Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields Tourism

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion,Popular |
 

By Frances Harrison

Frances-Harrison.jpg_resized_122_

Frances Harrison

The Sri Lankan military is advertising a newly constructed hotel in the heart of the killing fields in the north of the island, where tens of thousands of minority Tamils were killed in 2009. The holiday resort, called Lagoon’s Edge, caters for Sinhala war tourists who want to see the last bastion of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

Billed as a once in a lifetime experience, one Sinhala language newspaper, Mawbima, boasted to readers that Lagoon’s Edge is constructed entirely of teak, has a dance floor for parties and is situated in a “place were thousands of war heroes, terrorists and others died”. The paper touted this as an opportunity to spend the night beside the lagoon where the Tamil Tiger rebel leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran died, all for a price equivalent to $100.

Right in the heart of what was rebel territory, the hotel overlooks the stretch of water that became the frontline during the final bloody months of the conflict, in which it’s now estimated by the United Nations 40,000 or possibly 70,000 civilians died in a few months. Tamil survivors describe wading through the neck-high water, passing floating corpses and dodging bullets. Several children and injured or elderly people drowned in the water in the struggle to escape. On the far side of the lagoon from the hotel built by the army, lies the sandy spit of land, which is considered Sri Lanka’s killing fields.

LagoonEdge
This is fourteen square kilometres of territory into which hundreds of thousands of people were crammed in haphazard makeshift encampments and then pounded by heavy artillery and bombed by supersonic jets belonging to the same military now offering sightseeing trips.

Opened by the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his brother the defence secretary, the tourist hotel is part of a triumphalist approach to what’s viewed as purely a terrorist problem. The victors deny the Sri Lankan military committed war crimes and crimes against humanity as alleged by a UN report. And nearly four years on they have shown no desire to address the root causes of decades of ethnic violence and discrimination.

As if to underline this, photographs of the hotel’s opening ceremony show traditional Kandyan drummers performing – part of Sinhala culture – but totally alien to this exclusively Tamil part of the island.

Map
And this luxury teak hotel for tourists from the south of the island to view the spoils of victory must be little comfort to local people who shelter in flimsy tents. According to an article in Time Magazine in May 2012 the UN estimated 100,000 houses were destroyed in the final phase of the war but only 16,000 had been rebuilt.

An International Crisis Group report this year said most Tamils returning home after the war live “in makeshift and inadequate shelters and many struggle to afford food, with few jobs or economic opportunities and little or no savings. Few schools and medical centres have been rebuilt’.

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35 Responses to Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields Tourism

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    Don’t contradict your own figures, Frances … It’s just days ago you said it is not 40,000 or 70,000 .. but 100,000 … Stick to it, FH .. If not, nobody would believe your new set of numbers …. We are actually waiting for a upgrade to 200,000 of casualties … Meet Murugan or the catholic clergy if you yourself has any doubt about the upgrade … They like you and they will certainly oblige, madam ….

    Bruno Umbato
    December 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm
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    Francis, ……. This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy. 1. We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. The key to maintaining the website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics. For more detail see our Comment policy http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

    True
    December 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm
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      True,,,,, you cannot stomach truth you only can snarl and bark at one who expose or try to expose the truth. go and read the state media rubbish where you’ll find yourself at home. You have no idea of public discussion. There are millions of oneway traffickers like you.

      Olympian.
      December 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm
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    Great way of reconciliation and Reconstruction I suggest them to include the following in the itinerary 1) Hunting & Shooting of tamils in the evening in the adjoining jungles for additional 10000Rs 2) Soup of tamil foetus for 500Rs

    Newton
    December 27, 2012 at 12:55 am
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    I suppose tourist will enjoy dancing and drinking at a place where thousands including innocent civilians, men, women and children were slaughtered. This just exposes the inhuman mindset of the ruling junta. To imagine that the President of the country could grace such an occasion? Maybe he enjoys the thrill of doing such ungodly acts? No sensitivity for the feelings of others. Maybe open a dance hall at the exact spot and have an opening by the President doing the baila.

