- Tourism ministry postpones appointing of heads to key bodies at the eleventh hour following PM’s intervention
- Tourism Minister John Amaratunga confident of handing over appointment letters to nominees in couple of days
- Industry stakeholders urge govt. to be mindful of upcoming global promotion campaign when appointing heads to key tourism bodies
By Nishel Fernando
Tourism Development, Wildlife & Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga faced an embarrassing situation yesterday when he was compelled to postpone the appointments of new heads for key State-run tourism bodies, following the intervention of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mirror Business learns.
The nominees, who were approved by the President Maithripala Sirisena’s committee, were to be given appointment letters yesterday during a special ceremony from 11.00 a.m. onwards at the Samudra Hotel, Colombo 03.
Minister Amaratunga was scheduled to hand over the appointment letters and the media were invited to cover the event.
However, without any prior notice, the reporters present at the venue were told that the event was postponed. Several nominees were also seen awaiting Amaratunga’s arrival to receive appointment letters.
Informed sources said Amaratunga was compelled to put off the handing over of appointment letters due to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s orders.
Wickremesinghe had apparently asked for more time to evaluate the resumes of the nominees of Amaratunga.
However, speaking to Mirror Business, Amaratunga expressed confidence that he will be able to hand over the letters of appointments to his nominees in a couple of days.
Amaratunga was expecting to hand over the letters of appointments to corporate personality Kishu Gomes as the new Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and to Ranjit de Silva as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).
In addition, Kumar de Silva and Dilip de Silva were expected to be re-appointed as chairmen of Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) and Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM).
Meanwhile, the tourism industry expressed their displeasure over the ungainly incident.
“I don’t know the reason behind this (postponement). However, it reflects very badly on the industry and the government. Hence, as an industry, we are not happy with this development,” The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte stressed.
He noted that necessary approvals should have been secured before making appointments.
He further highlighted that the smooth functioning of the SLTPB is crucial for the tourism industry with Sri Lanka closing in towards launching the delayed three-year global promotion campaign in March.
“Our biggest challenge is now to get the global promotion campaign off the ground. Hence, the post of SLTPB chairperson is an important position as far as the industry is concerned right now,” he said.
The industry expressed their satisfaction over the progress made under acting Chairman of SLTPB, Janaka Sugathadasa, who has a longstanding career in public sector.
“We are quite happy with the present set-up and how work is progressing right now,” Ukwatte said.
However, he also noted that the industry is not objecting the appointment of Gomes as the new SLTPB Chairman.
He reiterated that the government must prioritise the global promotion campaign and should appoint a suitable person who’s capable of implementing the ideas of the industry.
Informed sources said that the Tourism Development, Wildlife & Christian Religious Affairs Ministry had sent a list of nominations last week to both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Presidential Secretariat.
It was not clear whether the ministry received the Prime Minister’s approval to proceed with the appointments, though it wasn’t legally required.