The Australian owner of one of the world's most exclusive hotels was given temporary permission to return to his adopted Sri Lankan homeland Tuesday after being barred in a spat over the national flag.
Geoffrey Dobbs, who is also the organiser of an international literary festival in the tourist city of Galle, was initially turned back at Colombo airport for the second time in five days.
But an immigration official said that he had been granted a one-month temporary visa, only minutes before he was due to be flown back to Thailand on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight.
"He is being given a one-month visa to enter the country," U.G. Udowita, the head of immigration at Colombo airport, told AFP.
"This will give him time to sort out his paper work," Udowita added, without elaborating.
Speaking to AFP from the airport, Dobbs confirmed that he had been told he could enter the country.
"I have just been told that I can go (into the country)," Dobbs said in brief comments as he prepared to leave the transit area.
Provincial governor Kumari Balasuriya said earlier Tuesday that Dobbs had been blacklisted after flying four flags -- which each feature the image of a mythical lion -- upside down and near her home in Galle just before last month's Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.
"He is a very undesirable person and we have decided to blacklist him and prevent him from entering the country," she told AFP.
Balasuriya said that Dobbs had deliberately flown the flags upside down after local workmen had accidentally inverted an Australian flag.
The British-born Dobbs runs four luxury hotels in the Galle region where some rooms cost more than $2,000 a night.
His portfolio includes the private Taprobane Island, whose guests have included pop stars Sting and Kylie Minogue. It has been named one of the world's 50 most romantic locations by Conde Nast Traveller magazine.
The Sri Lankan opposition has said the move to bar Dobbs is part of a strategy by the authorities to seize control of his money-spinning luxury hotels, a charge denied by Balasuriya.
A former publisher, Dobbs has organised the Galle Literary Festival since 2007. The event has drawn writers such as the novelist Joanna Trollope, playwright Tom Stoppard and the children's author Michael Morpurgo.(AFP)
Comments - 17
investigator Wednesday, 25 December 2013 05:39 AM
do not disturb this highly talented business person.it destroy sri lankan economy.what the usefull of these flags ???.stealing.cheating,killing and doing all the tratorous crimes against the country and looking for flags ???.traitors are the who doing crimes.help this sri lanka lover to develpp the copuntry and tourism more better.as common sense can understand that he might not giving free food and luxury rooms for corrupt officials and corrupt politicians.
gamararala Wednesday, 25 December 2013 05:39 AM
An issue of Patriotism vs. Dimplomacy from both sides......
Ami Wednesday, 25 December 2013 04:48 PM
What a lame excuse to bar a VIP from entering ! I think our famous Bro's and Sons might be definitely eyeing on his establishments in Srilanka !
Tharaka Chanaka Tuesday, 24 December 2013 04:11 PM
The "Packer" effect!!!
rani Thursday, 26 December 2013 10:12 AM
When they come to our country they think they are superior than us and our guys also bend the immigration rules to fulfill their issues.No wonder their showing their power.&arrogance.
Gamarala Wednesday, 25 December 2013 07:35 AM
A storm in a tea cup, whats the big deal here? He did so to protest that his flag has been flown upside down.
investigator Wednesday, 25 December 2013 08:01 AM
dictatorsahip,no rule of law.to loot others doing any garbage.if broken law,file a case in courts.
Flying Fish Wednesday, 25 December 2013 08:45 AM
You gave Visa for the Channel 4 journalists, but hesitate to give a Sri Lankan resident who has helped improve the image of Sri Lanka world over.
SL Wednesday, 25 December 2013 10:47 AM
It is a shame to see childish act taken by the authorities. had authorities taken an action when he informed them regarding the wrong orientation of OZ flag, this incident could have stopped
we always do "Koheda yanne Malle pol" thing like this ,
this fellow is some one who did something better to our country than heroin dealers having political luxury back in Diyawanna
this fellow is some one who did something better to our country than heroin dealers having political luxury back in Diyawanna...')" type="button" class="btn btn-outline-secondary btn-sm" style="padding-top: 0px; padding-bottom: 2px">Reply
Mason Thursday, 26 December 2013 03:12 PM
Money is more important than the National flag. Wonder how much changed hands !!!
Mangala Thursday, 26 December 2013 03:23 PM
by showing his moron stupid attitude against to SL while doing business and living in same soil. At least dogs got faith what they are getting.
Mangala Thursday, 26 December 2013 03:24 PM
Mangala Thursday, 26 December 2013 03:27 PM
agree. No politician in this country has back bone to ask british to apologize, what they did to our country and massacre our ancient people. And resign from comm wealth. And impose extra tax to all portugese, dutch and brits who visit SL as pay back.
Sabe Wednesday, 25 December 2013 01:03 PM
Not only debarred, we must charge him under relevant clauses and give him the maximum punishment
hdih Thursday, 26 December 2013 06:33 AM
if he had flown flag upside down purposefully it is wrong and if he is such unhappy in Sri Lanka to flag it like that might as well leave Sri lanka. why bother comming back.
Ranjith Lal Wednesday, 25 December 2013 03:47 PM
Two wise people playing the game of an ignorent worker.
rani Thursday, 26 December 2013 08:00 AM
It's a joke to take him back, he should get rigorous punishment behind bars at least 2 years to sink his big head in our srilankan shores.
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