The Sri Lanka Tourist Board crisis has taken a new turn with President Mahinda Rajapakse dismissing Tourist Board Chief Udaya Nanayakkara.
This comes in the backdrop of the tourism industry vehemently opposing Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike decision to allow Nanayakkara, his former brother-in-law, to continue.
Rajapakse is also believed to have phoned Bandaranaike Friday regarding the fresh developments.
Former Colombo District SLFP/PA MP Nawalage Bennet Cooray is expected to fill the vacancy. Cooray said that he was informed of the appointment Friday although he was yet to receive his letter of appointment.
The former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Credit Insurance Corporation campaigned for Rajapakse at the recently concluded presidential polls.
The `Sunday Island` learns that Cooray`s appointment could be on a temporary basis until the establishment of the proposed Tourism Authority, the successor to the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.
Rajapakse intervened consequent to industry leaders reacting angrily to Bandaranaike`s actions. Major travel trade operators back the call to remove Nanayakkara, under heavy fire over mismanagement and abuse of funds, a charge denied by the former chairman.
The protest campaign was led by Sri Lanka Tourist Hotels Association and Sri Lanka Inbound Tour Operators. They want the government to implement the proposed tourism revival plan that won parliamentary approval last October.
The President, Sri Lanka Tourist Hotels Association, Hiran Cooray was prevented from attending a meeting chaired by Bandaranaike at Visumpaya Friday evening. The Chairman/MD of Jetwing Travels and son of pioneer hotelier Herbert Cooray had been told that he was not welcome. A senior member of the ministers staff triggered Friday`s spat with Cooray, the sources said.
Rajapakse acted as Bandaranaike fired a letter at Tourism Secretary Dr. P. Ramanujam over his recent remarks to the print media. Dr. Ramanujam has angered his political boss by claiming that he was verbally told of the decision to retain Nanayakkara. (We carried Bandaranaike`s letter on page one of our yesterday`s issue).
Rajapakse is also believed to have invited Ramanujam to join his delegation to New Delhi prompting Bandaranaike to protest. Rajapakse is scheduled to leave on a four-day visit beginning early this week.
Dr. Ramanujam is unlikely to act on the Bandaranaike directive to persuade Sri Lanka Tourist Board PR agency Batey to reinstate two staffers accused of issuing an authorised statement on Nanayakkara`s re-appointment last week. The PR agency`s top management reacted angrily to claims that it was involved in a clandestine effort to promote Nanayakkara, a charge denied by the agency.
`Kindly instruct Batey to immediately reinstate the two members of their staff who had been working with the Tourist Board,` Bandaranaike wrote in his letter referring to the sacked workers.