Dutch writer/publisher on a mission to promote Sri Lankan tourism and investments

A Dutch writer and publisher who first visited Sri Lanka about three years ago is now assisting tourist authorities in the western province to develop a good tourist product and also engaged in writing a book on architecture that would explain the country’s ancient irrigation and cultivation systems.

Interest in the ancient farming systems came after a visit to Anuradhapura. “There is so much of peace and tranquility in the sacred city of Anuradhapura. I have never had such an experience in my life (before),” noted Tom E.Tielrooij, in an interview with the Business Times.

In Anuradhapura, he visited a Buddhist temple where a monk explained the irrigation system and how water was conserved for cultivation. The technique has a water purification system that even puzzled engineers visiting from the Netherlands, he recalled.

The Dutch writer, who has made Sri Lanka his home having married here, is involved in many projects including the promotion of investment and tourism.

It was the Sri Lankan ambassador in Hague B. Athauda, during a meeting there, who persuaded him to visit the country to publish articles on tourism and development for the interest of Dutch people who ruled Sri Lanka several centuries ago.

The ambassador told Mr. Tielrooij that he could meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa who would explain to him about various development projects the country had embarked upon in recent years. Visiting Sri Lanka in 2011 he met the President who explained to him in detail about future infrastructure projects that are in the pipeline such as housing for the poor, road construction, etc.

He said that though he wrote several articles to Dutch newspapers about Sri Lanka’s development, the editors did not show much enthusiasm to publish them. “They simply did not believe what I wrote,” he said.

Mr. Tielrooij recalled an unforgettable incident in Galle in 2011 when an old man with some medals pined on his coat grabbed him by his hand and never let him go for nearly two and a half hours. “He was an impressive old man who talked about Dutch history and I learnt a great deal from him. I hardly knew about the Dutch history in Sri Lanka and was a bit embarrassed. My driver was in a mighty hurry to visit other places of interest as well such as the lighthouse, etc but this old man wouldn’t simply let me go,” he recalled.

The Sri Lankan had said that around 500 Dutch words had seeped into the Sinhala language vocabulary and there were 16,000 Dutch ships that sailed to Sri Lanka centuries ago. The ships sailed right up to the plantations picked up cinnamon and other spices needed in the Netherland through an extensive network of canals the Dutch built those days. “Having met this remarkable old man I was able to dig into the Dutch history in Sri Lanka,” he added.

This time his mission is to promote and develop the “The Amazing Sri Lanka” magazine for tourism authorities. His other mission is find companies that fits into Sri Lanka’s businesses.

Another aspect that he is working on is organising medical tours from Europe as treatment costs much less here. He intends visiting local hospitals to make an in depth study of facilities available here. “The treatment is fantastic here. That’s what I heard from many persons who I associate with. Hospitals too are making investments to procure modern equipment and local doctors have been trained all over the world.”

[Via The Sunday Times]


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