The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka has been summoned by the External Affairs Ministry to seek a clarification on a travel note issued by the US State Department to US citizens visiting Sri Lanka.
An External Affairs Ministry official said that Ambassador Michele J. Sison is to be asked why such a travel note had been issued.
The US State Department had, in the travel note, cautioned it’s citizens when visiting Sri Lanka of crimes targeting foreigners.
As was first reported in the Colombo Gazette on Saturday, the travel information for US citizens visiting Sri Lanka said that while most violent crime occur within the local community reports of violent crime and sexual assaults directed at foreigners have been increasing in recent months.
In response to this rise in crime, the Sri Lankan government now requires that all foreign tourists provide their passport information to hotel staff when registering at local hotels and guest houses so that this data can be used by local law enforcement for the monitoring of foreign tourists.
U.S. citizens have also been advised against travel on public buses in Sri Lanka, as passengers can be targets of criminal activity and bus drivers do not all obey driving regulations.
Travelers, especially women, should consider travelling with other people when possible, the travel information notice said.
It further adds that organized and armed gangs are known to operate in Sri Lanka and have been responsible for targeted kidnappings and violence, although there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. citizens are at particular risk.
It also says the Sri Lankan justice system can be slower than in the United States and there are a number of outstanding cases of crimes against foreign nationals, including the murder of the British national noted above, which have yet to be prosecuted.
“Western women continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men. Such harassment can occur anytime or anywhere, but most frequently has taken place in crowded areas such as marketplaces, train stations, buses, public streets and sporting events. The harassment ranges from sexually suggestive or lewd comments to physical advances, and sexual assaults have occurred as well. While most victims of sexual assault have been local residents, an upswing in sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas in the southern beaches underlines the fact that foreign women should exercise vigilance,” the notice said. (Colombo Gazette)
Report by Easwaran Rutnam