Sri Lanka lets Australian hotelier back in after flag spat

COLOMBO, December 24, 2013 (AFP) – 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. 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. 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 gi