As a person who has worked in the hospitality industry for the past 45 years, and from 1970-2019, I have witnessed all civil unrest, ethnic violence, bloodshed, war and economic destruction in our country.
I was just 19 years of age when the JVP insurgency started in 1970 and I have seen the death and destruction and the severe impact it had on our societies and economy, when tourism in our country was just picking up.
In 1972 I joined the first five-star hotel, The Ceylon Intercontinental, and there were only a handful who joined the tourism sector. With the liberalisation of the economy in 1976 more five-star hotels were opened and there was a boom in this sector. However with the war in the north and the communal violence in July 1983 the tourism industry was badly affected and it took some time for recover. I have worked in five-star hotels during these turbulent times and the agony and stress felt by the management and staff is enormous.
After end of the civil war in 2009 there was a rapid boom in the tourism industry and 2018 it was at its peak with more five-star class hotels opening and new hotels under construction and this year the tourist arrivals were close to 2.5 million with an aim to reach three million at the end of this year.
Then disaster struck on Easter Sunday morning; I was in the Church of the Upper Room, Wattala, celebrating the Easter Sunday service and when the Holy Communion was in progress, messages started coming in about these brutal, inhumane attacks on churches and five-star hotels.
None of the worshippers and guests in the hotels would have never thought that they would have to sacrifice their precious lives in a most brutal manner inside churches and hotels on Easter Sunday morning. Families were completely wiped out. It was complete bloodshed, mayhem and manslaughter inside these churches and hotels.
I am ashamed and angry that we could not save the lives of the innocent worshippers and foreign tourists who came to our country to spend their holidays with the loved ones and had to lose their precious lives in this brutal manner.
I was watching CNN news with agony and frustration when Danish billionaire Andrew Holos and his wife paid an emotional farewell to their three little children. I could see the tears in their eyes and look of extreme pain and agony on their faces as they comforted each other as they watched the three small coffins arrive in three hearses. Their loss was utterly incomprehensible. I felt guilty because these three little angels lost their tender lives on our soil.
We Sri Lankans are still in a state of shock and fear for being the target of such cowardice and horrific attacks as on the holiest day in our Christian calendar.
Sri Lanka is a resilient nation; there was violence against caste, creed, ethnicity and religion and finally we fought 30-year civil war with our own people. Still we survived all that. Sri Lankans have the grit and capacity to face these challenges. We believe we can rise against from the ashes and we will overcome.
Finally I quote few verses from the Holy Bible:
“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices. You will grieve but your grief will turn to joy…” John 16V29
“Forgive the people that hurt you, God will pay you back with double the joy and double the victory.”
(The writer is a lecturer at the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management.)