Ethical Tourism Sri Lanka

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.

Airports and Flight Providers

Air Travel Services (PVT) Ltd, Various Locations
Air Travel Services (PVT) Ltd’ was originally established to offer low-cost travel to army personnel. Its services were later extended to members of the public as a commercial venture by the army. These include air ticket bookings, tour packages, the handling of visa applications, and hotel reservations.

‘Air Travel Services (PVT) Ltd’ are closely associated with ‘Laya’ group, another army run chain of hotels and resorts.

Batticaloa Airport, Batticaloa
Batticaloa Airport’ is the site of an air base operated by the Sri Lankan Air Force. Following a series of renovations and a process of government wrangling with the Air Force, in March 2018 the airport opened several domestic aviation services for the first time. Current providers include Cinnamon Air and Fly Southern.

It remains unclear whether the Air Force benefit financially from this arrangement. Almost half of the land space at the airport remains under Sri Lankan Air Force control and continues to operate as an air base.

Ratmalana airport, another military air base, is also currently being considered for civil aviation use, with reports that the Air Force could be granted a huge compensation payout for re-location.

Helitours, Various Locations

Helitours’, the commercial arm of the Sri Lankan Air Force, is a domestic airline which connects all the airfields within the country, flying between Ratmalana, Trincomalee and Palaly three times a week.

The ‘Helitours’ fleet includes several military aircraft that have been re-purposed for civilian use. It is conceivable that these aircraft may have been used in the commission of war crimes and mass atrocities.

According to its website, ‘Helitours’ seeks “to be the leader in domestic aviation in Sri Lanka” – a prime example of flagrant militarisation.

Hotels and Resorts

Alampil Holiday Resort, Mullaitivu
Alampil Holiday Resort’ is one of several military run hotels in Mullaitivu. It is located along a stretch of beach where thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped during the final phase of the armed conflict, many of whom were killed in indiscriminate attacks by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Bugler's Nest Holiday Home, Mullaitivu
Bugler’s Nest’ is one of several military run hotels in Mullaitivu. It run by, and located within the grounds of, the Sri Lankan Light Infantry 12th Battalion. The area was the backdrop to some of the most brutal violence that took place during the final phase of the civil war.

A stones throw from the hotel is Keppapilavu, a small village where over 100 families have been protesting – for well over a year – demanding the return of lands seized by the military during the war. Although some land has been returned, a substantial area is yet to be vacated by the army. Many of those who have returned have complained of finding their homes damaged and in states of disrepair.

Coral Cove Holiday Resort, Kayankerni, Batticaloa
Coral Cove’ is a military run resort in Batticaloa.
Dambakolapatuna Rest, Jaffna
Dambakolapatuna Rest’ is a rest house on the Jaffna peninsula that caters to “local and foreign pilgrims and tourists” visiting Buddhist religious sites in the area. The complex was opened in a ceremony jointly attended by navy officials and Buddhist monks. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Dutch Bay Resorts, Kalpitiya, Puttalam
Dutch Bay Resorts’ is located in Kalpitiya, Puttalam. 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. A recent report by the Society for Threatened Peoples has highlighted the many appalling human and environmental costs associated with the development.

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. Fishermen have raised their concerns surrounding this tourism project since its inception.

The resort is currently under construction and aiming to reopen at the end of 2018.

Eagles' Bay View Resort, China Bay, Trincomalee
Eagles’ Bayview Resort’, located in China Bay, Trincomalee, is a hotel operated by the Sri Lankan Air Force.
Emmalaya Rock View Guest House and Bar, Tangalle, Hambantota
Emmalaya Rock View’ is a hotel and restaurant located in Tangalle, a Southern town in the Hambantota district. The hotel has been at the centre of multiple claims of drugging and sexual assault against visitors. Despite complaints to the police, local newspapers report that the owner of the establishment has remained “above the law.”

The year 2018 saw a spate of allegations of sexual assault against foreign tourists occurring on the island’s Southern coast, a symptom of the widespread impunity for sexual offences that exists across the island and what some have described as a “pandemic of sexual violence.”

Farm Breeze Holiday Resort, Jaffna
Farm Breeze Holiday Resort’ is a military run resort in Jaffna. According to a press release, the resort was constructed “as a welfare measure to Army personnel and their families.”
Fort Hammenheil Resort, Jaffna
Fort Hammenhiel’ is a colonial Dutch fort built on a small island just off the coast of Karanaigar, Jaffna. After the civil war, it was acquired by the navy as part of the ‘Malima’ chain and developed as a luxury resort.

