Two human rights organisations, the Society for Threatened Peoples and Sri Lanka Campaign, have called upon the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to ensure that the prevalent tourism strategy changes as the tourism development programs followed during the past few years have resulted in gross human rights abuses.
Switzerland based, the Society for Threatened Peoples has compiled a report based on a study they conducted titled ‘Dark Clouds over the sunshine paradise – tourism and human rights in Sri Lanka’ that reveals that systematic human rights abuses have occurred in the country due to tourism development and particularly due to the military involvement in tourism development.
The report notes that human rights abuses have occurred due to:
- Access for fishermen to the sea, being blocked
- Land grabbing
- Local population being insufficiently informed about planned tourism projects
The report states that through their study it was found that over 1200 families were affected in the newly development tourist regions including Kuchchaveli, Passikudah and kalpitiya, due to these issues and notes that, ‘While GoSL spreads the image of a country that has returned to normality, the reality appears much more disturbing. . .’
The study had also found that the military increasingly focusing its budget on tours with the Army, Navy and Air Force operating hotels and increasingly offering tourism activities is problematic as it deprives local population of a valuable income sources and also raises major concerns regarding transparency.
The STP has demanded the following from the tourist agencies to better exercise their due diligence concerning human rights:
- To refrain from offering hotels built on grabbed land that restrict access for fisherman to the sea that discriminates women, minorities and those that forbid or restrict unionization of employees.
- Refrain from offering hotels that are managed by the military or offer activities provided by the military as long as it cannot be prov en that it wasn’t based on illegal land grabbing or other human rights abuse
- Regularly monitor and ensure the exercise of due diligence concerning human rights throughout the entire value added chain including hotels and other tourist activities and ensure no human rights are violation
- Introduce a grievance mechanism for affected populations