Almost every newspaper has carried the blood-chilling story of the rape and murder of 18-year-old Krishanthi Kumarasamy who was detained at an army checkpoint in Jaffna on September 7. Even at a time when rape appears to be a commonplace in our country and incidents of rape of little girls and of women old and young regularly appear in the press, the circumstances of this particular tragedy cry to high heaven for justice. Not only was a bright young life brutally snuffed out, but her mother, 16-year-old brother and the neighbour who accompanied them in their search for Krishanthi, were also killed and buried. Thambimuthu Poopalan, Attorney-at-Law, has detailed the whole unbelievably gruesome story in your issue of November 10.
After much agitation on the part of many, our rape laws were recently amended to meet our harsher sentences for those found guilty of this horrible crime. The Minister of Justice himself said it was necessary to draft legislation that would act as a greater deterrent against rape. But in this case the process of justice as carried out by those in authority appears inexplicable. It has been reported that the alleged offenders are in remand. Several women's organisations and the Civil Rights Movement have called for speedy action on a grave matter which was kept under wraps for over a month since the date of occurrence, despite the efforts of Mr. Poopalan and others to stir the Defence Ministry into action. The penalty for custodial and gang rape has been written down in the law. Justice must be seen to be done, or the Government can forget about "winning the hearts and minds of the people of Jaffna." The LTTE commit horrendous crimes and that's why we brand them as terrorists. If, as alleged, members of our security forces are responsible for what happened to Krishanthi and her family, they have brought the deepest dishonour on the uniform they wear.
We cannot be indifferent to this inhuman act. Let it not be permitted to be swept under the carpet as sometimes happens. Remember those 21 bodies found floating in the Diyawanna Oya? The culprits were reported to have been interdicted then, but the public has no information about a subsequent trial and what came of it. Krishanthi's killing and that of her family must not be allowed to go unavenged.
Any woman's rape diminishes every woman.
Recently the government of Sri Lanka imposed certain conditions and restrictions on the expatriate communities travelling to Sri Lanka from overseas generating countries. These entry requirements include the proof of nearly A$ 40 (US$ 30) expenditure per visitor while he or she is in Sri Lanka, and introduction of a visa fee of A$39 per visitor from Australia to Sri Lanka. The visa fee may be waived off where a visitor can prove the minimum expenditure requirement criteria. Further an expatriate visiting friends and relatives in Sri Lanka will be considered as a tourist only if he or she meets the expenditure criteria. However, it is not clear whether obtaining a visa will qualify an expatriate to enter Sri Lanka without satisfying the minimum expenditure criteria.
These new travel restrictions not only confuse the expatriates but they also confuse the travel agents. The purpose and the rationale behind the new restrictions are still unknown. What is most confusing is the separation of two categories of visitors to Sri Lanka as tourists and as visiting friends and relatives (VFR). In other words, the new definition does not consider VFR market as part of tourism market. It should be noted that according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) definition VFR are part of the tourists.
It has also been found that the ethnically motivated traveller is particularly important for destinations like Sri Lanka where tourism industry has been affected by civil disturbances. Further VFR tourists exert very little pressure on the existing infrastructure in the host country.
The global village concept is particularly important to the VFR market and host countries they visit. For instance there is no evidence to show that Italy, Greece, Turkey, the UK, Ireland, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Israel, Latin American and Carribean countries are restricting their own expatriates travelling back to their countries. Most of these countries have made their entry formalities easy and straightforward for their expatriates to gain entry to their respective countries. Even Australia does not charge a visa fee for the tourists visiting the country for less than 3 months.
The worst part of the new regulations is the minimum expenditure criteria to enter Sri Lanka by the expatriates. Most expatriates feel that they are insulted by the new regulation. No other country has ever introduced regulation to their expatriates communities, how much they should spend and how they should spend their money. With the past experience it can be proved that the Sri Lankan expatriates hardly depend on their hosts to look after them while in Sri Lanka.
The following are the findings of a survey conducted in Melbourne Asutralia which was published in the Journal of Travel Research Vol. 33 No. 2 Fall 1994, Colorado, USA.
In 1991 8,362 Sri Lankan expatriates travelled from Australia to Sri Lanka. This figure accounted for 95% of Australian tourists to Sri Lanka. The average duration of stay of the expatriates was 33 days. The total expenditure by the expatriates excluding air fares amounted to Rs. 215 million. On average, they spent Rs. 780 (A$ 26) per day. The proportion of expenditure on accommodation, food and beverages, local transport, wholesale and retail, and entertainment accounted for 2%, 8%, 12%, 68% and 10% respectively. The expatriate tourism expenditure of $ 215 million created nearly 700 direct jobs.
It can be seen from the above that even without any conditions imposed on the expatriate expenditure in Sri Lanka, they spent on the average $ 26 per person daily. The 8,326 expatriates who travelled to Sri Lanka consisted of professionals, business people, technicians, and people who did various other jobs and also the unemployed. Thus their expenditure patterns varied according to their income. In other words some were high spenders and the others were low spenders. For instance a family of 5 with mother, father, and 3 children who intend to spend $1000 and propose to stay with friends and relatives for 30 days in Sri Lanka, will not be able to gain entry to the island under the current regulations. This is because they have to declare A$ 6000 before they are allowed to enter Sri Lanka. If they, the same family want to attend a funeral of a member of their family in Sri Lanka, they will be refused entry to the country under the present travel regulations.
Further it is also questionable whether an expatriate will be allowed to enter Sri Lanka if he or she intend to use a credit card while in the island. It seems that the current regulations have been imposed without taking into account the wider implications of such regulations. These regulations will discourage many expatriates travelling to Sri Lanka.
We therefore appeal to the authorities to repeal the newly introduced regulations restricting travel to Sri Lanka by expatriates living abroad.
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