The resorts offerings include “experiencing the life of a Dutch prisoner” – a rather disturbing prospect when you consider that its cells recently held Sri Lankan political prisoners.

Golf Link Hotel, Trincomalee
Golf Link Hotel’ is a golf resort located in Sandy Bay, Trincomalee. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Green Jacket Resort, Alampil, Mullaitivu
Green Jackets Resort’ is one of several military run hotels in Mullaitivu, an area which saw some of the worst loss of civilian life during the final stages of the war.
Hayleys Group, Various Locations
Hayleys’ is one Sri Lanka’s largest business conglomerates, accounting for over 3% of the country’s total export income.

‘Hayleys’ are reported to have close ties to the former Rajapaksa regime, who have been accused of war crimes. In 2011, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the company, A.M. Pandithage was appointed as Sri Lanka’s honorary Consul to Mexico. 50.4% of the company is owned by Co-Chairman K.D.D. Perera, Sri Lanka’s richest man, whose vocal public support for the Rajapaksa regime coincided with him being granted several top government positions (including Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment, Sri Lanka’s Secretary of State for Transport, and membership of the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency).

In 2013, in Weliweriya, peaceful protests against water pollution allegedly caused by a Hayleys-owned factory were brutally repressed by the security forces, leaving 3 dead. Meanwhile, according to one report, the authorities provided the factory with police and army protection. No one has been held accountable for the killings. Local residents have continued to complain of water contamination allegedly caused by the factory.

Hayleys own a number of hotels in Sri Lanka, as part of its ‘Hayleys Tours’ arm, including:

Heritance Negombo, Negombo
Heritance Negombo’ is a hotel located in the Western Province, a short distance from the international airport and a 40 minute drive from Colombo.

The security manager at Heritance is (at time of writing, August 2018) SSP K. H. Jayaweera, a retired Deputy Inspector General of the Sri Lankan Police. During the final phase of the civil war in the Vanni region, Jayaweera is reported to have been in charge of the Special Task Force – an elite paramilitary arm of the Sri Lankan police implicated in multiple human rights violations, including abductions, enforced disappearance, torture and the killing of civilians.

Jetwing Hotel, Jaffna
According to reports, ‘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 abuses in Sri Lanka.
Jetwing's Meena Amma's Line Room Experience (Warwick Gardens), Ambewela, Nuwara Eliya
Meena Amma’s Line Room’ is an ‘experience’ offered by Jetwings at their Warwick Gardens Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, an area well-known for its surrounding tea plantations. According to Jetwings’ website, the experience provides tourists with an opportunity to “step  into the lives of [its] tea pluckers”.

The announcement of the venture prompted an outpouring of anger from those claiming that it both trivialised and commodified the life experiences of a group of people who have been denied their rights for many decades, and who continue to endure appalling work and living conditions to this day. Treated appallingly under the British, then prevented from gaining citizenship until 2003, up-country Tamils remain one of the most marginalised groups in Sri Lanka.

A reply by Jetwings described the response as “sensationalist”and defended the experience as a reflection of the wishes of their employee, Meena Amma, a former estate worker and Jetwing housekeeper of 12 years.

Jungle Beach, Passikudah
Jungle Beach’ is a resort in Kuchchaveli, one of several government tourism development zones. According to a report by a representative of the Society for Threatened People’s, “the resort seems to have some connection to the former regime. The former president Mahinda Rajapaksa [an alleged war criminal] planted a tree inside the premises of the hotel and it was declared open by his brother Basil Rajapaksa.”
Lagoon Cabanas, Panama, Ampara
Lagoon Cabanas’ is a luxury resort in Panama, a small town with a surfing beach just south of Arugam Bay. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.

‘Lagoon Cabanas’ is part of a wider tourism development programme in the area which, according to a report by Oxfam, has seen over 350 families forcibly evicted from their homes without proper compensation. In July 2010, masked men wielding weapons began attacking the villages, causing local residents to flee. Afterwards the land was confiscated by the army. Several residents who complained about the confiscation to a People’s Tribunal in Colombo were subsequently threatened by the police. Many have continued their fight for justice while living in displacement camps and temporary shelters.

