Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Travelers (especially women), operators and investors are faced with many obstacles when they become victims of crimes. Usually in the form of threats, harassment, extortion and intimidation. They also face an uphill struggle when trying to go to the police or take a case to court. Oftentimes they choose not to follow up on these cases and the perpetrators go free.
To alleviate this and rebuild trust, some shortfall areas need to be addressed.
Increase patrols of the Tourist Police in areas where most cases are reported (i.e. beach side) during peak season times. This way a regiment that is on the East coast during the peak season (June - Sept) can rotate to the South during its peak season (Nov - Feb).
Allow a system to revoke licenses from establishments where such cases of complaints have taken place. Suspend such operators from carrying out any tourist related activities until the issue has been addressed via an expedited court hearing. Any financial penalties need to be significant.
Request the Justice Department to instruct local courts to expedite any tourist complaint case. For example, in Thailand any complaint filed with the local police in connection with any visiting Tourist must be dealt with by a designated Tourist Court. In special sittings if needed, within 24 hrs. By doing so, memories are fresh, injuries if any also, witness's memory is vivid and everyone is present. That also has totally eliminated the backlog of cases, and fully improved the reputation and confidence in the minds of any visitor.
Crimes Against Tourists and Resident Expats
When a crime happens to a foreginer too often criminals escape without having to go to court as the victim leaves the country due to the end of holiday or being threatened against giving a statement in court.
A system should be developed to allow testimonials to be given even after the traveller leaves the country. For example, setting up a video call system through the relevant embassies and allowing the victims to safely return to their country but also be able to give further testimony to the case ensuring the criminals are brought to justice. This can be achieved through the Tourist Information & Safety Center (goal 8).
Harassment of Women
Arugam Bay and Sri Lanka in general has seen an alarming rise in the harassment of women. With 2 cases of rape that has occured in Arugam Bay since the beginning of the year and an incident of an elderly woman being raped in Beruwala (and perhaps more unreported), the word is spreading that Sri Lanka is not safe for women. The problem lies in the justice system failing to provide adequate protection for these women.
Typically an accuser must go to the police to make a statement and then be subjected to a humiliating medical examination at a public hospital. There are stories of women being further fondled or stared at in these examination rooms by male hospital staff. Then the victim must wait for a court date to take the perpetrator to court and almost always the perpetrator does not show up and goes into hiding. There needs to be a system in place with tourist police being trained specifically on how to handle sexual harassment cases. The prevailing attitude makes the victims feel shame when they need to be protected and encouraged to come forward and report cases. Women officers who are trained in being empathetic as well as being able to speak English would greatly benefit the situation.
There needs to be a specific unit in hospitals, also staffed by women, that are able to carry out an examination quickly, professionally and make the victim feel safe. An expedited process to bring perpetrators to court, ideally the next day. There needs to be harsh punishments given to these types of criminals. Too often they are let go after a small period in remand and feel empowered to act again. Regional tourist police offices are often understaffed and they are unable to patrol the areas they have under their overview. They need to have more agents available to them during peak seasons. Enlisting the help of the tri-forces in this would also utilize existing manpower in the area.
Additionally programs against harassment against women should be started in schools and perhaps sponsored by the tourism sector. This can be achieved through the Tourist Information Center proposed in Goal 8.
Crimes Against Investors and Business Operators
Many local businesses and foreign investors find themselves alone when facing local harassment issues. Foreign investors get coerced, sometimes physically intimidated and locals as well can fall prey to predator tactics of local gangs, corrupt operators and those looking for bribes. The Tourist Board should develop a hotline to accommodate and investigate these reports and assist in creating a criminal case to be submitted to the police as well as local courts.
This can be achieved through the Better Business Center proposed in Goal 8.