the high levels of female participation in the tourism industry worldwide (about 54%), albeit with some regional differences, women are highly underrepresented in Sri Lanka, with females accounting for less than 10% of the workforce.

The reasons for this are varied, and often based on cultural issues and norms. Jobs in the industry are considered to be socially unsuitable for women, especially for single females, and are often associated with

safety issues (sexual harassment),

poor prospects of career advancement

lack of job security

poor retirement benefits in relation to the public sector;

long/late working hours and shift work (no flexibility)

sub-standard working environments and facilities.

dress code

Some of these are definitely perceptions perpetuated by the media. Consequently, parents and husbands have discouraged their female children from pursuing a career in the hotel sector.

According to a World Bank study on women’s participation in the Sri Lankan labour force, 85% of the respondent stated that women are likely to leave their job in tourism after marriage.

Sexual Harassment

From the aforementioned reasons that women shun the tourism industry, sexual harassment at work is perhaps the most contentious issue.

In a wide ranging study published by Hospitality Management Degrees Net, it is stated that one in every ten women in the hospitality industry in the world, has faced some form of sexual harassment, with restaurant and frontline staff reporting more incidents. The type of harassments ranges from sexist remarks (87%), sexual innuendo (84%), and inappropriate touching (69%). The larger proportion (80%) are from other male co-workers and customers (78%)

In Sri Lanka, there are no specific studies done on the sexual harassment in tourism industry, but there is considerable literature on the general female workforce in Sri Lanka.

However, the same aspects are prevalent in the local tourism scene with restaurant and the housekeeping staff most prone to such issues. The most common acts of harassment were obscene language, sexual jokes and sexually suggestive comments.

In a Sri Lankan context more women in junior positions in hospitality experience sexual harassment which indicates that it has to do with both gender and power issues. With low levels of education, they are less confident than other employees when dealing with difficult people in positions of power.

There are also instances reported of subtle ‘sexual bribery’ where certain ‘favours’ can be demanded by those in higher management positions in return for job related rewards.

However, without specific information it is difficult to comment about the Sri Lankan situation. But definitely harassment is often ignored or taken to be ‘part of the job’, by both the targets of the harassment, and the co-workers who witness it. Unfortunately in the hospitality industry it is taken as the ‘norm’ and exposure to unwanted sexually related attention is considered to be part of the job (Hoel & Einarsen, 2003).

When compared to actual number of complaints on sexual harassment from the employees of the tourism sector to other main sectors, it is seen that complaints received from tourism sector is much lower than some other sectors where the females dominate in numbersss. (such as the apparel industry)


There is no doubt that women play a vital role (knowingly or unknowingly) in marketing and promoting a hospitality establishment through their own sensuality. However this subtle ‘making use’ of women to promote the business can lead to enhanced issues related to sexual harassment to them, both from within the establishment (co-workers) and from without (customers).

This can be managed if there is a good open and transparent work ethic and culture, where professionalism and the dignity of labour is respected.’sexual_hospitality’_and_sex_in_commercial_hospitality

https:// Importance-of-women-to-Sri-Lanka-s-economic-prosperity

So Sri Lanka; More like, So Where are all the Women in the Hotel Industry?

D A C S & Mendis B.A.K.M. Women in Tourism Industry – Sri Lanka Silva (2017)

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Museums through Prof. Thapar’s eyes



Dr. Roland Silva Memorial Lecture:

By Uditha Devapriya

On Thursday, 27 January, Prof. Romila Thapar will deliver the Dr Roland Silva Memorial Lecture to the National Trust of Sri Lanka. Prof. Thapar will be speaking about the museums in India, charting their evolution from private collections to public displays and placing them in the context of similar institutions from other colonial societies.

Museums formed a crucial part of the colonial project, aiding administrators, officials, scholars as well as nationalist elites in their reconstructions of the countries they lived in and governed. Not surprisingly, after Independence the role of such institutions changed. Prof. Thapar would be discussing this aspect as well along with their potential to bring the historian and the social scientist together and their contribution to society.

The event will be the 141st such organised by the National Trust, as part of its Monthly Lecture Sessions. Originally held on the last Thursday of every month at the HNB Auditorium in Colombo, these lectures have brought in various scholars from fields connected to the study of history including archaeology, architecture, and ornithology. The shift online during the COVID-19 pandemic did not bring them to a halt: while the trustees held 10 online lectures in 2019, they held eight in 2020 and another 10 in 2021. Since 2015, moreover, these lectures have all been uploaded online free for everyone and anyone.

The brainchild of two of Sri Lanka’s finest archaeologists and scholars, the National Trust of Sri Lanka celebrates its 17th anniversary this year. Its objectives include the identification, documentation, protection, and conservation of the country’s heritage, defined in terms of physical objects like historic buildings, monuments, artistic and cultural works, as well as intangible artefacts like rituals, customs, and beliefs. More importantly, it seeks to inculcate an interest in these matters among ordinary people.

There it has more or less been doing what such organisations should be doing. The contemporary notion of a National Trust first came into being in late 19th century in Britain, with the establishment of a National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. Founded as a not-for-profit association in 1895 and incorporated by an Act in 1907, it has since become the largest conservation charity in Europe. Its aim has not just been to save important sites from destruction, but also to open them up for public enjoyment. More than 125 years later, it has evolved into a fully-fledged institution, overseeing more than 500 historic sites, 250,000 hectares of land, and 780 miles of coastline.