Lagoon's Edge Resort, Nandikadaal, Mullaitivu
Lagoon’s Edge Resort’ is a hotel located on the shore of a lagoon close to beaches where thousands of Tamil civilians died during the final phase of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009. As described by a former BBC journalist: “the hotel overlooks the stretch of water that became the frontline during the final bloody months of the conflict … 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.”

The hotel, which is built on land seized from Tamil owners during the war, is steeped in monuments to the military victory of the Sri Lankan armed forces. It appears to have been specifically designed as a space where military personnel can bask in the glory of their war triumph – a war which claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives.

In January 2017, military officials reportedly informed local residents that the land will not be returned to them.

Lake Front Rest, Kanthale, Trincomalee
Lake Front Rest’ is a luxury hotel in Kanthale, Trincomalee. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Laya Beach (AKA Wadduwa Resort), Colombo
Laya Beach (AKA Wadduwa Resort)’ is a hotel in Colombo. It is part of the ‘Laya Group’, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Army.
Laya Leisure (AKA Kukuleganga Holiday Resort), Bulathsinhala
Laya Leisure (AKA Kukuleganga Holiday Resort)’ is a hotel in Bulathsinhala. It is part of the ‘Laya Group’, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Army.
Laya Safari, Yala National Park
Laya Safari’ is a hotel in Yala National Park. It is part of the ‘Laya Group’, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Army.
Laya Waves, Kalkudah
Laya Waves’ is a hotel in Kalkudah. It is part of the ‘Laya Group’, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Army.
Marble Beach Air Force Resort, Trincomalee
Marble Beach Air Force Resort’, located in Trincomalee, is a beach resort run by the Sri Lankan Air Force. The General Manager is an Air Force Commander.

Access to the beach is limited to only those who can pay the entrance fee, thereby excluding many members of the local community.

Nature Park Holiday Resort, Chundikkulam, Jaffna
Nature Park Holiday Resort’ is a venture run by the Sri Lankan Navy. It is located inside ‘Chundikkulam Bird Sanctuary’ on the southern-eastern tip of the Jaffna peninsula, an area of land that was seized by the military at the end of the war in 2009. Reports suggest that many of the Tamil landowners who had originally occupied the land have been refused access to it.
Ocean View Holiday Bungalow, Mullaitivu
Ocean View Holiday Bungalow’ is one of several military run hotels in Mullaitivu. It run by, and located within the grounds of, the 681 Brigade.
Pearl Beach Holiday Resort, Myliddy, Jaffna
Pearl Beach Holiday Resort’, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Place’ by locals, is a hotel run by the Sri Lankan Army Ordnance Corps in Myliddy in the Palaly Cantonment, Jaffna. Access to the land owned by locals has been prohibited. For many local people, the failure to de-mobilise the camp is emblematic of the military’s refusal to de-militarise the area.
Shangri-La Hotel, Galle Face, Colombo
Shangri-La’ is a hotel in Colombo that is built on the site of a mass grave. Skeletal remains were unearthed at the site – formerly a British cemetery and then a Sri Lankan military headquarters – in May 2017 by heavy digging machinery.

Despite the discovery, official efforts to find out the truth have been extremely limited. In the words of one journalist: “Not a single update or word on the human remains found on the site has been published in the mainstream media since [police investigations began in May 2017]. It’s almost as if this story itself, like the bones beneath, was better buried.”

Details of the identities of the skeletons have never been released. Activists have accused the government of seeking to “bury atrocity crimes with tourism.”

Sober Island Resort, Trincomalee
Sober Island Resort’ is a hotel in Trincomalee. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Thalsevana Army Resort, Kankesanthurai, Jaffna
Thalsevana Army Resort’ is a military run holiday resort functioning “under the Security Forces Headquarters” on the northernmost beach of Kankesanthurai, Jaffna.

The resort is located directly inside the intensely militarised High Security Zone (HSZ), a vast area of land that has been appropriated by the Sri Lankan government from private owners in successive waves from the 1990s onwards. Following the end of the war in 2009, at least 7,000 acres was freshly acquired. The HSZ was initially built to “blockade against Tiger resupply ships,” but has continued to operate on a vast scale despite the defeat of the LTTE.

The expelled Tamil inhabitants – including many fishermen – continue to protest in hope of their land being returned by the government. In April 2017, a small portion of several hundred acres was returned to its owners, many of whom found their homes destroyed or in a state of disrepair. At the handover ceremony, the Sri Lankan army commander issued a chilling warning to those present, stating that “[just] like we grant you these houses and lands, we are able to take it back again.”

