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Sri Lanka lets Geoffrey Dobbs in after flag spat

Published on : 25 December 2013 02:48

Sri Lanka lets Geoffrey Dobbs in after flag spat

The Australian owner of one of the world’s most exclusive hotels has been given temporary permission to return to his home in Sri Lanka after being barred in a flag spat.

Sri Lanka officials were outraged after Geoffrey Dobbs flew the country’s flag upside down, apparently in retaliation for the Australian flag being flown upside down in the Galle region.

He was initially turned back at Colombo airport on Tuesday for the second time in five days.

But an immigration official said he had been granted a one-month temporary visa only minutes before he was due to be flown back to Thailand.

“He is being given a one-month visa to enter the country,” UG Udowita, the head of immigration at Colombo airport said.

“This will give him time to sort out his paper work,” Udowita said, without elaborating.

Mr Dobbs confirmed he had been told he could enter the country.

“I have just been told that I can go (into the country),” he said as he prepared to leave the transit area.

Provincial governor Kumari Balasuriya said earlier today that Mr Dobbs had been black-listed after flying four flags upside down before last month’s Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.

“He is a very undesirable person and we have decided to blacklist him and prevent him from entering the country.”

Mr Balasuriya said Mr Dobbs had deliberately flown the flags upside down after workmen in Galle had accidentally inverted an Australian flag.

The British-born Dobbs runs four luxury hotels in the Galle region.

His portfolio includes the private Taprobane Island, whose guests have included Sting and Kylie Minogue. It has been named one of the world’s 50 most romantic locations by Conde Nast Traveller magazine.

The Sri Lankan opposition has said the move to bar Dobbs is part of a strategy by the authorities to seize control of his hotels, a charge denied by Balasuriya.

A former publisher, Dobbs has organised the Galle Literary Festival since 2007. The event has drawn writers such as the novelist Joanna Trollope, playwright Tom Stoppard and the children’s author Michael Morpurgo. (

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