Sri Lanka beefs up tourist hotspot security
AFP – Sri Lanka announced Friday it would establish new police posts and step up patrols at popular resorts after a spate of sexual attacks and violence targeting foreign tourists.
Police chief Pujith Jayasundara said 20 new stations would be established at holiday hotspots to protect visitors from touts and criminals, despite concerns his force was already overstretched.
"I wish we had more men and resources for this job, but we are making adjustments to our deployments to ensure better productivity," Jayasundara said.
He added the measures were decided after a Dutch tourist was sexually harassed and several other tourists were assaulted by a gang at a hotel in the southern resort town of Mirissa last week.
Five Israeli tourists were beaten up in the same area this week and 14 men have been arrested over the two incidents, police said.
Local media reports have catalogued several sexual harassment complaints by foreign tourists, with many reluctant to make official complaints for fear of drawn-out court proceedings.
Tourism Minister John Amaratunga appealed to victims to come forward and promised to cover the expenses of those who return to the island to help identify perpetrators.
The US State Department warned last year that sexual crimes against women were on the rise in Sri Lanka.
While most reported incidents involved non-physical acts such as cat calls and verbal harassment, there were several serious incidents of sexual threats, groping and rape.
"Incidents have also occurred at tourist beaches and smaller hotels in the Southern province," the travel advisory noted.
In 2014, a Sri Lankan court sentenced a local politician and three of his supporters to 20 years in jail for the 2011 murder of British tourist Khuram Shaikh on Christmas Eve and gang rape of his Russian partner.
Shaikh, a 32-year-old Red Cross worker, had tried to stop a brawl at a southern beach resort when a gang attacked and killed him.
His girlfriend, who was knocked unconscious in the brutal assault, returned to Sri Lanka in 2014 to give evidence and identified one of her attackers in court.