According to local reports, visitors to the resort consist mostly of international tourists, Sinhalese public officials, and the families of soldiers from the South.

Some Luxury Developments in Passikudah, Batticaloa
Passikudah is a small fishing village near Batticaloa that has been declared as one of several ‘Tourism Development Zones’, areas designated and coordinated by the government as a means of attracting investment.

While the ventures in this area are by and large not military run, there is a wealth of material highlighting the devastating human and environmental impacts of what appears to be a highly aggressive and locally unaccountable form of top-down economic development. Among the worst affected have been local fishermen, whose ability access to the bay’s fishing waters has been severely restricted as a result of hotels being constructed along the shorefront.

The development zone contains a number of hotels, some of which have been specifically identified in reports as being potentially problematic. These include:

Finally, one recent report alleges that of the 15 kiosk stalls stationed along the beachfront, all but 3 are run by the army.

Weligambay Villas, Mirissa
‘Weligambay Villas’ is a hotel in Mirissa. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.

 

Military Run Chains

Malima Resorts, Various Locations
Malima Hospitality Services (MHS)’ is a chain of resorts and attractions owned by the Sri Lankan Navy. Its portfolio includes hotels which have been built on the lands of private citizens who have been forcibly evicted.

‘MHS’ ventures include:

    • ‘Club House’ in Colombo.
    • ‘Dambakolaputa Rest’ in Jaffna.
    • ‘Fort Hammenheil’ in Jaffna.
    • ‘Golflink Hotel’ in Trincomalee.
    • ‘Kirinda Diving Center’ in Kirinda.
    • ‘Lagoon Cabanas’ in Panama.
    • ‘Lake Front Rest’ in Kanthale, Trincomalee.
    • ‘Light House Galley’ in Colombo.
    • ‘Reception Hall’ in Poonewa.
    • ‘Reception Hall’ in Hambantota.
    • ‘Reception Hall’ in Ranminithenna.
    • ‘Sober Island Resort’ in Trincomalee.
    • ‘Weligambay Villas’ in Mirissa.

Further information about these ventures is available on this page under the relevant category.

 

The 'Laya Group', Various Locations
The ‘Laya Group’ refers to a chain of resorts owned by the Sri Lankan Army. It was originally founded to “provide a rest and recuperation space for army personnel.”

‘Laya Group’ ventures include:

  • Laya Beach’(AKA ‘Wadduwa Resort’) in Colombo.
  • Laya Leisure’ (AKA ‘Kukuleganga Holiday Resort’) in Bulathsinhala, between Colombo and Kandy.
  • Laya Safari’, a resort located in Yala National Park.
  • Laya Waves’ in Kalkudah.

Further information about these ventures is available on this page under the relevant category.

Tourists are encouraged to be vigilant of other hotels and resorts that are army run, but whose true status might not be obviously apparent. Previously, it has been reported that the military have built two resorts in Mailady, Kankasanthurai (near Jaffna). There have also been past reports of plans to build holiday resorts and hotels in Colombo, Passikudah, Puthukkudiyiruppu.

 

Resturants and Food Stands

Army Eateries, A9 Highway
The Military also run a number of restaurants and kiosks along Sri Lanka’s main highways, as well as various lucrative vegetable businesses (some of which are supplied by farms on land confiscated from civilians).

Many of these can be found on the A9 Highway, including for example the ‘Iranamadu Welfare ShopKilinochchi, 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 choice. But those at army checkpoints, or staffed by people in uniform, should be avoided.

Sadly, lots of local tour guides appear to be choosing army run food stands. Don’t be afraid to insist against it.

Eagles' Restaurants, Colombo
Eagles’ Lakeside’ and ‘Eagles’ Lagoon View’ are two banquet halls in Colombo that are owned and run by the the Sri Lankan Air Force. They were declared open in 2013 in a ceremony led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa (who, incidentally, was joined by the then Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma). According to a recent report the restaurants are “staffed and managed exclusively by [Sri Lankan Air Force] personnel.”
Light House Galley, Colombo
Lighthouse Galley’ is a restaurant in Colombo. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.  According to reports, the restaurant is the brainchild of former Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, an alleged war criminal.

There are allegations that, as a result of being run by the military, the restaurant has been able to circumvent taxes, licensing requirements, and food hygiene inspections.

