The burnt interior (inset) Dietmar
Doering - in shock
By Ranee Mohamed
Dietmar Doering (PhD) is a
learned man. A lecturer in political and
social sciences back home in Germany, he is
an academic admired in his own land and in
Sri Lanka too. So much so that he was
awarded a doctorate by none other than First
Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse herself, in
But there are still things
that happen in Sri Lanka that Dr. Dietmar
Doering cannot understand. Like the dark
deeds of December 4, when approximately 14
machete and sword wielding men rampaged his
properties - the Capricorn Beach Hotel which
functions under the same roof as the
Aquarius Sports Resort situated on Beach
And as the crime involving a
politician's driver and his gangs hit the
international media, there are telephone
calls from Switzerland, Germany and other
lands trying to comfort Doering in this the
worst time of his life.
Stood the test of time
"I have been here during the
1983 riots when Colombo was burning, I was
here during the attack on the airport and
also during the tsunami," said Doering. Yet
nothing made him leave Sri Lanka.
"I built this hotel, room by
room, section by section. It has not been
easy," said a heartbroken Doering who had
only a land with a few coconut trees when he
took over the property.
"I came to Sri Lanka when
Nanda Mathew, the sports minister at that
time came to Germany and invited me to come
to Sri Lanka and be the national table
tennis coach. It was in 1981. When I first
set foot in this country, I could not fathom
why there was no autumn or winter. Sri Lanka
was blessed with a summer of 365 days. I
fell in love with this country," recalled
Doering, as his eyes glistened with unshed
It is said that when love and
skill work together one can expect a
masterpiece. And as the years flew by, this
sportsman truly did build a masterpiece.
Today, the Aquarius Sports Resort has the
only indoor tennis stadium. It also
hasbasketball, netball and badminton courts,
table tennis, and football and cricket
And it is not just the space
for sports that Dr. Dietmar Doering has
created in Sri Lanka. In keeping with the
sole purpose of building this sports hotel,
which is to house the German players and
teams that come here, Doering extended his
strong hand to help budding sportsmen and
women in Sri Lanka. Infact Doering was
instrumental in getting for Sri Lanka her
first propeq table tennis table, a container
load of which was handed over to the Sri
Lanka Table Tennis Association.
Not only have over 5000
German sportspeople come here to stay, but
in a period of 10 years, Dietmar Doering has
been responsible for ensuring that over 10
Sri Lankan teams have visited Germany for
stays lasting three to four weeks to play
friendly matches with Germany.
It is because of Dietmar
Doering's perseverance that 30 Sri Lankan
schools, national and mercantile teams have
all visited Germany for friendly matches.
Such friendliness extended down the years,
so much so that great friendships were built
and a great number of matches played.
As founder and CEO, Asian
German Sports Exchange Programme (AGSEP), he
was more involved in promoting unity through
sports. But he did not forget the love of
his life, the hotel he built. Thus he came
to the hotel, yet entrusted its day to day
work to his able managers.
The first assault
Yet what happened on November
24 (Saturday) could not be handled by any
manager in any hotel, anywhere in Sri Lanka.
On this Poya day,a local party had come to
the Capricorn Beach Hotel to spend some time
in the night. The Capricorn Beach Hotel had
been leased by Dietmar Doering to a local.
Yet legally they were one, operating however
as two hotels.
The group had included the
personal driver of apolitician of the area.
It is learnt that there had been a dispute
regarding the bill (a sum amounting to
approximately Rs. 2,000).
The bill had been settled,
although the staff had reported that the
payment was not made 'in a good mood.'
Thereafter some people had
come to the place and had started a fight
resulting in some of the people being
hospitalised with stab injuries. Though it
was a Poya day, the group who had entered
had been drunk. Smashing the windows and
wreaking havoc, the unmasked men wielding
knives and batons had then smashed the
vehicles parked nearby and left. It is also
learnt that thereafter they had gone to
Marawila town and just opposite the hospital
they had smashed two shops, one a
telecommunication centre and another a shop
selling electrical items including
refrigerators and household appliances which
had been gutted to the ground.
However, it is learnt that
the dispute was settled in an amazing
manner,being that no payment will be made
for the damages caused amounting to
approximately Rs.15 million - that a
settlement be made with the hotel paying
Rs.300,000 to one of the assailants who was
injured when he launched the attack. Reports
have also surfaced that this injured
assailant was allegedly seen in the company
of Minister Jayashritha Tissera. But as the
matter ended there, it was relegated tobad
All's well that ends well,
but not the party that had leased the hotel.
Being a married man, a father of two
children, he had come to Dietmar Doering and
told him that financially he was a 'finished
"He told us that he wants to
give the hotel back to us," said Doering.
