ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 9, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 28

Attacks lead to tourist hotel closure

Story and pix by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

A tourist hotel situated in Marawila and owned by a German well-known for tourist promotion for more than two decades, is in the process of winding up allegedly after a gang led by a deputy minister’s driver had vandalized part of the hotel with no action being taken against the miscreants.

The Aquarius Sports Resort on Beach Road in Marawila is owned by Dietmar Doering 52 who was at one time Sri Lanka’s national table tennis coach and a promoter of sports tourism. He was responsible for bringing in more than 4,000 German sportsmen and sportswomen to the country. Chilaw Police Senior Superintendent Kularatna told The Sunday Times that two police teams had been deployed to investigate the incident but so far no arrests have been made.

The hotel and the business establishment that were damaged. A foreigner packing up to leave the hotel after it was attacked and another damaged hotel room.

He said some of the eyewitnesses were reluctant to give evidence. A section of the hotel had come under two separate attacks and in the first incident the group responsible had been identified. Due to low tourist arrivals in March, Mr. Doering had leased out 12 of the rooms to a local businessman to operate a tourist hotel while the main hotel too was in operation for local and foreign tourists.

The dispute arose with the local businessman on November 24 after a deputy minister’s driver and some friends allegedly refused to pay the hotel bill after having spent a day at the leased-out section of the hotel. At least four hotel rooms, a business establishment in the town belonging to the local businessman and his vehicle were badly damaged.

The damage to the hotel has been estimated at Rs. 1.5 million. But while no action was taken against the culprits a settlement had been reached between the local businessman and the gang which attacked the hotel leaving the German tourist hotel owner without any compensation.

However the bigger damage was caused earlier this week when a gang of about 15 to 20 men entered the same hotel and set fire to the section where the 12 rooms were located causing extensive damage running into millions of rupees. The attack took place at a time when 11 Germans and an American were in the main hotel.

The foreign nationals had thought the hotel was under LTTE attack as the incident came hours after last Wednesday's claymore mine blast on a bus carrying civilians in Kebithigollewa. The worried tourists left the hotel the following day. The hotel owner had to send two of his security guards to the Marawila police station to get down the police to scene of the incident to see the damage caused. Mr. Doering said he was in the process winding up all hotel related operations in Sri Lanka since he was not prepared to risk the lives of the staff, the guests and further damage to the property and that he was also disappointed that no action had been taken against those responsible for the attack.

His complaints to the tourist police and the local police station had fallen on deaf ears. Mr. Doering who is qualified in sports science had been working as a lecturer in Germany before arriving here and opening the hotel in 1989. He was responsible for founding a Peace Village and Sri Lanka Children's Sport Villages in the Western and North-Eastern Provinces. These villages consist of swimming pools, indoor stadiums, outdoor playing fields also has more than 50 rooms for the accommodation of children, parents and teachers.

Director of the hotel Kumari de Silva said the incident would have a bearing on the tourist trade in the area as it was bound to give a negative impression that hotels in the area were vulnerable.

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