Malima Club House, Uswetakeiyawa, Colombo
Malima Club House’ is a restaurant and reception space in Uswetakeiyawa, 16.5km North of Colombo. The venue was declared open by alleged war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2013. It is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Rice Bowl (AKA 'Yodha Wewa'), Mannar
Mannar ‘Rice Bowl’ is one of Sri Lanka’s largest paddy fields, situated on a 5th century irrigation tank, the ‘Yodha Wewa’. In June 2008, government forces captured the land from the Tamil Tigers and began cultivating it. The Sri Lankan Army currently run a kiosk at the site.
Waters Edge, Colombo
Waters Edge’ is a hotel with an attached food court, leisure complex and floating restaurant in Colombo. It is owned by the Sri Lankan Government who have previously appointed several members of the Sri Lankan armed forces to its governing body – including the alleged war criminal Jagath Jayasuriya. While breaking the ground for a recent planned expansion of the hotel, a government Minister recently insisted that the hotel “doesn’t take funds from the government.”

Sights and Attractions

Buddhist Stupas in politically sensitive areas, North and East
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.

In the North of Sri Lanka where – both traditionally and (apart from the military) today – there are very few Buddhists, there are now many stupas. Many of these have been constructed next to military camps, as well as adjacent to, or in place of, Hindu temples, Christian churches, and Muslim mosques. This has created a perception that there is underway a state-sponsored project of “Buddhist Sinhalese religious and cultural imperialism.”

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.

We advise tourists to carefully consider the underlying political dynamics that are at play in these areas, and to investigate the origins of religious sites during their visits.

Chundikkulam Bird Sanctuary, Chundikkulam, Jaffna
Located on the strip of land that connects the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of the island, ‘Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary’ is an area of nearly 50 sq km of wildlife reserve that the military have maintained control over, and used for commercial tourism ventures, since the end of the war. The area is home to many species of flora and fauna found exclusively in that part of the island.

Like many areas controlled by the military in the North and East, there are concerns about the ability of locals to access their former lands, as well as the possibility that the sanctuary may be being used as a means to prevent the investigation of mass graves.

Cricket Stadiums, Various Locations
Since 2011, the Sri Lankan military have been responsible for running some of the most prestigious international cricket grounds in Sri Lanka:

  • R Premadasa International Stadium in Colombo, under the Air Force.
  • Pallekele Stadium in Kandy, under the Navy.
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota, under the Army

Cricket has routinely been used by Sri Lankan politicians as a vehicle for exerting influence and for shoring up political support. Conversely, many cricketers “have been eager ambassadors” for the regime, while turning a blind eye to persistent human rights violations.

Eagles' Golf Courses, Trincomalee and Anuradhapura
Eagles’ Golf Links’ and ‘Eagles’ Heritage Golf Course’ are golf courses owned and operated by the Sri Lankan Air Force in Trincomalee and Anuradhapura.

The Trincomalee course was opened in 2012 in a ceremony led by former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, an alleged war criminal. According to its website, “proceeds [from the golf course] are utilized for the benevolence of [Air Force] personnel and their family members.”

Kirinda Diving Centre, Kirinda, Hambantota
Kirinda Diving Centre’ in Hambantota is a scuba diving company that covers several archaeologically important diving spots and the Long Basses reef.

Though operated by the Sri Lankan Coast Guard, it is part of the ‘Malima’ chain, which is owned by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Kokkilai Lagoon Sanctuary, Mullaitivu
Wildlife sanctuaries in the Mullaitivu district were established following the end of the conflict, as a means of attracting tourists to these areas. ‘Kokkilai Lagoon Sanctuary’, which covers an area of forest formerly occupied by the LTTE and which was the scene of heavy fighting during the end of the war, is one such venture.

Activists that we have spoken to suggest that the arrangement is another way of preventing local ethnic minority communities from returning to their homes in the area; worse still, that it might be a ploy to prevent investigation of an area suspected of harbouring mass graves and other evidence of war-crimes.

Laksala (State Gift and Souvenir Boutique), Various Locations
Laksala’ is a state-owned gift and souvenir boutique that operates 13 branches across Sri Lanka. ‘Laksala’ claims to showcase “all of Sri Lanka” in their selection of tea, spices, batik wear and other items, yet the extent to which its products represent the diversity of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and cultural make-up is questionable.

Tourists should consider whether their rupees might be better spent with local producers, rather than a company whose profits flow directly to the Sri Lankan state.

