Sri Lanka lifts travel restriction for foreigners visiting North, no troops reduction

Jan 16, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new government Friday lifted a restriction placed on the foreign passport holders and foreign organizations traveling to the former war-torn Northern Province.

The previous government of Mahinda Rajapaksa last year imposed a restriction on foreigners and foreign organizations visiting the North requiring them to obtain prior clearance from the Ministry of Defense (MOD).

The MOD said the decision to lift the travel ban with immediate effect was taken by the President Maithripala Sirisena at the National Security Council meeting today.

“Since there is no war situation in the country and the life of the community is normal, it was decided to remove restrictions imposed on foreigners,” the MOD said in a statement.

The National Security Council has also decided to lift restrictions on transporting unspecified goods other than weapons, explosive substances, clothing similar to that worn by the security forces and telescopes to the North and East.

Although restrictions have been eased the Army will not reduce the number of troops stationed in the former war zones, the Army said at the MOD media briefing Friday.

“The numbers in our standing Army will not be reduced,” Army Media Spokesperson Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said.

He said 20,000 new soldiers have been enlisted to further the development of the country and there will be no reduction of numbers in military service due to recent changes.

“Those newly enlisted will carry forth their duties to help with development of the country,” he said.

The Director of the Media Centre of the Ministry of Defence, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that the statements made on alleged incidents that have taken place in the North and East during the post-election period, are baseless.

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