    Safa
    December 27, 2012 at 1:22 am
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    At USD 100 a night ,this holiday pad is definitely out of bunds for the Southern Sinhalese,who are the bulk of the Tourist trade. These room rates are ,more up the alley of MS Harisson’s ilk.and the Diaspora tourists. If they don’t turn up, the place will have to be shut down or make it LKR 100 a night to attract the poor rural folks on their way to Naga Deepa. But these poor peasnts wouldn’t know what to do with the Dance Floor except put down a mat and have a snooze. Miss Harrison is claiming 1000.000 is the total number of houses that the Army pummelled into nothing. Wonder whether the LTTE archives have any figures to confirm for the current landscape there does not show any signs of even bits of foundation from a such a large sprawl of housing. Perhaps the Army removed all the foundation stones too.

    K.A Sumanasekera
    December 27, 2012 at 2:07 am
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      Can FRances Harrison explain what happened to the 21,000 Sinhala people that lived in Jaffna in 1971, Only 750 have been resettled at present . All the evidence like legal documents and land registry documents of the Sinhla and Muslims were destroyed by the LTTE , Can she do more research into this as well .

      Kumudini
      December 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm
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        Who is this Kumudini? From where did she get the number of Sinhala population in Jaffna as 21,000 in 1971 ? This is racial fabrication! I was in Jaffna till 1981 even after the Jaffna Public library and the town was devastated on 31 May night by UNP goons. Then, there were 2 Sinhala Maha Vidyalayas, one in Jaffna main road close to the railway station and one in Kilinochchi (then Kilinochchi was within Jaffna district) and another Sinhala Vidyalaya in KKS. There were few bakeries in Jaffna and all were owned by Sinhala mudalalies. The famous one was right opposite the Jaffna railway station, what we called the “Sarath-ge bakeriiya”. There were about 32 in the staff at Jaffna SMV and about a dozen in KKS Vidyalaya. There were two Sinhala employees at Jaffna Salu Sala then. Being Sinhala, obviously, we had known most other Sinhala people there, as most visit the Naga Vihara temple at the beginning of the Stanley Road on most poya holidays. As far as we knew in 1981 even with the Sinhala police personnel added (Jaffna OIC was also Sinhala and therefore we had all the freedom that most Tamil youth did not have) the total would not have exceeded 3,000 Sinhala people living there. It was much less then at Palaly, but may be with the army personnel, Kumudini’s total may be right. Not otherwise and therefore such blatant lies should not be used just to win a brownie point. Amaranth

        Amaranth
        December 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm
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          thnks,Amaranth,for exposing this bitch kumudini.The [Edited out] is a plant of the rajapakshes on this blog.

          shankar
          January 2, 2013 at 12:42 am
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    As a Singhalese, I would say this is a SHAME at its best from a govt that have to act like a multi ethnic democracy. A multi cultural country like a Switzerland or a Singapore or even India leaders will never act in this way. There is no doubt that LTTE was a killer machine and have to be defeated at any cost though not in the genocide that GOSL had with Tamil civilians. As someone mentioned above, this is how GOSL do its reconciliation and lets take these morons to Hague come March 2013.

    Matilda Ellepola
    December 27, 2012 at 2:12 am
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      GOD PUNISH THEM ALL VERY SOON!

      SHAN NALLIAH GANDHIYIST
      December 27, 2012 at 11:35 am
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        SHAN NALLIAH GANDHIYIST says: “GOD PUNISH THEM ALL VERY SOON!” Could I have his contact details.