Pigeon Island, Nilaveli, Trincomalee
Pigeon Island’ is a snorkelling and scuba diving spot located off the shore of Nilaveli in Trincomalee. The area is currently maintained and conserved by the Sri Lankan Navy, who are previously reported to have denied access to private scuba diving companies and to have charged tourists for access. While there are now several private companies operating in the area, it remains unclear whether permissions to do so have been granted by the Navy in return for payment.
Somawathiya National Park, Polonnaruwa
The Sri Lankan Army are alleged to have run a farm within the park in association with Dole Food Company, having assigned land to local partner company LetsGrow Ltd and “lent their expertise” on cultivation.

Dole withdrew in 2011 following a campaign by Rainforest Rescue, which accused the company of clearing thousands of acres of land home to elephants and other endangered animal and plant species.

Locals who previously relied on the forests for collecting bees honey, firewood and food have complained of being denied access to the park by the army. They have also expressed fears about the diversion and contamination of limited water resources as a result of cultivation in the area.

Similar stories of alleged illegal ‘leasing-out’ of land by the Sri Lankan Army have been reported in nearby Kandakadu Forest. Latterly, following their withdrawal from Somawathiya, Dole have been accused of further harmful land clearances of thousands of acres in ‘Lunungamwehera National Park’ in the South of the country, allegedly assisted by the company’s connections with high level politicians.

Sri Lanka Air Force Museum, Ratmalana, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia
The ‘Sri Lanka Air Force Museum’ in Colombo was built to showcase the technical advances and history of the Air Force – and Air Force which has credibly been accused of being involved in the commission of war crimes.
Sri Lankan Navy Ferry, Delft Island
The Sri Lankan Navy runs a daily ferry service to Delft Island from Punkudutivu. According to unconfirmed reports, local fishermen have been displaced to make room for the Navy, which has a heavy presence across the island.
Sri Lankan Navy Whale Watching Tours, Various Locations
The Sri Lankan Navy runs whale watching excursions from Galle and Trincomalee. These are operated exclusively by military personnel, sometimes on military vessels. Many local providers complain that they struggle to compete with the navy’s lower fares and specialised vessels.

We encourage tourists to take time to research the many excellent local services that are available.

Thoppigala Heritage Park, Batticaloa
Thoppigala Heritage Park’ in Batticaloa – which includes a war memorial, nature trail, obstacle course, souvenir shop, cafeteria, campsite and rest rooms – was built by the Sri Lankan Army with the support of the ‘Dilmah Tea’ company.

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 cooperation with civilian or military administration in each area is a requirement for delivering tangible benefit and cannot be construed negatively.”

Triumphalist War Monuments and Information Centres, Various Locations
If you are travelling in the North and East of Sri Lanka, chances are you will come across one of the many monuments or information centres that were established after the war marking the military’s victory against the LTTE.

These include:

Perhaps unsurprisingly for sites built by the victor, many of these monuments and information centres present a grossly distorted picture of the war; downplaying the scale of civilian casualties, neglecting to mention allegations of atrocity crimes, and promoting the military’s favoured narrative of the final offensive as a “humanitarian rescue operation.”

The imagery deployed is often that of the conquering Sinhala soldier – a crass form of ethnic triumphalism for those war-affected communities who are still reeling from the effects of the war and who are yet to see the root causes of the conflict addressed. A telling feature of these sites is that in many of them the signage is in Sinhala and English only.

While we don’t advocate avoiding these sites entirely – not least because they can provide important insights into the way in which the Sri Lankan state has sought to assert its authority in war-affected areas since the end of the war – we do urge visitors to adopt a critical approach. Where applicable, please refrain from giving money to the military to access these sites.

Wilpattu National Park, Western Coast
Wilpattu National Park’ is home to over 30 species of mammals, hosting one of the largest leopard populations in the world.

‘A Mega Tourism’ project was initiated inside ‘Wilpattu National Park’ in 2014, the Sri Lankan Navy having acquired 900 acres of forestry land, much of it illegally. The navy justified its seizure as necessary for “security reasons, as the LTTE threat still exists”.

The acquisition has been enthusiastically championed by several hardline Sinhala-Buddhist groups. Some reporters have speculated that this “rush to save the Wilpattu National Park” is in fact a pretext to prevent the return of displaced people from minority communities, many of whom have sought resettlement nearby the park.