Night of horror
Thereafter life at the hotel
continued. December 1, 2 and 3 breezed in
and out. And on December 4 came the bolt
from the dark.
"I received a telephone call
at about 2 a.m. from an employee who said
that an armed gang had comeand smashed some
of the rooms and set fire to the hotel. They
had threatened the security and gone on a
wild rampage. After setting fire to the
hotel the machete and sword wielding ganghad
happily walked along the beach and
disappeared," said Doering.
Walking past the 10 rooms
where the unwelcome guests had wreaked havoc
causes a stirring in the heart not just for
Doering but for all. What were once
mattresses now lie on the floor, with black
coir jutting out from all over. There are
only 10 pieces left of the 10 mattresses.
What once were sleek bathroomsnow look like
the inside of a fireplace. The lampshades
lie twisted and burnt and the planks of the
beds are now but bits of firewood.
Ten rooms have been engulfed
by the fires of wrath. Room No's 128, 129,
130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 138, 139 will
never be occupied again for fury has left
its lifelong marks here.
Deitmer Doering, walks in. He
sighs, he cries. There is silence
everywhere. Even the authorities seem as
silent as the evil doers.The estimated
damage due to the secondattack was said to
be Rs. 9 million.
Villagers say that they know
the gang; that the gang walks free. In fact,
the gang is said to be sitting on boulders
and under trees barely a stone's throw away
from this hotel.
Such is the power ofpolitics
here in Sri Lanka.
These are the supporters of
politicians who get them the votes. But
Doering says that when the common manat home
sees what these gangs do, then the
politicians lose their votes.
"These gangs are like ghosts
in a bottle. In Germany there is a saying
that when you have a ghost in a bottle and
that ghost get outs, even the owner does not
know what the ghosts do," said Doering,
referring to the many ghosts in the many
bottles of the politicians in Sri Lanka.
Doering has given so
much to Sri Lanka, and his employees
have been working for him for nine
to 15 years.
"Why did they do this
to him?" asks his housekeeper,
Sagarica who has been working with
Doering for nine years. "He has
never harmed anyone. He has helped
all the villagers. During Christmas
he gives gifts to all the children
in the area. Everyone in this hotel
is shocked by what has happened to
our master. He is such a good man,"
cries Sagarica. "I am so ashamed
that our own Sri Lankans have done
this to him," she sobs.
The gardener who has
been working here for 13 years says
he is ashamed too. So ashamed that
he cannot look at his master in the
eye. "How can our Sri Lankans do
this to such a good man?" he asks.
Empathy and sympathy
Ironically, the whole
village of Marawila seems to be with
Dietmar Doering during his time of
sadness. "I have received over 500
telephone calls. Recently, I bought
a small Rottweiler pup and even the
person from whom I bought the pup
called me," said Doering who is
consoled with the concern.
"Sports enable men
and women to accept defeat. One
would rarely find a sportsperson
resorting to violence. Sports people
are strong, they can face any
situation" said this sportsman, as
he pondered about the foul play
meted out to him.
Sadly today even his
sports and his sporty mind cannot
soothe him. Nothing can console
Dietmar Doering. His strong physique
slouches. He says he is devastated
and that he has got worries on his
Dr. Dietmar Doering
sits in a room surrounded by various
files about tsunami help, Mullaitivu
and Nilaveli social service projects
to help children. Sadly there seems
to be no tangible help coming his
way in this crisis which he
considers a personal one.
"As a businessman, I
know I cannot continue. None of this
has been insured. But as a human
being, when I think of my workers
who have been working with me for
decades, I ask myself how can I go?
My workers are over 50 now and it is
not easy for them to find jobs.
Besides, tourism in Sri Lanka is
down right now. How can they get
jobs? What will happen to my people,
my employees?" lamented Dietmar
We all try to pick up
the pieces and continue with life
when misfortune strikes. But Dietmar
Doering has nothing to pick up. As
he watches the ashes of his hotel
flying in the sea breeze, he sees a
double heartache in the horizon as
he packs his bags to go back to
Germany, leaving Sri Lanka behind.
Investigations underway -
SSP L.G. Kularatna
who is directing investigations into
this casewhen contacted by The
Sunday Leader said that he has sent
two teams to investigate this matter
and that no arrests have yet been
made. He went on to say that some
officers of the Intelligence Units
have also been detailed to make
their own investigations.
are not involved" - Minister
Tissera whose name has surfaced in
this fiasco owing to his personal
driver, Duminda, being present at
the scene of the initial violence,
when contacted by The Sunday Leader
said that none of his security
personnel or his drivers were
involved in the incidents and that
he does not know anyone by the name
"Of course my driver
was present on the day of the
initial 'fight.' He has only tried
to settle the dispute. But we
certainly do not know anything about
what happened thereafter," he said.
