…immediate action taken to inform Ottawa
Sri Lanka has challenged a Canadian offer aimed at undermining ongoing efforts to attract tourists. Following the latest Canadian travel advisory for Sri Lanka issued on January 13, 2022, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the statement contained incorrect and outdated information that did not reflect the actual situation in Sri Lanka. As such, the Department has taken steps to inform Canadian authorities of the realities on the ground.
Here is the text of the statement: “There are erroneous references to the economic and security situation in the country as well as inaccurate information regarding the safety and security of female travelers and harassment of foreigners.
Sri Lanka has successfully overcome the immediate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now in a state of normalcy with all civil service, business and enterprise, and education activities functioning normally without discontinuation, in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The national inoculation program has been praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and nearly 90% of the eligible population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A campaign has been launched to provide the booster dose to the population over 20 years of age.
Despite the pandemic, Sri Lanka has received several international accolades in the tourism industry, including CNN’s “Where to Travel in 2022”; the Global Wellness Institute; Conde Nast Traveler 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards plus other accolades received previously in 2019 from Lonely Planet and National Geographic Travel. The GoSL looks forward to more tourists visiting Sri Lanka from Canada and beyond with the gradual normalization of travel globally.
It is important to note that even though Sri Lanka’s economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is making every effort to reinvigorate its economy this year, through the implementation of prudent policies. Food security and law and order are the top priorities of government, and the availability of all essentials is considered an essential part of government functions. As such, high priority is given to ensuring that all essential items continue to be available to the public at all times and that there are sufficient stocks of food items.
Regarding the security situation, the GoSL maintains a minimal military presence in the north and east to provide security and stability in line with national security imperatives, which is similar to such presence elsewhere in the country. There is no arbitrary arrest and detention of people by the police or security forces. Since the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009, the security forces have carried out a vast demining operation in the north and east, with the technical support of several foreign governments and international organizations. As of December 2014, 94% of clearance had been completed, while currently this figure has risen to 98.7%. The advisory states that “there is a threat of terrorism” and that “further attacks cannot be ruled out”. It is noted that since the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019, the GoSL has taken all necessary measures to ensure public and national security across the country, to prevent any resurgence of terrorism. It should be noted that during this period, there has not even been a single incident related to terrorism in Sri Lanka, thanks to the heightened vigilance and proactive measures taken by the relevant security authorities.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country with a rich cosmopolitan heritage where different communities have co-existed peacefully over the centuries. There is no civil unrest in the country. Sri Lanka has a long democratic tradition with strong institutions and a vibrant civil society. Freedom of association and assembly is protected through peaceful protests in Sri Lanka as in any other country where liberal democratic norms and traditions prevail. The police have allowed and continue to allow these peaceful protests to proceed unhindered. These events do not interfere with the comfort, travel, safety or activities of tourists.
Particular attention is being given to the safety and security of female tourists with steps taken to strengthen police presence, including tourist police, island-wide in all areas. As part of this program, police presence is enhanced in all popular tourist destinations across the country with a greater presence of female police officers in police stations. Emergency numbers for regional tourist police units, local police and other emergency units such as hospitals are available online for travelers to Sri Lanka to consult.
Sri Lanka is an island nation with friendly people with a high level of education, knowledge of English and literacy, and incidents of harassment or violence against tourists or foreigners are extremely rare.