COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Military spokesman, Brig Ruwan Wanigasooriya, told reporters here on Wednesday that foreigners, including accredited and resident correspondents, will have to take permission from the Ministry of Defence to visit the Tamil-majority Northern Province.
“This decision follows security concerns due to actions of a few which are considered to be detrimental to the national interest,” the Military spokesman told Express.
With the exacerbation of tension between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which rules the Northern Province, the province came under a very tight security blanket immediately prior to, and during, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent visit to the region.
On October 13, troops and police lined the entire 38 km stretch between Palai and Jaffna, which Rajapaksa traversed during the inaugural run of the Colombo-Jaffna “Yal Devi Express”. Ahead of the Presidential visit, the CID had taken a fresh census of residents in certain areas of Jaffna and Kilinochchi. All foreigners were turned back at Omanthai, the entrance to the province.
Protesting against the restriction on foreigners, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, M A Sumanthiran, said that it is “totally uncalled for, illegal and divisive”.
“While we Tamils are not talking about separation from Sri Lanka, the President is constantly talking about Tamil separatism. By blocking foreigners from going to the North, he is actually dividing the country. He has made the North a separate place, distinct from the rest of Sri Lanka,” Sumanthiran said.