Sri Lanka’s former Russian Ambassador, Udayanga Weeratunga who has stirred controversy in recent days over his project to bring in Ukrainian tourists to Sri Lanka, yesterday slammed Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Kimarli Fernando, over her recent letter sent to Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga stating the SLTDA was unaware of tourists being taken to Yala and Mirissa under the pilot project.
In an interview to Daily Mirror, Weeratunga said Fernando had raised objections to his proposal to attract tourists from Ukraine and Russia from the initial stages and had been an obstacle in the project which was part of the one month pilot project.
He said initially over 30 flights were to arrive from the Russian Federation including Ukraine and Kazakhstan but alleged that Fernando had made her own plans and attempted to demotivate the tour agents in those countries by officially writing to them stating that tourists would have to undergo a two week quarantine in hotels once they arrive here.he said with tourists unable to waste two weeks in hotel rooms,the number of flights were then slashed to 12 as tourists had backed away.
He further alleged that Fernando and her entire team and all officials involved in the pilot project were aware of the tour groups going to Yala and Mirissa and said she was attempting to mislead the authorities.
“Kimarli Fernando was 100 percent aware of this project of tourists. She knew from December.yala and whale watching in Mirissa,was in the plan,all was finalized.not only Kimarli but the entire team was aware ,” we era tung a said.
“She never believed this project would take off. But when the decisions she took went wrong, she resorted to this,” he said. (JAMILA HUSAIN)