Sri Lanka ‘white party’ cancelled after backlash

Connie Queline

Sri Lanka ‘white party’ cancelled after backlash

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An organiser of a “white party” in Sri Lanka has apologised after the event sparked a backlash online.

The event’s advertisement specified a white dress code, but also had a line saying “Face control: White” – which was largely interpreted to mean the event was open only to white people.

An organiser later said the event was “a bad idea”, adding that it was meant to bring together expatriates.

The party, which was due to take place last Saturday, was cancelled.

Backlash against the event was swift, with many on social media calling it “disgusting” and “racist”.

“I know not all expats are like this… but this sort of thing should be stopped fast and stopped hard,” said one local restaurant owner.

“How dare they come to a brown country and ban the people of that country,” another social media user said on Facebook.

Writing on Instagram under the handle geo_ecstatic, a man who said he was an event organiser, said there was “no malice or racism” in planning the party.

“We wanted to meet expats who have been living here for a long time and love Sri Lanka. The team… supported me and a joint decision was made to quickly organise a party,” he said, adding that he has since had to leave the country after receiving a barrage of abuse and threats.

“I didn’t expect this to be such a sensitive moment for a huge number of people. I admit that it was a bad idea… and I understand that we created it ourselves out of our stupidity. I deeply apologise to everyone whose feelings were hurt.”

The event was due to be held in the Sarayka Lounge in the southern coastal town of Unawatuna. The venue later posted a statement saying the party had been cancelled, adding that its staff team ” did not conduct a thorough-enough check” and have “severed ties” with the event planners.

“We have never supported and will never support various racist statements or organisations,” they wrote.

The organiser as well as the owners of Sarayka Lounge are believed to be Russian citizens.

Rupasena Koswatta, president of an Unawatuna entrepreneurs’ association told BBC Sinhala many Russians have moved into Unawatuna, a coastal city just 5km (3.1mi) from Galle, in the last two years.

Many of the tourism businesses there are now owned by Russians in the area now known by many as “Little Moscow”.

The Russian Embassy in Colombo later released a statement saying it “strongly condemns all forms of racial discrimination and nationalism” and urged citizens residing on the island to follow its laws and respect local customs.

Later on Sunday, Sri Lanka said it had ended long-term tourist visa extensions for Russians and Ukrainians. More than 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have travelled to Sri Lanka since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to reports. But the country’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe later reportedly said the decision was made without prior Cabinet approval.

Additional reporting by BBC Sinhala

Related Topics

  • War in Ukraine
  • Asia
  • Sri Lanka

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