- 750 French crew members will arrive in two vessels
By Chaturanga Samarawickrama
A delegation of French naval crew members who will arrive in Sri Lanka on June 7, has been granted permission to visit the National Parks of Yala, Minneriya-Kawudulla, Udawalawa and the Eco Park in Habarana, which remains shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Daily Mirror learns.
The delegation which consists of 750 French crew members will arrive in two vessels and will be in Sri Lanka from June 7 to June 11 to visit the country under a “Bio-Safety Bubble”. They have requested to visit the National Parks and upon their request, the State Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation approved the crew members to visit these National Parks under strict bio-bubble conditions.
The Tourism Development Authority said the Sri Lanka Navy will ensure adherence to Health Guidelines throughout the visit.
Following severe criticism on social media that this delegation was being brought in by former Russian Ambassador Udayanga Weeratunga, at a time when Sri Lanka was under a strict travel restriction due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said the ability to visit a ‘Tourist Site’ required the approval of the respective Line Agency. In this case, it is the Wildlife Department, the SLTDA said.
“In the event, the Line Agency approves only, can Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority grant approval to visit a site. In this regard, we have not received any such request to seek approval to visit Yala National Park. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka and the Embassy of France in Sri Lanka have agreed on a diplomatic level to facilitate crew members of two French vessels visiting Sri Lanka. Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote to the Secretaries of Health and Tourism on 24.05.2021 informing about the delegation of French crew members arriving in two vessels from June 7 to 11 to visit Sri Lanka under a “Bio-Safety Bubble”,” the SLTDA said.
“As this is a diplomatic delegation, the role of Tourism is limited to coordinating the visit with the assistance of Sri Lanka Navy,” the SLTDA added.