Tourism Minister says suspensions of movement of goods, people and aircraft last week was a ‘strategic mistake’
The Sri Lankan government has declared the country will reopen its borders to international travel on Sunday, as it seeks to rebound from a security crisis last week that was the worst in its recent history.
The suspension of movements of goods, people and aircraft began on Wednesday last week, after which international flights were suspended and lawmakers and media barred from the capital, Colombo.
Sri Lanka reopens skies to international travel after hiatus Read more
The governments of India and Pakistan called off their national teams’ trips to this year’s cricket World Cup, which will take place in Sri Lanka in May, while the Indian and Pakistan cricket boards said they had suspended their tour contracts with cricketing heavyweights, Sri Lanka’s national team.
“This is the only country in the world that closed off its borders at such a crucial point when there is so much need for international travel at this time,” Sri Lanka’s tourism minister, John Amaratunga, told AFP.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) announced Friday it will resume education programs that were suspended after the government put school closed because of security reasons.
Sri Lanka is seeking to attract more international visitors as its economy recovers from a 30-year war that ended in 2009. The island nation of 21 million people saw a sharp fall in foreign arrivals after the war, which had left about 100,000 people dead.
But the trend has picked up in recent years and is now the second largest foreign tourist source for the economy.
Some 12.3 million foreigners visited Sri Lanka in 2018, up 10% year-on-year, after it closed its beaches for sand dune surveys.
Sri Lanka’s foreign minister announced Friday the country will re-open its borders on Sunday. Photograph: Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Sri Lanka has imposed new roadblocks to screen travelers and has delayed release of labour cards to help prevent the infiltration of foreign jihadists.
Amaratunga said the suspension of movement of goods, people and aircraft was a “strategic mistake” and cited the example of another South Asian country, Bangladesh, which struggled after a militant attack on a Dhaka cafe in July that left 22 people dead.
“Sri Lanka cannot remain with a mental blockade. We are a sovereign nation, we are not responsible for the international traffic and the good will we get,” he said.
On Wednesday, when the government declared a state of emergency, it said it was responding to an “avalanche of threats” from terrorists and extremists.
The government has not detailed any specific threats. One year ago, Sri Lanka was rocked by another attack that targeted a pop concert in July, killing 20 people.