UK travel advice maintains concerns on Lanka

The latest travel advice on Sri Lanka issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth office, maintains that the end of the military conflict in May 2009 has seen an upsurge of nationalism in Sri Lanka.

It says as a result, anti-Western (particularly anti-British) rhetoric has increased and this has led to violent protests against the British High Commission and other diplomatic premises.

“Although no protests have so far been directed at the British community more generally, you should be vigilant and avoid demonstrations,” the travel advice, updated this month, has said.

The Sri Lankan government had last September raised concerns with the British government over the travel advice and urged them to amend it..

The Sri Lankan government had initially raised its concerns with the British High Commission in Colombo over the travel advice when it was first released in August.

However the issue went unattended as the travel advice was released with amendments days later but with the same controversial notes.

Tourism industry officials in Sri Lanka had raised concerns over the impact the travel advice may have on British tourists visiting Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is expecting more tourist arrivals from Britain next year with British Airways resuming flights to Colombo this month.

The latest updated travel advice also says that there is an underlying threat from terrorism in Sri Lanka.

It says that although the LTTE suffered a military defeat in May 2009, the Government maintains extensive anti-terrorism powers and increased security measures including checkpoints and a highly visible military presence remains throughout the country.

It also says that organised and armed gangs are known to operate in Sri Lanka and have been responsible for targeted kidnappings and violence.  While there is no evidence to suggest that British nationals are at particular risk, the travel advice says gangs have been known to frequent tourist areas.

The updated travel advice says a majority of visits to Sri Lanka are incident free, although there are an increasing number of incidents of credit card fraud, road accidents and drownings. (Colombo Gazette)