        Native Vedda
        December 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm
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      No point.. though u bark in this comment page, there is nothing that u all can do.. no one can set their hands on this Sinhalese nation :)

      Sue hewa
      January 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm
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    These things happens when the Barbarians are at the wheel.

    kautilya
    December 27, 2012 at 2:47 am
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    The Tamil tourists too can visit the old war zone now to see, learn and feel what transpired there. Further, I hope the word ‘ conquered ‘ has been removed from the war memorial at Mullaitivu. If not,it should be substituted with the word ‘ recovered ‘. Further, I read Frances Harrison’s book recently and found it lacked the objectivity and accuracy expected of a journalist with her experience and exposure. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran
    December 27, 2012 at 3:17 am
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      Rajapakse family are very accurate

      Anpu
      December 27, 2012 at 6:41 am
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    The dogs bark but the caravan moves on :D Looks like a great place. It’s about time the North and East contributed something useful to the country to make up for causing untold amounts of death and destruction over 30 years.

    Siva Sankaran Sarma
    December 27, 2012 at 3:17 am
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      AS A HINDU I AM ASHAMED OF SSS BECAUSE OF HIS IGNORANCE OF ROOT CAUSES/DESTRUCTIONS FROM 1915-1912 BY RACISTS/ VIOLENT HISTORY!

      SHAN NALLIAH GANDHIYIST
      December 27, 2012 at 11:41 am
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    Frances, … This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy. 1. We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. The key to maintaining the website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics. For more detail see our Comment policy http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

    watcher
    December 27, 2012 at 3:59 am
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    Well said Bruno!!!!! Hello woman, do not rewind stay in course, 0…7000…40,000….70,000….100,000….200,0000 ….. 80 Million (including T/nady stock)…. Count further…..

    Sulary
    December 27, 2012 at 4:03 am
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    I ALWAYS MAINTAINED THAT THE DEVIL DANCERS FROM RUHNU WILL BE DANCING TO THE DRUMS. IT APPEARS THAT THEY WISH TO DANCE ON THE GRAVES AND THE FIELD SOAKED WITH THE BLOOD OF POOR CIVILIANS, OLD, WEAK, MOTHERS, FATHERS, INFANTS, WHOSE FATHERS ARE THE SOLDIERS, WHO RAPED THE YOUNG GIRLS AND WHOM THEY SLAUGHTERED WITHOUT MERCY. I BET THEY MUST BE DANCING TO THE TUNE OF “AROHARA GOVINDHA GOVINDHAGE’ GE’ BINDHA’, MOKADHA LEDE’ BADE’ LEDE’, KAVUDHA VEDHA, GOTHA VEDHA” WHOEVER STAYS IN THESE HOTELS WILL BE HAUNTED WITH THE GHOSTS OF THE INNOCENT CIVILIANS WHO WERE BEGGING FOR MERCY, SCREAMING, AND CRYING BEFORE THEY WERE RAPED, SEXUALLY DEGRADED AND BLASTED TO DEATH IN COLD BLOOD. COME ON UNITED NATIONS WAKE UP TO THE REALITY AND TAKE THESE DEVIL DANCERS FROM THE MUD HUTS OF RUHUNU, TO THE HAGUE AND LOCK THEM UP FOR THE NEXT 35 YEARS FOR THEM TO ROT, LIKE THE PRESIDENT OF RUWANDA. SENTENCE THEM ALL FOR RIGOROUS IMPRISONMENT AND HARD LABOR.

    Oh Danny boy
    December 27, 2012 at 4:30 am
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    Some of the characteristics of a mature winner are humility and empathy, inclusivity and forgiveness, accommodation and consideration. Hubris, arrogance, contempt, illwill, “rubbing it in” and jingoism are characteristics of lowly humans that cannot be respected or admired in any way.

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda
    December 27, 2012 at 4:40 am
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      Lasantha Pethiyagoda Well said, I repeat most comments are irrelavant to the article.spinng out racial hatred. don’t ever be judgemental, please be judicious. If place your comments please place sensible comments to educate others do not use it as a dustbin.many thanks

      Easwaran
      January 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm
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    The Sri Lanka has became “One Country,One nation,one ethnic group (Sinhala)One language,one religion and One KING.The luxury hotels are being put up by King’s family from money they attracted from huge commissions.They wanted to have a very clear path for them so that they cleared everything including ethnic minorities for their easy journey without hindrances.

