ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 20

Colombo irked by Aussie travel advisory

By Chandani Kirinde

Sri Lanka is to take up with Australia issues relating to a travel advisory by the Canberra government warning Australians against visiting Colombo because of kidnappings for ransom of foreign nationals and an increase in violent crime against foreigners.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs asked its nationals to reconsider their need to travel to Sri Lanka, not travel at all to the north and east and, if they decide to travel, to exercise extreme caution.

It said violent crime against foreigners continued to increase. This included sexual assault and robbery at tourist sites with policing in remote areas often hampered by lack of resources and poor infrastructure.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official described the advisory as “extremely negative’ and said the issue would be taken up with the Canberra government.

The advice was issued in late August and remains valid and questions are being raised as to why the Foreign Ministry waited so long to take some action.

The Sri Lanka Tourist Board has pointed out that most terrorist acts have taken place outside tourist areas and have little or no effect on tourists.

“Sri Lanka has received over five million tourists during the last decade and there has not been a single incident targeting visitors,” the Tourist Board said in a statement posted on its web site.

An official pointed out that neither the United States nor Britain had issued such tough travel
advisories on Sri Lanka even though they had warned against travel to the north and east.

Between January and August this year, a total of 17,390 Australians visited Sri Lanka, a marginal drop from the 18,537 in 2005 but there are no reports of any serious crimes committed against any of them in Sri Lanka, the official said.

A tourist police official said they seldom received complaints of serious crimes against foreigners except for petty crimes such as pick-pocketing or theft.

“We carry out day and night patrols along the beach and this is mainly to ensure that the foreign tourists are protected from crime,” he said. Repeated attempts to obtain officials comments from the Australian High Commission on what sort of intelligence the advisory is based and if the High Commission has received complaints of sexual assault and ransom against any of its citizens failed.An official of the information section on Friday assured diplomatic officials would call back with a comment but did not do so.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.