In another farcical turn of events, President Maithripala Sirisena’s Media Director Dharmasri Bandara Ekanayake had told several journalists that Sirisena never confirmed his participation for Sri Lanka Tourism Awards ceremony, which the President skipped at the last moment fearing a boycott by tourism industry leaders.
Ekanayake had made a desperate attempt to cover-up Sirisena who chickened out at the eleventh hour to avoid public humiliation. The journalists had questioned Ekanayake on whether there was a connection between the President’s decision to skip the tourism awards ceremony and his subsequent circular banning the use of private hotels for government events.
Multiple sources from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) confirmed that Sirisena had confirmed his participation and even allowed the SLTDA to announce that the President would attend the event.
Members of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) had been present at the Shangri-la Hotel, from 10 AM on the event day, indicating that Sirisena was expecting to attend the event. When the event was about to start, the President’s Office had informed the SLTDA officials that Sirisena was running late and had instructed them to start the event. After the award ceremony started, Sirisena’s office had informed the SLTDA that he would not attend the event due to an “urgent meeting.”
What discouraged Sirisena was a news that appeared in Colombo Telegraph revealing that tourism industry leaders are planning to boycott Sri Lanka Tourism Awards in protest of Sirisena’s participation. Sources within the President’s Office also confirmed that Sirisena was livid at the tourism industry leaders’ decision to boycott the award ceremony.
In a cheap attempt of retaliation, Sirisena then ordered all government offices to refrain from using luxury hotels for any state event. The circular banning the use of private hotels was Sirisena’s response to tourism industry leaders who threatened to boycott the tourism awards ceremony if Sirisena attended as the Chief Guest.