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Sri Lanka new govt lifts travel ban on foreigners

Jan 17, 2015 06:27 AM GMT+0530 | 3 Comment(s)

NORTHERN CULTURE:  Sri Lanka's north has a rich cultural and religious tradition. Pictured here are devotees at a shrine in Jaffna's Kachchathivu island.

COLOMBO (AFP) Sri Lanka's new government Friday announced lifting a ban on foreign nationals visiting to the island's former war zones and scrapped an economic embargo on minority Tamil regions.

President Maithripala Sirisena, just a week after taking office, removed the travel ban introduced by his predecessor three months ago, the defence ministry said.

"Since there is no war situation in the country and the life of the community is normal, it was decided to remove restrictions imposed on foreigners," the ministry said in a statement.

It said a ban on transporting unspecified goods to the minority Tamil- dominated Northern province, of which Jaffna is the capital, was also lifted with immediate effect.

An economic embargo on the Eastern province too was remove, said the statement issued by defence ministry spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya.

The same officer had in October declared that travel restrictions were imposed following information that "foreigners are trying to cause discord among ethnic communities."

"When there's a tremendous threat like that to our national security, we can't just wait. We have to take action," Wanigasooriya said in October. The restrictions applied to foreign journalists too.

But the current government argued then, when in opposition, that the ban was to prevent Sri Lankan Tamils holding foreign passports from visiting the region to campaign against former leader Mahinda Rajapakse.

Rajapakse's administration had also accused Colombo-based diplomatic missions as well as foreigners of trying to collect testimony from survivors to support allegations of rights abuses by security forces during the civil war which ended in 2009.

Rajapakse had refused to cooperate with a probe ordered by the UN Human Rights Council and had insisted that he will not allow foreign investigators to probe allegations that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by his troops in the final months of fighting.

Since the end of fighting in 2009, no attacks have been blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels, who at the height of their power controlled a third of the country's territory.

The UN has estimated up to 100,000 people may have been killed in the separatist conflict between 1972 and 2009.


 

3 Comments

  1. Fazzal January 17, 02:52 AM

    It's a very good move as a SriLankans we don't need a country within a country,,who ever come in to Srilanka it's the duty of immigration officer to verifying the reason for the travel from the grassroots you can find out the purpose of the journey,also should keep a extra vigilant on war tone areas as a obligation of the countries national security.this will bring all of us hearts and minds reflexion on the issue.its dosnt mean surpress our own citizens a slaves,,we got to believe in humanity,, this would solve half of our issues.help us to help you attitude,,hope we all enjoy the real democracy under new goverment good luck people.

  2. par January 17, 10:10 AM

    What is written is correct.The real reasons for the travel restriction was to prevent foreign journalist and tamils with foreign passports.It all started with the Canadian MP who had a tamil origin visiting Jaffna.The restriction and embargo on preventing dangerous items entering the north was just a cover up and a farce. Truly the previous government wanted to prevent press freedom and freedom of movement for selfish motives

  3. MHA January 17, 08:00 AM

    Its great that travel restrictions are lifted but this article falsely represents so much of the situation, is biased and smacks more of propaganda messages then news. Freedom of the press demands the truth as well.

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