The Sri Lankan government has denied a report that it is “exploring the possibility” of shifting the Deputy High Commissioner’s office from Chennai to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, following the recent incidents of violence against Sri Lankans and their establishments in Tamil Nadu.
“There is no move to shift the mission, as of now. But it may be considered if the situation in Tamil Nadu worsens,” Foreign Secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama told the New Indian Express.
Media reports had said that the move to shift the Deputy High Commissioner’s office from Chennai was triggered by the “harassment” of a senior staffer, Senior Superintendent of Police, Rohan Dias, by pro-Tamil agitators. However, Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry officials dealing with India said that Dias had not been subjected to any harassment.
Ameer Ajwad, the Acting Head of Mission in Chennai, told Express that the Tamil Nadu government and the TN police had been “extremely cooperative” and were giving “maximum support” to the mission to safeguard Sri Lankan property and citizens.
On Saturday, the Indian High Commissioner, Ashok K Kantha, met leading Buddhist monks. It was decided to set up a system which would enable religious leaders and civil society activists from TN and Sri Lanka to get together and defuse tensions.
Meanwhile the New Indian Express reported that the scare created by the attacks on Sri Lankans in TN had affected travel, significantly. M Shariq of Lanka Travel Operators and S Suresh of GBN Travels said that bookings to Chennai and other destinations in Tamil Nadu had come down by 50 per cent.
The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry’s advise against travel to TN, the Buddha Sasana Ministry’s refusal to give recommendation letters for the issue of free visas to Buddhist pilgrims, and sudden vigilance at the customs counters in TN, had contributed to cancellation of, and fall in, bookings, Shariq said.
But normalcy is being restored. “Sri Lankan Airlines, which had announced a 50 per cent cut in its services to Chennai, has restored the flights. Reduction of services to Chennai had affected its system of connecting flights,” Shariq pointed out.
Suresh said that the agitators in TN should be aware of the losses they were inflicting on travel related services in TN, and the dangers the Tamil community in Lanka would face if violence against the Sinhalese in TN continued.