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Sunday May 19th, 2024

Sri Lanka tourist visa fees for SAARC citizens up 167-pct with VFS Global levy?

ECONOMYNEXT – Tourists from neighboring South Asian countries appear to the hardest hit with a shift of the country’s electronic travel authorization system to IVS-GBS and VFS Global, a private company.

Sri Lanka only charged 20 dollars from a SAARC visitor up to the shift to the private provider.

Based on the information disclosed online, SAARC visa fees have risen to 75 dollars with a gazetted fee going up to 35 dollars and 18.5 dollar additional fee charged by the private provider.

According to a notice on the website, which carries the government seal and is accessed through a link in the Department of Immigration portal, it is operated by IVS-GBS & VFS Global Group.

It is not clear why the private provider was chosen.

Related Sri Lanka jacks up tourist visa fees 50-pct, adds another charge to scrap existing ETA

Travel industry sources said they had not been consulted on the VFS Global linked cost increases and had taken up the issue with authorities and were awaiting a reply.

Low fees for SAARC citizens have a been Sri Lanka foreign policy strategy of regional integration.

In the ASEAN region, citizens of member countries can travel without any visa and all airports in the region have dedicated immigration counters for them.

Visas for other Asian nationals including those in ASEAN have gone up to from 50 to 75 dollars. With the IVS-GBS & VFS Global Group, levy the fee will go up to 93.5 dollars, of up 87 percent.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s Daily FT newspaper reported that another 7.27 dollar, ‘convenience fee’ not originally disclosed on the website was charged on top of the 18.5 dollar fee.

So called ‘hidden fees’ are problem in online transactions, according to observers.

If the hidden fee was not charged earlier, SAARC visas would be up 203 percent and ASEAN and other would be up 100 percent.

It is not for whose convenience the fee is charged.

Earlier an extra fee was charged for on-arrival visas issued physically at the airport, encouraging pre-arrival ETAs which helps speed up passenger processing at the airport.

The VFS Global levy and the visa fee hike comes as President Ranil Wickremesinghe pursues a strategy of greater integration with the ASEAN region.

ASEAN follows a strategy of drawing citizens into the country and getting them to spend in hotels and entertainment.

Sri Lanka travel agents were unaware of the new fees.

Sri Lanka is expecting 2.3 million tourists in 2024. At 18.5 dollars a person, the IVS-GBS & VFS Global Group would amount to 12.76 billion rupees over a 12-month period. (Colombo/Apr18/2024 – Updated with the full name of the companies listed on the copyright notice of the website)

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Sri Lanka seeks to draw youth into agri-entrepreneurship with 1.6bn funding

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has earmarked 1.6 billion rupees for the establishment of 160 model farms across the island, that are to be owned and operated by youth agri-entrepreneurs.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has taken steps to allocate 1,600 million rupees to establish 160 villages in 25 districts with 6 youth agri entrepreneurship villages in each district,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was quoted in a statement.

“Arrangements have been made to provide an amount of one million rupees to each village under the first phase.”

The Minister said the aim of the program is to attract youth to agriculture and to introduce them to new agricultural technology, so they could target local markets and exports.

Under the initiative vegetables, fruits, plantation crops, and fish are to be harvested, and livestock products are to be produced in the villages. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka Navy nabs fishermen engaged in illegal fishing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Navy apprehended eight persons engaged in illegal fishing in the seas off Ambalanpokkanei, Mullaitivu, Poduwakattu, and Trincomalee, this week.

“The operations also led to the seizure of 3 dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear employed for these illegal acts,” it said in a statement.

“The Sri Lanka Navy remains vigilant and conducts operations to combat illegal fishing in its sea and coastal areas, with a view to supporting legal fishing activities.”

The fishermen were engaging in light-coarse fishing and using unauthorized fishing nets.

They were intercepted by the SLNS Gotabaya and SLNS Walagamba of the Eastern Naval Command.

The individuals were identified as residents of Mullaitivu, Kuchchaveli and Poduwakattu, aged between 21 to 53 years.

The fishermen, dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear were handed over to the Assistant Directorate of Fisheries – Mullaitivu, and the Fisheries Inspector of Trincomalee for legal action, the Navy said. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Fifteen years after the end of the war, victims still await justice at Mullivaikkal: Amnesty

ECONOMYNEXT – Speaking at a commemoration marking the 15th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s internal armed conflict on 18 May 2009, which culminated in the brutal Mullivaikkal offensive where countless civilian lives were lost, Secretary General at Amnesty International Agnès Callamard said:

“Today’s anniversary is a grim reminder of the collective failure of the Sri Lankan authorities and the international community to deliver justice to the many victims of Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long internal armed conflict.

It is sobering to stand in the same place where, 15 years ago, countless civilian lives were lost during the last days of the war.

Ahead of this event, we have witnessed clampdown on the memory initiatives, including arrests, arbitrary detentions and deliberately skewed interpretations of the Tamil community’s attempts to remember their people lost to the war. Authorities must respect the space for victims to grieve, memorialise their loved ones and respect their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

UN investigations have found credible evidence of crimes under international law and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by those on both sides of the conflict, yet there has been little in the way of an independent or impartial national inquiry into such serious crimes.

Meanwhile, the families of those who were forcibly disappeared during the conflict have been left to search desperately for their loved ones. It is truly heartbreaking to hear from victims how long they have been demanding justice in vain.

The Sri Lankan government is best placed to provide answers to the victims, however numerous domestic mechanisms to establish accountability in the last 15 years have been mere window dressing.

The report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released earlier this week too reiterates the gaping deficits in Sri Lanka’s accountability initiatives that has contributed to impunity remaining deeply entrenched.

Tens of thousands of victims and their families continue to suffer in anguish as they await truth, justice, and reparations. We stand in solidarity with them here in Mullivaikkal today.”

Background:

During the internal armed conflict from 1983 to 2009, Sri Lankan government forces and their armed political affiliates committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and acts of torture against Tamils suspected of links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE also launched indiscriminate suicide attacks on civilian targets like buses and railway stations, assassinated politicians and critics, and forcibly recruited children as fighters.

Violations of international human rights and humanitarian law peaked in the final months of the conflict, most notably in May 2009 when some 300,000 displaced civilians were trapped between the warring parties.

It was at Mullivaikkal, a small village in Mullaitivu district in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, where the final offensive between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE took place, killing at least 40,000 civilians according to UN estimates.

Each year, on 18 May, a memorial event at Mullivaikkal brings together thousands of war-affected Tamils to commemorate those lost to the war and demand justice and accountability.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) this week released a report on accountability for enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
(Colombo/May18/2024)

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