COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — After two decades of unrest, the Sri Lankan government announced Saturday that it will reopen its borders to international travelers, allowing international tourists to pass through the country.
The landmark decision was made by President Maithripala Sirisena, who pledged to improve the country’s economic future and make it competitive with other South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, according to the state-run Sri Lanka News Agency. It also comes after President Maithripala Sirisena’s announcement this week of a reduction in import duties, which is expected to bring a major boost to the island’s economy.
The rapprochement comes amid mounting international pressure for the country to review its human rights record after at least 40,000 civilians were killed during the final stages of a 26-year civil war that was fought in the north and east of the country. The government has come under global condemnation after it dragged its feet for more than a decade on implementing an international investigation into possible war crimes committed during the conflict.
In a statement, the Home Ministry said the opening of the border crossings is “a clear message to the world that the Lankan government, citizens and the Sri Lankan people are resolved to build a better future and to re-engage with the international community on issues relating to human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms.”
Sri Lanka has over the past two decades been plagued by factional fighting, killings, disappearances and forced disappearances between the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan military.
“We are setting the stage for a renewed Sri Lanka to open the way for investment, trade and tourism,” said Home Minister Vajira Abeywardena, according to the local media.
But while the decision to open the borders may mark a cultural shift in Sri Lanka, it could also affect the movement of the many immigrants in the country. More than one million Sri Lankans live in the United States and Canada.