International

Sri Lanka is 99% secure, Sirisena assures diplomats

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sri Lanka is “99%” secure, President Maithripala Sirisena told select Colombo-based diplomats on Monday, and urged countries to lift the travel ban imposed following the Easter attacks.

“He [Mr. Sirisena] thanked the international community for the cooperation and assistance provided to Sri Lanka at this time of need and urged them to continue to provide economic assistance and lift the travel advisories issued to tourists,” according to a statement issued by his office.

Mr. Sirisena, who met Ambassadors and High Commissioners of the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, United States, Germany, Australia and the European Union (EU) at his official residence, said that most of the terrorists and suspects linked to the bombings had been arrested and a huge quantity of explosives and weapons had been seized.

The appeal comes days after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe held a similar discussion with Colombo-based mission heads.

Tourism is a major contributor to Sri Lanka’s economy and the sector was picking up considerably in the first quarter of the year. The scenic island’s earnings from tourism rose to $4.4 billion in 2018. However, the sector has taken a major beating after the Easter serial blasts in which 258 people, including over 40 foreigners, died.

Hotels across the island are offering big discounts to make up for poor occupancy. Authorities estimate a 50% drop in tourist arrivals in the next couple of months, Reuters had earlier reported.

Several countries, including the United States, India and China, had issued travel advisories to potential tourists. In its advisory issued on April 27, the Ministry of External Affairs advised Indian nationals “not to undertake non-essential travel”. The advisory is still in effect, as are the travel restrictions imposed by Western countries. However, China relaxed its travel advisory last week, modifying one that told tourists “do not travel”, to “be cautious”.

Following the move, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said in a tweet: “I thank China for being the first nation to positively revise its travel advisory on Sri Lanka, reflecting how our nation is recovering from the crisis. We can achieve much progress if all leaders come together without seeking political advantage or inciting communal divisions.”

Over a month after the deadly Easter bombings, troops continue to conduct search operations in different parts of the island. While Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is said to have nearly completed probing the incident — about 70 people were arrested — police and the troops continue to arrest individuals who, they suspect, may have been linked to the terror network.

Investigators have said two radical Islamist organisations in the island were behind the attacks, that IS too claimed later.

Meanwhile, Muslim politicians have appealed to Mr. Sirisena to release “innocent” persons in custody. A delegation that included Cabinet Ministers Rauff Hakeem and Rishad Bathiudeen and prominent Muslim legislators, met the President on Saturday, and pointed to apparently arbitrary arrests of some persons from the Muslim community.

Some were arrested for having in their possession copies of the Koran, Arabic literature and Arabic newspapers. The delegation pointed out that security officials, “lacked sufficient knowledge about the nature of these documents”, and hence made the arrests, according to a statement from the group.


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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 5:56:34 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lanka-is-99-secure-sirisena-assures-diplomats/article27266749.ece