Laura Davies » Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Laura Davies

Former Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Part of UK in Sri Lanka

11th August 2015 Colombo, Sri Lanka

Outreach in Galle

I spent this weekend on the coast near Galle, an immediate reminder of what a wonderful place Sri Lanka is to live and work.


But though pleasure and leisure kept me there, it was work that took me.

I’ve written recently about how our Consular team support British tourists in distress. On Friday, the team and I spent time with a few of the 5,000 long term British residents in Sri Lanka. Particularly on the South Coast, many are involved in tourism, running the kind of small hotels and guest villas that keep Sri Lanka’s tourism figures booming and spread its economic dividends deep into the community.  DSC03642But Sri Lanka’s property laws are complex and difficult to navigate, especially for foreigners.  We can’t offer legal advice, but we can – and did on Friday – set up opportunities for British nationals to speak to legal experts. If you are a British national thinking of buying property in Sri Lanka, please make sure you take independent legal advice and engage a lawyer to act on your behalf. A list of local lawyers can be found on the High Commission website.

I then visited a small project the High Commission has supported for some years, the Manacare Hopes and Dreams village. Run by British long term resident Joy Butler, the Manacare centre spreads not just economic benefits, but also social and medical support into a poor community.  Set up in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, the project has provided employment for a devastated village, and stability and security for traumatised individuals.  Its backbone is very small scale manufacturing, mostly of handmade soap and table linen. Brilliantly, the products are mostly destined for the hotel industry, a demonstration of the trickle down benefits of tourism.

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The centre also provides physiotherapy and hydrotherapy for the severely disabled, including many who suffer from cerebral palsy, as well as child care which lets women get back into employment, and activities to give young people a positive social focus. It increasingly offers residential basic job skills training too, to disadvantaged women from across the island.

Days like these remind me of the great breadth of the UK – Sri Lanka relationship, fuelled by the richness of our people to people links.

For more on the BHC’s consular work, read Who you gonna call? Consular services in Colombo and Road to recovery. There are more stories of long term British response to the devastation wrought by the Tsunami in Harrow School’s Return to Sri LankaTen years of the Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming ProjectPiyumi’s Story etc. Visitors to Sri Lanka should also be aware of FCO travel advice.