    Sonlight
    December 27, 2012 at 4:53 am
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    This is a shame on all Buddhists who are supposed to be compassionate living in this country. Let us not patronise this hotel even if the room rates come down to zero.It is the Regime chiefs and those who sing for dinner that are heartless and ruthless.People beware of their plans

    Sunila Mendis
    December 27, 2012 at 5:25 am
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    Francis Harrison seems to be now getting more obsessively extreme and inaccurate in what she writes about the ending of the war against terrorism in Sri Lanka. The link to Mawbima leads to an item in the Sinhala language so non-Sinhala readers have no way of knowing if her summary of the article is accurate. However, if her representation of what was written in various UN reports is anything to go by, it will not be accurate. For example she writes that “it’s now estimated by the United Nations 40,000 or possibly 70,000 civilians died in a few months.” In fact the UN’s estimate remains at about 7,000. The 40,000 and 70,000 figures that she mentions are merely suggestions made to the Darusman and Petrie panels by anonymous “credible sources”. They are not “estimates” in the normal meaning of the word where there has to be some reasoning and evidence to back up the figures. But why is it that the UN itself is unwilling to say from whom these “estimates” came? Why do these reports not tell us who made these estimates? Protected by the might of the UN, is it not possible for these people to come out of the shadows and say who they are and how they arrived at their figures? Or is possible, or even likely, that the “credible sources” are in reality the very same people who are then saying “Look! The UN estimates that between 40,000 – 70,000 civilians died in the last stages of the conflict! There has to be an independent investigation into this!” But they themselves are likely to have anonymously provided the estimates that they are then attributing to the UN! It’s also false for Harrison to claim that Sri Lanka denies that any war crimes were committed in the war’s final stages. In fact, the Sri Lankan military has publicly announced that all the major credible claims of war crimes are being investigated through military inquiries, which is the international standard by which such allegations are always initially looked into by all UN member states. They may be criticised for being slow in doing this, but the investigations are nevertheless under way. For someone who was trained by the BBC and claims to have a masters degree in journalism, Frances Harrison’s standards of accuracy are appallingly low. Going on this, and other articles she has written, it might well be argued that she would find it difficult to get an O-level in simple truthfulness!

    Candidly
    December 27, 2012 at 6:21 am
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    Dr. RN says “The Tamil tourists too can visit the old war zone now to see, learn and feel what transpired there:”. I am sure he has visited this Lagoon Edge Holiday Bungalow at least once with his bosses VP and Muralietharan and had danced the whole night and learned and felt what transpired/what is transpiring in the old war zone. i am sure you would also have learned and felt what transpired to the IDPs settled in the old war zone. Please describe your experiences of the visit for the benefit of others unable to visit the place.

    Srilankan
    December 27, 2012 at 8:11 am
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    Correction. Please correct VP to read as KP.

    Srilankan
    December 27, 2012 at 8:33 am
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    Mistakenly called “Miracle of Asia” but truly is “Mistake of Asia” where a UN Peace Keeping Army should have been posted by now to maintain law and order and to prevent lynching and slaughtering of innocent Tamils! Usually civilized people do not build houses let alone hotels on cemeteries, mass graves, mass-slaughter cites or where untold amount of suffering has been caused to humans through inhuman barbaric acts! But his Sri Lankan despot whose religion is “barbarism” and supported by equally barbaric herd of followers has defied all norms of civilized ethics. The whole civilized world must boycott this inhuman country!

