Holiday providers linked to human rights abusers
Many companies are associated with individuals and organizations implicated in war crimes or human rights abuses. Please explore this map and have a read of the information below to find out more about the companies with which we have concerns. These include the following:
Company names are in bold, locations are in italics.
Sri Lankan Airports & Flight Providers
Air Travel Services (PVT) was registered as a private liability company in 2010 by Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General J Jayasuriya, and President of the Army ‘Seva Vanitha’ branch, Mrs Manjulika Jayasuriya. As they themselves say they provide “air tickets and tour packages to the civilians as a commercial venture which benefit[…] the Army in return“.
There are two international airports in Sri Lanka. Colombo Bandaranaike airport is the usual arrival port but the former Government was keen to encourage tourists to fly into their new development, Hambantota Mahinda Rajapaska airport, which many now see as a white elephant. Be scrupulous when donating to charity collection jars as many of these are there to collect funds for housing projects for the army. Many of the shops in the airports are run by the Government, for example: Laksala arts and crafts store.
Sri Lankan Hotels & Resorts
The Government of Sri Lanka built a series of triumphalist attractions on the site of the last battles of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in this spot, and yet developments at the site demonstrate the extent to which their suffering is ignored and history re-written. The local “War museum” allows visitors to see a “terrorist swimming pool” and a crass war memorial adorned with statues of celebrating soldiers. Yet all attempts by local residents to grieve for dead are brutally suppressed by the military. The Army run two hotels in the area, the Lagoon’s Edge Resort & Nandikadal rest house. They also occupy much of the surrounding land. Meanwhile local residents are reduced to foraging though the belongings of the many people who died in the area, looking for valuables to resell.
This resort is run by the Army and says on its own website “functions under the Security Forces headquarters”. Disgracefully it recently won a French Imagen Arte ImarPress tourism award. It is situated in a High Security Zone (HSZ): land confiscated by the army from local people on the grounds that its occupation is required to maintain national security. The Military is refusing to give many people back their houses and land, despite considering the area safe enough for tourists!
This restaurant and hotel is at the centre of multiple claims of sexual assault. Despite this no legal action has been taken against the hotel’s owner, causing respected local media to speculate that he has political connections.
After the conflict ended, people were initially allowed to return to this stunning beach, which was made a military detachment in 2001. The land remains under Air Force control, however, and the opening of this military-run resort means the public will be “restricted to a far corner, so that the privacy of guests will not be hindered”.
The Military have rebranded many of the hotels they own into the “Laya” group. The Army run Wadduwa Resort in Colombo has now been rebranded as ‘Laya Beach’. They also run the Kukuleganga Holiday Resort in Bulathsinhala (between Colombo and Kandy) which will now be known as “Laya Leisure” and they are currently building a resort in Palatupana by Yala National Park, which will be known as “Laya Safari”. The military have just opened two more resorts in Mailady, Kankasanthurai (near Jaffna), and they are planning to build yet another hotel in Colombo and potentially three more in Pasikudah and Kalkudah in the Eastern province. Land was also seized in Pudukuduirippu (near Mullaitivu) with the stated aim of creating another military run holiday resort.
These restaurants hotels and resorts are run by the navy. They include: Weligambay Villas – Mirissa, Reception Hall – Ranminithenna and Poonewa, Club House – Uswetakeiyawa, Light House Galley – Colombo, Golf Link Hotel and Sober Island Resort – Trincomalee, Lagoon Cabanas – Panama, Fort Hammenhiel and Dambakolapatuna Rest – Jaffna, and Lake Front Rest – Kanthale. There are allegations that this has allowed the Light House Galley to circumvent taxes, licensing and other local regulations.
Hayleys are a major Sri Lankan company which may have close ties to individuals within the former Rajapaska regime, who stand accused of war crimes. Hayleys are singlehandedly responsible for over 3% of Sri Lanka’s export income and nearly 5% of Sri Lanka’s tea production. The Rajapaska Government had appointed their Chairman and Chief Executive, A.M. Pandithage as Sri Lanka’s honorary Consul to Mexico and 23% of the company is owned by Deputy Chairman K.D.D. Perera, who was Rajapaska’s Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Sri Lanka’s richest man. According to an article in open democracy the authorities may have promoted and protected Hayleys interests in the past. Protests against a factory Hayleys owned left 3-6 dead in mid-2013 after the army opened fire on peaceful demonstrators. These protests arose because of concerns over the factory’s pollution of local drinking water, after ignoring environmental and legal rulings.
Hayleys also own a number of hotels:
Amaya Resorts & Spas is a subdivision of Hayleys which owns six luxury resorts in central Sri Lanka, in Kandy and the Hill Country, as well as the Cafe Forest in Kurunegala and the Coral Rock in Hikkaduwa. The Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo is also owned by Hayleys. Hayleys Leisure Holdings (Pvt) Ltd also own Hunas Falls (Kandy), and have a 30% stake in Jetwing Beach (Negombo), Hayleys also own various tour operators: Hayleys Tours, Hayleys Travels and North South Lines as well as three transportation companies: Millennium Transportation, Air Global and Hayleys Aviation.
Waters Edge is a hotel with an attached food court, leisure complex and floating restaurant and is a popular evening location. It is owned by the Sri Lankan Government who have appointed several members of the Sri Lankan armed forces to its governing body.
The Government of Sri Lanka has had a major part in the Dutch Bay tourist development in which large tracts of land have been acquired without proper consultation with local residents. The erection of high-barbed wire fences around these coastal areas by the navy has had a huge impact on local residents, whose livelihoods depend on access to the surrounding fishing waters. Many fishermen now have to walk several miles to access beaches only a few hundred meters away.