Curse of being a people
of a lesser god
Upcountry detainees released in
the presence of police officers
By Arthur Wamanan and
The fear that gripped the
Tamil community in Colombo had only just
begun to wane after a decline in the number
of abductions when the indiscriminate
arrests of over 2000 Tamils following the
twin bombs in the city and a suburb, shook
them to the core.
The cordon and search
operations carried out last week in the city
and the suburbs came as a surprise not only
to the Tamils, but to people of other
ethnicities as well.
The Tamils in the capital
faced similar problems when bomb explosions
were a part and parcel of Colombo life a few
The Tamils were therefore to
heave a sigh of relief when the Ceasefire
Agreement was signed five years back. And a
return now to the days of horror where an
average Tamil would spend time at police
stations to get themselves registered for
police reports, has caused a despondency
never before seen.
Last week's roundups and
indiscriminate arrests have created fear not
only among those who were arrested and
packed off to the Boossa camp in Galle, but
also every Tamil citizen who had come from
the north east.
While several human rights
activists raised concern over the arrests
and detention of Tamils, the government
claimed it was not targeting any particular
community and the operations were merely for
the protection of all citizens.
However, these actions by the
government purportedly to safeguard the city
of Colombo and its people has only resulted
in a large number of panic stricken Tamil
parents and relatives from the north and
upcountry rushing to Colombo to search for
their loved ones and make sure they were
M. Gnanapragasam was one of
those anxious parents who had to come to
Colombo from Mannar when he heard that his
son was taken into custody.
The 57 year-old father from
Murunkan, Mannar was waiting for his son,
Anthony Lonson Gnanapragasam (22) who had
come to Sri Lanka from Malaysia.
"He has been there for the
last six months and had arrived in Sri Lanka
the previous day," Gnanapragasam said.
He added that his son had
arrived with two other friends and the
police had arrested two of them. "His friend
who was not arrested phoned us as soon as
this happened," he said.
Anthony Gnanapragasam was
arrested when he was on his way to
Gunasinghapura bus terminal to board a bus
to Mannar to visit his family.
Gnanapragasam told The Sunday
Leader his son possessed all the necessary
documentation that a Tamil is required to
possess in case the police checked him.
"He had his national ID and
his passport. I don't know why he was
arrested," the father said.
His search for the
whereabouts of his son was also futile, as
he could not be traced anywhere.
Meanwhile religious workers
were trying to help put families back
together. Robina Paulin, is a Sister at the
Holy Cross Church, Mannar. She, together
with another person from the church had
rushed to the Boossa camp, scoured the
premises at the Welikada prison, and other
likely areas, to no avail.
"We could not locate Anthony
anywhere. However, we are continuing to look
for him," she told The Sunday Leader.
Says Gnanapragasam, "My main
worry is that we will be unable to find him
though we know he has been arrested by the
security forces. All I want to know is
whether he is doing alright. I will do
anything to get him out when I know where he
is," Gnanapragasam added.
Gnanapragasam is not alone.
His story unfortunately resonates among
hundreds of other Tamils now in a desperate
search for their kith and kin.
Certainly this issue brings
into sharp focus the veracity of the
government's claims as to the numbers
Chief Government Whip,
Minister Fernandopulle said in parliament on
Tuesday that 2184 persons were arrested and
1800 were released. However on the same day
at a press briefing, the Minister was to
change his calculations and state that more
than 2500 were arrested and around 2300 had
"We don't know how many have
been arrested and whether my son has been
taken anywhere else," Gnanapragasam said.
Convener, Civil Monitoring
Commission, (CMC), Mano Ganesan told The
Sunday Leader that government statistics on
the number of persons arrested were
"The figures given by
Minister Fernandopulle in parliament were
different from what he said at the press
briefing on the same day. Likewise, the
Human Rights Ministry has a different number
and the police have a different number," he
He said the parents whose
children were arrested were feeling helpless
as many people had gone missing during the
Seventeen Tamils from the
upcountry were released last Thursday
reducing the number in custody to 185.
Minister Fernandopulle last
week also said that 100 of the 185 were
under detention orders and that some of them
had connections with the LTTE.
Gnanapragasam told The Sunday
Leader his son had been in Malaysia for six
months and had been working in a shop. "He
was never involved in any illegal
activities," he said.
Gnanapragasam also said that
his anxiety about his son was similar to
that of a parent whose son was abducted. "I
don't know where he is," he said.
