Political hooliganism that devastated Doering
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 November 2006.
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 Road, Marawila.
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 tears.
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 grounds.
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 memories.
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 man.’
“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 mind.
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.
Concerned about employees
“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 Doering.
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 – SSPKularatna
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.
“We are not involved” – Minister Jayashritha Tissera
Minister Jayashritha 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 ‘Duminda.’
“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.