Friday, December 27, 2013

Sri Lanka’s Conflict Tourism: Up The Creek Without A Paddle?

As the government’s way to “capitalize” on the relatively recently concluded civil conflict, is Sri Lanka’s attempt at “conflict tourism” is euphemistically up the creek without a paddle?

By: Ringo Bones

A couple of years ago – well back around September 2012 – the government of Sri Lanka made that “notorious” Jordanian ship that had been impounded by the Tamil Tigers back in 2006 that was eventually used as their base and a source of vital war materiel in the form of scrap steel for the then war effort before its bloody controversial end back in 2009 – as the centerpiece of their conflict tourism program that would hopefully bring in vital tourist dollars for vital postwar reconstruction of the country. Given the history of the Sri Lankan civil conflict between the ethnic Tamil and the Sinhalese majority – is this move well-advised?

Major tour providers around the world had expressed their wariness of this “history from the victorious ethnic group’s perspective” as soon as they’ve heard the announcement back in September 2012. And unbeknownst to most people – conventional tourism that takes advantage of Sri Lanka’s pristine beaches barely exists even as far back as the country’s independence. Those few music videos that the 1980s pop-rock supergroup Duran Duran shot there during the mid 1980s – before the Tamil Tiger-Sinhalese Conflict started - was allegedly a logistical tour de force given the nonexistence of even a “conventional” tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

Concerns of major travel and tourism providers on the Sri Lankan conflict tourism initiative were very much justified because war memorial signs of the facilities that were fast-tracked into completion were written only in English and Sinhalese – there were no Tamil language signs in sight whatsoever! I wonder if the Sri Lankan conflict tourism facilities will be serving Tamil fish curry as part of their haute cuisine. Only time will tell if this “oversight” will be rectified by the current Sri Lankan government.