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Sri Lanka to lobby foreign missions over travel advisories

The Sri Lankan government had advised its ambassadors to lobby the UK, Canada and Australia over travel advisories that it feels "placed the country in poor light and threatnes to scare off foreign visitors", the Sunday Times reported. 

"These advisories fall short of diplomatic protocol that is enjoyed among friendly nations, and this should never be the case. We will be seeking to rectify this at the very earliest," the paper quoted a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying. 

 

UK

The UK's advisory highlighted the ongoing presence of the military in the North-East, with "continued heavy military presence" in Kilinochchi, Mullaittivu, Mannar and Vavuniya. 

"Since the end of the military conflict in May 2009, there has been an increase in nationalism including at times anti-western rhetoric. In the past, there have been protests against the British High Commission and other diplomatic premises. Although no protests have so far been directed at the British community more generally, you should be vigilant and avoid demonstrations."

"Avoid military bases and buildings, which were the most frequent target of attacks and which now maintain high security in many districts in the north and east."

Highlighting "an increasing number of reports of sexual offences including on minors", the advisory also drew attention to the fact that "there has been an increase in sexual attacks against females in tourist areas."

"Organised and armed gangs are known to operate in Sri Lanka and have been responsible for targeted kidnappings and violence. While there is no evidence to suggest that British nationals are at particular risk, gangs have been known to operate in tourist areas. A British national was killed during a violent attack by a gang in a tourist resort in December 2011."

"The Sri Lankan justice system can be very slow," the advisory added. 

Canada 

"The Sri Lankan military continues to maintain a strong presence in the North and East, including the Jaffna Peninsula. Military roadblocks and checkpoints may be encountered when travelling in the region."

"Some Canadians of Tamil origin report encountering difficulties, including arrest or detention, during screening and security operations. Ensure that you carry proper identification at all times."

"Exercise a high degree of caution at all times, monitor local developments via local news reports and follow the advice of local authorities."

"Violent crime occurs, including harassment and assault cases aimed at Western foreigners. Foreigners have been targeted in incidents of drink spiking, often combined with sexual assault or theft."

Australia

"Some security forces maintain a visible presence, particularly in the northern and eastern provinces. Military and police checkpoints can be established and road closures can occur without warning. The security forces have wide-ranging powers, including the authority to impose curfews, detain without charge for extended periods of time and to search individuals, vehicles, residences and commercial premises. Comply with instructions issued by security personnel and carry proof of identification, such as your passport, at all times."

"The Prevention of Terrorism Act remains in place and permits prolonged detention without charge or trial. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Sri Lankan heritage have been detained on occasion by Sri Lankan Police or security forces. Australians are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times and to ask to contact the Australian High Commission if detained."

"Northern Province: There continues to be a presence of military and security forces in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, including Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Jaffna Districts. Travel restrictions for foreigners may be applied without notice. Marked and unmarked minefields and unexploded ordnance remain in some areas. Stay on main roads, pay close attention to signs warning of the dangers from landmines and seek the advice of local authorities concerning the location of unsafe areas."

"Eastern Province: While most of the Eastern Province has been cleared of landmines and unexploded ordnance, some isolated areas are yet to be cleared. If travelling in the Eastern Province, stay on main roads and pay close attention to signs warning of danger from landmines. Travel restrictions for foreigners may be applied without notice. Communal and inter-ethnic tensions have been high in the east in the past and isolated incidents of violence can occur with little warning."