Sri Lanka revives tourist police to counter harassment

June 01, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lankan police have revived their tourist police branch to better protect tourists in the face of increasing complaints of harassment and a sharp downturn in arrivals. It will re-establish a network of tourist police stations in key resort areas, senior superintendent Maxi Proctor, director of the new unit, said Friday.

Police want to ensure all tourists, local and foreign, enjoy a hassle free holiday and will work with the tourism authority and private hoteliers, he told a news conference.

Tourism minister Milinda Moragoda said the move is a step towards improving the quality of the island’s tourism product while it tries to market itself better.

Sri Lanka is trying to counter adverse publicity generated by the intensified ethnic conflict which has seen bombings and air raids by Tamil Tiger guerrillas, some in the capital Colombo in recent months.

Violence escalated with a rebel air strike on the main military air base which shares a runway with the sole international airport in March.

That attack and subsequent air raid warnings, which disrupted air traffic and tourist travel, prompted the government to close the airport at night.