Minister of Tourism Harin Fernando issued an apology to the Maldives for a controversial statement made at an international travel and trade fair, claiming his comments were “taken out of context and misrepresented.”
“My statement made in Berlin regarding the beautiful Maldive islands has been taken out of context and been misrepresented on social media. I wish to clarify that we work together with our neighbour on tourism and would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused,” Fernando tweeted following the backlash he received for his comments made about the Maldives at the ITB Berlin in Germany.
Fernando addressing the forum in Germany said that Sri Lanka had much more to offer tourists in comparison to the Maldives. “I know lots of people go to the Maldives. Maldives just has the beach — I'm not criticizing — but you stay there for five days, you get fed up of it. That's it. You're just an island, you are caught up in one place,” he said. The Minister's comment attracted anger from Maldivians including politicians and influential figures.
“Sure if you cannot swim, dive or know what biodiversity is or have no interest in a civilization that has remained at peace for at least 4 millennia, yes, you will get bored in 5 days! Zero sum marketing is an own goal!” Ahmed Shaheed, a former UN Special Rapporteur responded on Twitter. Meanwhile, Maldives Parliamentarian Mohamed Shifau invited the Sri Lankan Tourism Minsiter to visit his country and experience world class hospitality. “I invite Sri Lankan tourism minister to Maldives and experience the world class hospitality and enjoy the white sand and rich blue sea with colorful coral gardens. Make sure you have enough time,” Shifau tweeted. Interestingly, during the three-day programme in Germany, Minister Fernando was photographed with the President of the Maldives Ibrahim Mohamad Solih, the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives. The Minister did not respond to several attempts by the Daily Mirror to further clarify his apology. (Kalani Kumarasinghe)
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