Controversy over 11th-hour withdrawal from tourism awards
By Easwaran Rutnam
While President Maithripala Sirisena’s office yesterday insisted he had no plans to attend the Tourism Awards last week, Tourism Ministry sources said that the President’s office had confirmed the President’s participation but he had withdrawn from the event at the 11th hour.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) hosted the sixth annual Sri Lanka Tourism Awards on 6 December at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, following a six-year gap.
Sources at SLTDA told The Sunday Morning that the President was invited to attend the event as the Head of State on a recommendation made by the Tourism Ministry Secretary.
Several diplomats had also been invited to attend the event but the diplomats had turned down the invitation.
“The diplomats had decided not to attend any state event, so the invitation was rejected,” sources said.
However, sources said that the President’s office had confirmed the President’s participation at the event and had even sent his message of congratulations for the event.
The President’s security division had searched the venue of the event and guests were also searched anticipating the President’s arrival.
However, sources said that at the last minute, organisers were informed that the President would not attend as he had another meeting to attend.
Former Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, who was also invited to attend the event, was invited on stage to distribute some of the awards.
Amaratunga agreed to attend the event as he was instrumental in setting the stage for the awards to take place this year, but he did not want to take the stage at the event as it may not go down well if the President were to attend as well.
However, since the President withdrew at the last minute, Amaratunga agreed to distribute some of the awards.