Sri Lanka hit with further travel advisories amid constitutional crisis

ECONOMYNEXT- Australia and Canada have also issued travel advisories for Sri Lanka following a constitutional crisis, joining the US and UK which have given warnings for their citizens when visiting Sri Lanka.

"There is an increased likelihood of large protests and demonstrations in Sri Lanka due to political instability following the President’s dismissal of the Prime Minister on 26 October," the Australian government said on Tuesday.

Although making up only 4.5 percent of  tourist arrivals, Australia is one of Sri Lanka’s rising markets.

In the first nine months of this year, 78,756 Australians arrived in the island, recording a growth of 45 percent. SriLankan Airlines starting a direct flight to Australia, and a word of mouth trend in the market of switching from Bali to Sri Lanka are responsible for the growth.

Canada too issued a travel advisory on Tuesday.

"The president of Sri Lanka moved to dismiss the prime minister, which may lead to a period of political instability. Demonstrations could occur," the Canadian government said.

They follow the UK and US governments which had issued travel advisories a day earlier, with largely similar wording.

The UK has been Sri Lanka’s traditionally largest market over the past five decades, ever since formal tourism started in the 1960s, although India and China have gradually pushed the UK down to the third spot over the past decade.

China and India are yet to issue travel warnings on Sri Lanka, although diplomats from both countries have been reported attending meetings with the two main political parties.

President Maithripala Sirisena, from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party had sacked United National Party’s Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, dissolved the cabinet and prorogued parliament while appointing SLFP’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as premier with a  new set of ministers.

Sri Lanka Speaker of the Parliament Karu Jayasuriya had written to President Sirisena to convene parliament immediately to decide which individual commanded the confidence of the house, or else risk violence as people take to the streets.

One death tied to the crisis was reported last weekend, after Arjuna Ranatunga, Petroleum Minister under the Wickremesinghe cabinet, was surrounded by a mob and a bodyguard opened fire to protect him.

A massive protest with an attendance of around 25,000 had taken place on Tuesday in the country’s capital, supporting Wickremesinghe, as well as good governance and democracy.

The travel advisories come just days after Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka the world’s most attractive destination to travel to in 2019. (Colombo/Oct31/2018)