The group of 161 foreigners of the ‘Tabligh Jamaat’ movement who have been asked to leave Sri Lanka for violating visa rules will be given a one-week grace period to leave the island, Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie told the Daily Mirror.
A meeting with the relevant stakeholders including officials of the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs will be held at 2.00pm today to further discuss the issue, he said.
Minister Fowzie has also briefed Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa on the Tabligh Jamaat movement.
“I explained that this movement has helped put the Muslim community on the right track. They encourage Muslims to pray, be honest in their business dealings and to act in accordance with the Quran. I pointed out that they have not come here to create problems but to help the community, and therefore they should be accommodated,” Minister Fowzie said.
“The fact is that they were not aware that it is unlawful to engage in religious preaching while on a visit visa. They should have applied for a visa under the ‘religious’ category. So they will leave within a week and re-apply under this category,” he said.
“Both Secretary Gotabhya Rakapaksa and Minister Basil Rajapaksa agreed that the foreign Tabligh Jamaat members can re-apply for a religious visa,” Fowzie said.
Asked if he would be attending today’s meeting at the Immigration and Emigration Department he said, “As a matter of protocol it is not right for me to go to government departments to meet officials there,” he maintained. (Ayesha Zuhair)