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NewsTravel Ban to North: Military Turns Hunderds Back; TNA to take Blockade to Courts

Travel Ban to North: Military Turns Hunderds Back; TNA to take Blockade to Courts

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While military keeps turning away hundreds of foreign passport holders including UN officials at the Omanthai checkpoint on the ground that prior approval is needed for foreign passport holders to travel to the north, the Tamil National Alliance has stated that it will take the matter to courts.

“It is a violation of a Fundamental Right, because thousands of Lankan Tamils living abroad as citizens of other countries will be put to great inconvenience if they want to go to their ancestral places in the Northern Province. Thousands come home to the North to visit their relations, participate in weddings and funerals and to attend to their properties. Many come to help war affected people. These Lankans, will now have to get two visas: one to enter the country, and another to go to their ancestral homes in the North. This is totally unacceptable,” Mavai Senathirajah, president of the Illangai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) has told the Sunday Leader.

THE Sunday Times reports that ”Hundreds of hotel bookings, mainly by Sri Lankan expatriates visiting their families, were cancelled.
The army has been deployed to check all vehicles and also trains travelling to the north while private airline operators have also been informed about the requirement.”

op FAO official, hundreds of others turned away at Omanthai

A top United Nations official was turned away at the Omanthai checkpoint this week as the Defence Ministry started strictly enforcing a requirement that prior approval is needed for foreign passport holders to travel to the north. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, Beth Crawford, was on her way to Kilinochchi on Wednesday when she was turned back.

Northern Province Agriculture Minister P. Iyngaranesan said he was also invited for the event for which the FAO Country Representative was invited to mark World Food Day, but he was told that Ms. Crawford had not been given permission to proceed beyond Omanthai.

Meanwhile foreign countries upgraded their travel advisories, warning their citizens about the new requirement of obtaining Defence Ministry approval to travel to the north. This came as hundreds of tourists and Sri Lankan expatriates were prevented from travelling to the north during the past week.

The British Government on Friday reviewed its travel advisory on Sri Lanka, informing its citizens of the new requirement if they wished to travel to the north of Sri Lanka. The Sunday Times last week exclusively reported that Defence Ministry approval was required for foreign passport holders to travel beyond Omanthai. The restriction coincided with President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to the north.

On Sunday, two Japanese tourists who were traveling north in a car were told they could not proceed. On Friday a Sri Lankan attached to an international non-governmental organisation was told that his wife, a foreigner, holding a resident visa would not be able to proceed to the north. Some of those turned away said they were unaware of the new Defence Ministry requirement.

Hundreds of hotel bookings, mainly by Sri Lankan expatriates visiting their families, were cancelled.
The army has been deployed to check all vehicles and also trains travelling to the north while private airline operators have also been informed about the requirement.
By Chris Kamalendran
Sunday Times

TNA To Take Blockade To Court

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is to go to the Supreme Court to lift the restrictions on foreigners travelling to the Tamil-majority Northern Province.

Mavai Senathirajah, president of the Illangai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), the main constituent of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which rules the Northern Province, said that his party is consulting legal experts on taking the matter to the Supreme Court.

“It is a violation of a Fundamental Right, because thousands of Lankan Tamils living abroad as citizens of other countries will be put to great inconvenience if they want to go to their ancestral places in the Northern Province. Thousands come home to the North to visit their relations, participate in weddings and funerals and to attend to their properties. Many come to help war affected people. These Lankans, will now have to get two visas: one to enter the country, and another to go to their ancestral homes in the North. This is totally unacceptable,” Senathirajah said.

As per the new rules announced by the Military Spokesman on October 15, foreign passport holders including Colombo-based foreign correspondents and members of the Lankan Tamil Diaspora will have to get the written permission from the Secretary, Ministry of Defense, to travel to the North. The spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that the step had been taken to foil “negative interventions” with implications for national security and social harmony. No details were revealed giving rise to speculation about the exact reasons.

Meanwhile the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree described the ban as a thoughtless action and warned that it would only give a boost to extremists among the Tamils and encourage the pro-LTTE section among the Tamils in Sri Lanka and overseas. “I will write to the President about this,” he said.
By Camelia Nathaniel
Sunday Leader

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