Since then similar institutions have sprung up elsewhere. In India, a National Trust was established as a registered society, a corporate body with its legal personality, in 1984. Today that country is home to more than one such society: the International National Trusts Organisation lists three, including the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development. In other countries these organisations serve different functions: the Yangon Heritage Trust, for instance, focuses on urban heritage, while the Siam Society also focuses on the natural sciences. Whatever function they serve, the International National Trusts Organisation lists more than 80 of these institutions, emphasising their common inheritance.

Though the need for a National Trust had been felt for some time in Sri Lanka, nothing was done about it until Roland Silva and Senake Bandaranayake intervened in 2004. The concept papers reveal that a great deal of thought went into the founding of the organisation. Initially conceived as the “Sri Lanka National Heritage Trust”, it later transformed into the National Trust for Cultural and Natural Heritage. The concept papers tell us that from its inception, much emphasis was placed on the notion of intangible cultural heritage, based on UNESCO’s classification of customs, traditions, and beliefs as enshrined in a landmark treaty, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, in 2003.

At its inception on May 27, 2005, the National Trust counted 11 founders, including Silva and Bandaranayake as well as Ashley de Vos. To oversee its activities, seven committees were formed; another committee to oversee the management of the society, came into being in 2010. Arguably, the most important of these, the Scientific Committee, branched out to eight sub-committees, dealing with areas such as monuments and sites, architectural conservation, and industrial heritage. These, not surprisingly, reflected the expertise of its founders; since their formation, they have brought together a wide group of scholars, from art historians and architects to musicologists and archaeologists.

Today, the Trust engages in several activities, and not just lectures. In 2006 it organised an inaugural tour to the Botale Raja Maha Viharaya and other areas of historical interest in the region; due to the pandemic, it has not undertaken any historical tours since 2019, when it sponsored a visit to Jaffna. It also took up several conservation projects, one of them involving the Portuguese Fort in Malwana and another Joseph Lawton’s photographs of various national heritage sites. The latter has proved useful to the researcher and archivist of 19th century British Ceylon. These projects, in turn, led to two audio-visual productions: an exploration into the history of Sinhala music based on a lecture by Tissa Abeysekara, and a similar project about the evolution of music theatre in Sri Lanka.

Perhaps, the Trust’s most important contribution has been its publications. About 20 of these have been done so far. Foraying into different fields, they have spurred interest among scholars and readers alike.

These titles include Senake Bandaranayake’s and Albert Dharmasiri’s Sri Lankan Painting in the 20th Century, Neville Weeraratne’s The Sculpture of Tissa Ranasinghe, Nishan Perera’s Coral Reefs of Sri Lanka, Gehan de Silva Wijeyaratne’s Birds of Sri Lanka, and Shanti Jayewardene’s Geoffrey Manning Bawa: Decolonising Architecture. Reasonably priced and available at leading bookshops, they underline the need to go beyond just coffee table publications of general interest.

Elsewhere, National Trusts have become a gauge of a society’s intellectual activity. In that regard the Sri Lankan National Trust may have much more potential. Though these tours, lectures, and publications have contributed a great deal, they have not been met with adequate levels of interest. Ambitious as these have been, they have not succeeded in gleaning a response commensurate with the Trust’s objectives.

In this, of course, the Trust is not to blame: there is just so much an institution can do. Yet when one considers that the British National Trust claims a membership exceeding 5.4 million, while its counterpart here claims fewer than 600, one realises the depths to which scholarly activity in Sri Lanka has fallen.

That tells us as much about our people as it does about our intelligentsia. Of late, one leading academic institution after another has been swept up by the rigours of politicisation. Scholars have increasingly turned into yes-men. Original research has become a thing of the past. What little intellectual activity there is now is underfunded and overstretched.

If Sri Lanka is to compete internationally, it must produce scholars capable of taking it to the world. Such individuals cannot thrive in a culture that rewards obeisance and acceptance over scrutiny and critique. This does not apply to politicians only, of course; people have contributed to such a state of affairs as well. In other countries, non-specialists rarely, if ever, have the last word over experts. In Sri Lanka, however, they exercise a more formative influence on the public than do professionals. This can only end badly, for everyone.

It’s not unfitting, then, for the National Trust to have chosen someone like Romila Thapar for this year’s inaugural lecture. Professor Thapar is not just the leading historian in India; she is also one of its most outspoken intellectuals. Of late, she has come out into the open, emphasising the need for nuance and rationality in the study of history.

There she has had to face a situation not too different to what we are facing: nationalist extremists have more or less monopolised discussions, turning the study of the country’s past into debates over who should be determining its future. Lost in such debates is the point that we are what we make of ourselves, that we invent the customs and traditions which we believe define us, and that these must always be placed in their historical context.

The National Trust obviously has a role to play in all this. We are caught in the midst of a severe crisis, and economic problems have taken precedence over everything else. Yet, there probably has been no better time to raise these concerns, to talk about them, to make it easier to understand our past. This is something the Trust’s founding members, especially Senake Bandaranayake and Roland Silva, engaged induring much of their lives. It is the legacy the Trust is heir to, the legacy it bears today. If it cannot live up to its own inheritance, no one can.

The writer can be reached at

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