The fact that Anthony
Gnanapragasam could not be located anywhere
has also led to widespread speculation that
some of the Tamils had been abducted during
"I have my doubts. I think
that certain people used this opportunity to
abduct some people. The government has paved
the way for them to do this," said Ganesan.
Ganesan called upon the
police to release the names of those who
were arrested, detained and those released.
"The government has said that
some of those arrested have been detained,
and others discharged. This information is
only in numbers. We call upon the police to
immediately release the names and other
details of those who have been arrested,
discharged and still detained to avoid
confusion among the family members."
While Gnanapra-gasam was
worried about his son's whereabouts, Selvam
Leelawathi was in a better position as she
had met her son, Selvam Thushara in Boossa.
He was taken by the security
forces from a lodge in Kotahena where he had
stayed with his mother for the last one and
a half years.
"We are from Ariyalai, Jaffna.
I came here with my son to send him abroad.
He had all the necessary documents,
including the police report. I don't know
why he was arrested," she said.
She added that she was
relieved to see her son in Boossa.
"But I prefer that he is with
me. I want to know that he is alright. I
don't care whether he goes abroad or not. He
has respiratory problems at nights. I want
to be near him," she said.
Recalling past horror
In June this year Tamils from
the north and upcountry were targeted when
over 300 were evicted from lodges in and
around Colombo and unceremoniously packed
into buses and deported to the north.
However, they were eventually brought back
to Colombo following severe opposition from
human rights activists.
The government has
continuously stated that Tamils were never a
target. However, the Tamils who have been
living in Colombo for many years have
started to panic following the latest action
taken by the government, purportedly on
Meanwhile, some of the
upcountry Tamils who were arrested last week
were released on Thursday. Politicians
representing the upcountry had gone to
Boossa and secured the release of these
Vocational Training Deputy
Minister, P. Radhakrishnan told The Sunday
Leader that there are still several
upcountry youth in detention.
"I'm not sure of the exact
number released. However, there are some
more under detention," he said.
CWC/CPA file action
The CWC had also complained
to the Supreme Court against last week's
mass arrest of Tamil persons.
The CWC in its petition to
courts had stated that the arrests had taken
place in an irresponsible manner, causing
great inconvenience and humiliation.
The Centre for Policy
Alternatives (CPA) also filed a petition at
the Supreme Court on December 4 over what
they claim to be arbitrary arrests and
detention of persons on grounds of
The CPA said that the
government specifically targeted the Tamil
community in an unlawful manner and did not
keep the Human Rights Commission informed of
the arrests, let alone the families of most
taken into custody.
In a statement to The Sunday
Leader, the CPA charged, "The camp that
these people were sent to was overcrowded
and ill equipped which has led to cruel and
inhumane treatment. By sending so many
people to a place like this, this is not the
first time that Tamil people have been
persecuted in this manner," referring to the
eviction of Tamils in June.
The CPA added that the mass
arrests were a violation of human rights,
and that they have received reports from
organisations monitoring the situation at
Boossa, and from people who have been
released from the camp, that the conditions
were poor to say the least.
The CPA went on to say that
despite the international community, human
rights groups and the media outcry over the
arrests, it is now up to the Supreme Court
to look into the matter.
The sudden roundups and
search cordons have not only affected the
Tamils who had arrived recently from the
north or the hill country, but also those
who have been living in Colombo for many
These actions in the name of
security measures have only resulted in the
movements of Tamils being restricted.
The government established
the Boossa detention camp 1971 to house
suspects arrested following the first
insurrection by the JVP.
Apart from being notorious
for the detention of suspects in the second
insurrection of the JVP, in 1987, many Tamil
youths were arrested in the north east and
sent to Boossa. Despite rumours of the
detention camp being used as a torture
chamber to interrogate Tamil civilians, none
of these rumours have been substantiated
according to UNP MP, John Amaratunge.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader the former
interior minister said, "There has been talk
of torture, but no one can be sure at the
Amaratunge added that the
camp has been used many times in the past as
a detention centre following mass arrests.
However, he stated that human rights of the
detainees are violated due to the poor
facilities at the camp.
Reports have emerged that
detainees are led out at gun point and spend
six minutes in the latrines with no option
other than defecating and urinating into a
gutter deep inside the camp which overflows.
Officials remain tight lipped
Chief Government Whip,
Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle stated at a
media briefing last week that the cordon and
search operations carried out by the
security forces did not target any
Minister Fernandopulle stated
that the he cannot divulge what measures
will be carried out in the future.
"How can we tell? These
operations are carried out suddenly," he
told reporters last week.
The government however has
stated that the Tamils were never a target
when carrying out search operations.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Military
Spokesperson Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said
that there were Sinhalese and Muslims among
those arrested but government officials
remained tight lipped when questioned about
the treatment of those taken in.