As reported in the Sri Lankan press, Jetwing Hotel (Jaffna) is a joint venture between Jetwing Hotels and Mercantile Merchant Banking Ltd (MMBL). MMBL’s Founder Chairman was Milinda Moragoda, a former Senior Advisor to President Rajapaksa during one of the worst periods of state-sanctioned human rights abuse in Sri Lanka.
In 2009, the Supreme Court delivered a judgement criticizing the illegal and unlawful privatization of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd carried out under Moragoda’s stewardship as Minister of Economic Reform.
Sri Lankan Resturants & Food Stands
The Military also run small restaurants and kiosks along the main highway through the former war-zone, and operates a lucrative vegetable business supplied by farms on land confiscated from civilians under the guise of national security. Prime examples are on the A9 in Killinochchi, and on the A14 just before Mannar bridge.Of course not all eateries on the A9 are run by the army. Indeed many are run by local families and make a great ethical alternative to hotel food. But eateries at army checkpoints, or staffed by people in uniform, should be avoided.
Sri Lankan Sights & Attractions
Panama is a small town with a superb surfing beach just south of Arugam Bay. According to reports, the land on which several developments now stand, including the “Lagoon Cabanas Panama”, have been expropriated without proper compensation. In order to make room for the tourist development zone, local residents were forced from their homes by masked men wielding weapons following which the land was confiscated by the army. Local residents complained about the confiscation to a People’s Tribunal in Colombo, following which several of the people involved were threatened by the police. It is believed the former President’s son, Namal Rajapaska, has been involved in tourism development in Panama.
This war memorial, nature trail, obstacle course, souvenir shop, cafeteria, camp site and rest room was jointly built by the Sri Lankan Army and Dilmah Tea ltd.
Dilmah wrote to us defending their involvement in the project by pointing out the social benefit of the work that they do in supporting efforts for peace and development. They added “Dilmah has no involvement in the management or operation of the site although we were instrumental in its design and construction. In areas that are controlled by the military, if we wish to extend humanitarian support, we must necessarily involve the local administration which in some areas includes the army. There is however no commercial alignment in these and as I hope you will agree our co-operation with civilian or military administration in each area is a requirement for delivering tangible benefit and cannot be construed negatively”.
Passikudah is a resort area north of Batticola. It was mentioned by International Crisis Group as a resort around which there had been suggestions of the military seizing land from local people and selling it to political supporters for below market rates (footnote 233).
The development contains 14 hotels: Malu Malu (who wrote to us denying that they were in any way involved with the Government or in human rights violations), Blue Continental, Sun and Fun, Associated resort, Fortune Premier (owned by Jetwing), Lanka Sports Rizen, Auro Lanka hotels (who are also opening a hotel in Kalpitiya), Paradise resort, Sun Tan beach resorts, Ominga International (a Dubai based company which has a partnership with Mahin Lanka, and Soft Logic – one of Sri Lanka’s biggest companies), Lets Travel (a Swiss owned company in partnership with the Swiss firm Coral), Locuge (seemingly owned by an MP), and Anilana.
Visitors to the resort have reported that it is significantly segregated (with the local Tamil population kept out of the resort area and not allowed access to the “public” beach), that there are army watchtowers on the beach, and that some hoteliers have openly boasted that they received the hotels in reward for services rendered to the Government during the civil war. While not every resort hotel’s involvement is clear, each one appears to be benefiting from, and contributing to continuance of, human rights violations of the local people The resort is closely associated with the former Presidential family as can be seen from the billboard at the resort’s entrance which features the faces of two of the former President’s brothers.
There are many impressive historic stupas in Sri Lanka. However the Government is also building many new ones, particularly in politically sensitive areas, in ways seen by many in these areas as imposing a Buddhist cultural hegemony over Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities. The north of Sri Lanka, where – both traditionally and (apart from the military) today – there is virtually no Buddhist population, there are now many stupas.
In Batticaloa in the east the Military has seized land (considered sacred by many Tamils) to allow the construction of a Buddhist stupa designed to attract tourists.
The military is establishing a wildlife sanctuary in Mullaitivu, an area in the Northern region that saw much of the heavy fighting during the closing stages of the conflict. While the Government intends to limit attractions to a small number of high-spending tourists, critics argue that the arrangement is another way of preventing local ethnic minority communities from returning to their homes in the area.
Perhaps more significantly, the project can also be seen as a further obstacle to international investigation of an area suspected of harbouring mass graves and other evidence of war-crimes.
The Army run a farm within the park. There are allegations that they circumvented regulations to set up this farm. It was previously run in association with Letsgrow ltd and Dole Food Company, but they withdrew after a campaign by Rainforest Rescue.
The former President’s brother Basil Rajapaksa is looking to turn the island into an Eco tourism resort. However this is highly controversial as much of the land has been occupied by the military under the guise of establishing High Security Zones. There is a heavy presence from the Sri Lankan Navy on the Island and they have been involved in altercations with Indian fishermen over rights to the sea. We have received unconfirmed reports that local fishermen have also been displaced to make more room for the Navy.
The Military are now responsible for running some of the most prestigious international cricket grounds in Sri Lanka: the R Premadasa Stadium (Colombo) under the Airforce, the Pallekele Stadium (near Kandy) under the Navy and the new Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium (Hambantota) under the Army.
The Government of Sri Lanka also run a number of other attractions including Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Laksala arts and crafts shop (this is the main Government souvenir store), Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) buses, various hostels run by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, various attractions run by the Central Cultural Fund, and the Matale Rest House. The Government also charge for entry to the Pigeon Island National Park.