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Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful places on earth, a rich, diverse, extraordinary melange of landscapes, wildlife, and 2,000 year-old culture. It boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, colonial fortresses; achingly beautiful beaches; rainforests; magnificent ancient temples and much more.
Since the tragic and long-running internal war ended in 2009, it has also been a country of peace. That all changed on Easter Sunday. Sri Lanka is now also a country, like my own, that has been defiled by terrorism in recent days. The nation is in shock as it counts the appalling human cost of yesterday’s bombings that struck churches and luxury hotels in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo. These atrocities, which as always advanced the proponent’s supposed cause not one iota, have taken 290 lives and ruined many, many more.
Our thoughts today are with the Sri Lankan people as they come to terms with the barbarity of these acts.
Sri Lanka is a place I have visited many times both for professional and holiday reasons. I have numerous friends there, including the irrepressible Rakhita Jayawardena (pictured below), President of King Power Traveler and one of the pioneers of inflight retail. Rakhita, who is now also Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board, was abroad at the time of the attacks with his family. So, while he is safe he is devastated for his people. “It is a terrible, terrible situation,” he told me.
Atul Ahuja, CEO of Flemingo, which runs departures and arrivals duty free shops at Bandaranaike International, said that all his team were safe. I will try to bring you an update from Dufry, which also operates at the airport, as soon as possible.
Now, inevitably, the innocent people of Sri Lanka will suffer further loss in the wake of the attacks. It will come in the form of an immediate and possibly sustained slump in tourism, a vital contributor to employment and the country’s economy.
For now at least, assessing that cost must wait, as the country and the world rightly focuses on the terrible human toll. Our thoughts today are with the beautiful nation and people of Sri Lanka.