Indians protesting against Lankans at hotel arrested

Even as the attack on Sri Lankan tourists in Thanjavur two days back came in for widespread condemnation, a group of cadres of Naam Tamilar Katchi staged a protest in front of a private hotel in Madurai on Thursday alleging that Sri Lankans were employed there in large numbers.

The protestors also attempted to barge into the hotel but were arrested by the police. Meanwhile, the hotel authorities had clarified that only one Sri Lankan was employed by them and he was a Tamil and not a Sinhala. “Neranjan Moraes, working in Heritage Madurai hotel as general manager is a Tamil from Sri Lanka. He is not a Sinhala. There is no other Sri Lankan working in our property,” said Rukmini Thiagarajan, executive director of Heritage Madurai in a statement. But the protest left the hotel authorities perturbed.

The cadres of the film director Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi assembled in front of the hotel in the morning and demanded the authorities to send away the Sri Lankan employees. They alleged that about a dozen Sinhalese were employed in the hotel and raised slogans against them. Attempts by hotel authorities to pacify the protestors failed and they sought the help of police who arrested the protestors.

Apprehensive that the attacks and protests against the Sri Lankan visitors would harm relations with the island nation, the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TNurged that image and hospitality of Tamil Nadu people should not be allowed to be tarnished by “mindless harassment of foreign tourists.”

“Bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka is about five billion US dollars and export to Sri Lanka is eight times more than import. India is among the four big investors in Sri Lanka to the tune of USD 500 million, out of which Tamil Nadu holds a large share. Tamil Nadu has also emerged second priority destination for tourists from Lanka,” said S Rethinavelu, senior president of TNCCI and N Jegatheesan, president in a joint statement.

The trade bodies see the attacks as a grave threat to bilateral relations, particularly at a time when a direct flight from Madurai to Colombo is set to commence from September 20. “TNCCI is taking a 50-member trade delegation on the first flight to Colombo to meet our counterparts to improve bilateral trade and investment. On no account, tourism and pilgrimage traffic between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka should be disturbed,” the statement said.

TNCCI has also urged Sri Lankan government to withdraw the travel advisory issued to Lankan citizens on visiting Tamil Nadu.  (Times of India)