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Country Reports

Sri Lanka Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Sri Lanka (population 22 million) presents few risks to travelers. The country's decades-long civil war between the majority Sinhalese (Buddhist; 70 percent of the population) and the separatist Tamil "Tigers" (Hindu) of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) ended in spring 2009.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed a nin-year period of peace (2009-2018), without any major security incidents. The island nation's 22 million inhabitants and 2 million annual visitors continue to enjoy this period of sustained reconstruction and development.

POLITICS

On January 8, 2015, presidential elections were held nearly two years ahead of schedule. Some 12 million Sri Lankan voters opted for change, voting down President Mahinda Rajapaksa (in power since 2005) and electing his challenger and former minister, Maithripala Sirisena, who defected shortly before the election and found united opposition support for his unexpected candidacy.

Legislative elections were held on August 17, 2015, in a somewhat tense partisan environment (shooting in Colombo on July 31 during an electoral meeting; one dead and 12 injured). After the election, a national unity government (SLFP-UNP) was formed and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP) was confirmed.

In the spring of 2017, a multitude of social movements - including by students, by health workers, and protests against the Prime Minister of India's visit - temporarily hampered internal stability, mainly in the capital Colombo.

The next legislative and presidential elections will be organized in 2021.

TERRORISM and SECURITY

The terrorist threat, historically a fixture of daily life in Sri Lanka, has lessened considerably over the past six years; only one attack has taken place since 2009 (aforementioned attack in Colombo). The government has had no difficulty extending its control over the entirety of Sri Lankan territory since May 19, 2009, the date marking the end of conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army.

Some Western governments have warned their citizens in the north of Sri Lanka that security measures in the region have been reinforced in recent months; the population is being closely monitored and travel to certain areas has been restricted. As a precaution, travelers to the north should take basic security measures.

It should be noted that tensions between Muslim and Tamil minority groups frequently flare up in Trincomalee district (in the east of the island), as well as between Tamils, Buddhists, and Muslims in the south. Avoid all protests and demonstrations, particularly during elections, as they are subject to escalation to violence.

TRANSPORTATION

Foreign travelers planning to stay for fewer than 30 days are able to enter the country with an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), for which travelers can apply online (www.eta.gov.lk) or at the port of entry. Stays over 30 days require a visa, which can only be obtained from a diplomatic mission of Sri Lanka (Embassy or Consular services).

Visitors will notice that modes of public transportation (coach buses, minibuses, trains) are not always punctual or dependable. Furthermore, social movements regularly cause disruptions to public transit systems.

Acts of maritime piracy sometimes occur; boaters should be careful in Sri Lankan waters and should always register with local police when docking.

HEALTH

Regarding health conditions, diarrheal diseases are common throughout the country. Sri Lanka is also exposed to malaria and chikungunya, with a heightened risk of contracting these diseases during monsoon season, as well as dengue fever, particularly in urban areas (Colombo). Cases of Japanese encephalitis are regularly reported, with peaks of transmission between October and January and again during May and June, particularly in areas of rice cultivation. Rabies and leptospirosis are also present.

NATURAL RISKS

Sri Lanka is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including the torrential rain and flooding that accompanies monsoon season. There is also a risk of tsunamis in the country, as occurred on December 26, 2004, killing 38,000 people along the eastern coast.

LEGAL

Any traveler arriving in Sri Lanka with a tattoo depicting Buddha or a related symbol can be subject to detention, imprisonment, or expulsion from the country. Some foreigners have, in the past, been subject to physical and verbal abuse from the local population due to cultural sensitivities related to this issue.

Climate

Sri Lanka's climate is equatorial: hot and humid throughout the year along the coast and in the plains. Temperatures are more moderate and conditions drier in mountainous regions. There are two main rainy seasons: the southwest monsoon (May to August) along the western and southern coasts, and the northeast monsoon (November to January) along the eastern coast which receives torrential rains (although less frequently in recent years). From January to April, the country receives little rain and days tend to be very sunny.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +94 Police: 112 or 119

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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