    sameera
    December 27, 2012 at 9:11 am
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    Frances, Why go all the way to Darkest Mullaitivu, when you can enjoy it closer to home? You know the “Cultural / Educational” type of visit that Mum, Dad and little Jonnie go on during the half term break in the UK. So that, little Jonnie can go back to his school and write an essay about – How We Beat The French / Germen / Italians etc. So, why not try – Battlefield Tour Accommodation in the UK & Western Europe: Western Front to D-day. “Do-it-yourself” and self-drive battlefield tours. Look what they say: The George hotel, east Sussex – “Visit the place where English history changed forever. Walk over the battlefield where William the Conqueror stood” Hotel Ibis budget Bayex – “It was a wonderful place / easy to get to and close to all of the Normandy D-Day sights “ http://tinyurl.com/c5k42z6 And if you need some action to go with these “cultural tours”, why not join any of the following British War Battle Re-enactment groups, put on a uniform and play war games? Gosh, there’s a lot, yours is not a peaceful race. http://youtu.be/f4wOpCAWnDY BTW – while you are at it, why not take your little one to Baghdad or Basra and show him where mummies people killed 600,000* of daddies (Arab) people. ( *UK medical journal – The Lancet). Try and do this soon. It won’t have the same impact after the next British Prime minister or the one after him go to parliament and say, “we are very, very sorry for killing Iraqi civilians, these things happen during wars…”

    Cigi
    December 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm
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      Very well written Cigi! And of course the UK still celebrates VE Day marking the defeat of Germany’s Nazi regime in 1945 and the USA celebrates VJ Day marking the surrender of the Japanese government in 1946. So there’s nothing unusual about people being grateful to those whose efforts brought about the defeat of vicious militaristic regimes. This lady is also doing quite well out of the war business herself. When she was working for the BBC she made her living by being sent to various trouble-spots around the world where often people were suffering and dying. Fortunately she had the BBC license fee payer to fund care for her child while she was away, a privilege not available to parents of children in the state of Tamil Eelam. Now she has had a book published concerning the closing stages of the defeat of Tamil Tiger terrorism and its aftermath. Articles with her name attached are also popping up in journals and on the internet all over the place. Very nice for her to put on her CV, of course. Fame, or is it infamy, at last for this previously obscure former BBC and Amnesty International employee who appears to have regretted the defeat of the LTTE! She claims to be horrified by the human consequences of warfare, but she’s actually doing quite well out of it. Such a thing might be acceptable if what is written contributes in some way to reducing the likelihood of wars in the future. But Francis Harrison has actually nothing practical to say about how else the problem of Tamil Tiger fanaticism might have been dealt with. The phrase “the lady doth protest too much” comes to mind. As for rebuilding the houses of northern Tamils that were destroyed during the war, mentioned in her final paragraph, perhaps that’s something Tamils in the west who had earlier funded the Tamil Tiger war machine might wish to reflect on. It’s not just the Sri Lankan government that has an obligation to help with the situation of the unfortunate Tamils in the north.

      Candidly
      December 28, 2012 at 3:21 am
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    Candidly Is blaming Francis Harrison because she writes and lives out of writing. He is not blaming the perpetrators of this Civil war. Let us not worry about jurnalist’s let us worry about our rulers, who have cornered this Country with the 18th. amendment. We have all become slaves.

    WALTER
    December 28, 2012 at 4:25 am
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    Sameera Your judgement, your assessment is exactly the truth for those who want to see the truth. For those who want to be blind they will never see the truth. THERE IS NONE SO BLIND AS THE ONE WHO REFUSES TO SEE

    WALTER
    December 28, 2012 at 4:34 am
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    Tourists, pl note: [Edited out] Frances has already mentioned this: [Edited out] @Eureka , please write anything her instead of posting links. – CT

    eureka
    December 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm
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    I welcome this ‘ tourism’. Whether we like it or not, the LTTE war will be part of Lankan history and hence it is vital to preserve important landmarks of this for the future generations. In western countries too, you could still see world war places of interest. It is also vitally important to present these sites not to offend any one but just as presentation of facts. Also, such sites and tourism generated income will be a boon to the people in those areas who have suffered immensely.

    Don
    March 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm
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