It is safe to travel to Sri Lanka, envoy says

Abu Dhabi/Dubai: People travelling to Sri Lanka need not worry about the state of emergency declared in the island nation, according to a top Sri Lankan diplomat.

“The emergency declaration is just a preventive step taken by the government. It is a measure to prevent the violence from spreading to other parts of the country, which is otherwise limited to some villages in Kandy district,” Sulaiman J. Mohideen, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News yesterday.

The situation in the capital, Colombo, and all other cities are normal. “The cricket match between India and Sri Lanka at Colombo is going on as scheduled today. This shows everything is OK there,” the envoy explained.

He said the government has not issued any official travel advisory. It is absolutely safe for people to travel to all places except Kandy.

10-day state of emergency

The government declared a 10-day state of emergency yesterday to stop the spread of communal violence. The declaration was made a day after Buddhists and Muslims clashed in central district of Kandy.

But for Sri Lankan expatriates who hail from Kandy and are now based in Dubai, the tensions are unfounded and are politically-motivated, and not religious or racial in nature.

Mohammad G., whose family of three generations are all in Kandy, denounced the violence that is happening in some pockets of his hometown that have been blown out of proportion.

“My family is OK. As a Sri Lankan community, we have always had peace. We are all very civic-minded and are a close-knit society,” he told Gulf News.

“I don’t think Kandy is a place that will allow [violence] to spread. Kandy residents are all decent people. They will come forward to expose people who propagate violence. I’m looking forward to the [perpetrators] being put to justice,” he said.

Unprecedented scale of violence

C.W., a Buddhist whose house is located just 7km from the houses that were gutted in the riots, said this type of violence is foreign to residents there. “These things were instigated by people with petty political leanings. It is clearly politically-driven. Many Sri Lankans, including Muslims, Sinhalese, Tamils, Hindus, we have seen horrific incidents in the past. We’ve had enough.”

“This is not a matter of religion. Fear is being inculcated artificially by politically-driven individuals.”

Ajantha Premarathna, a chartered quantity surveyor, welcomed the declaration of state of emergency, like most Sri Lankans.

“It is a good positive move as a precaution to prevent further violence and protect the safety of people in general. We had a very bad experience during the riots in 1983 when the government was pretty late to issue the state of emergency. It was why things went out of control.”

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