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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Travelling to Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka: Some details on the latest hassle

Some of you may be curious whether Jaffna in the Tamil north of Sri Lanka is now open to visitors.  I was in SL a few days ago and came across the Dec 09 issue of a magazine with the latest advice...possible but some inconveniences involved.  The details can be found here: http://www.lmd.lk/2009/December/business.htm

"Half a year has elapsed since the end of the war. The A9 Highway that connects the mainland to the Jaffna peninsula has been opened to both commercial and passenger traffic. But it is not a complete opening up, in that anyone who wishes to travel by road has to obtain the military’s permission in advance.

This has become a routine matter, but it is galling nevertheless to people who wish to have the freedom of movement enjoyed in other parts of the country by other citizens. The only way to travel to Jaffna without getting prior military clearance is to fly. But even this privilege is available only to people who are visiting – and it is an expensive proposition, with a return ticket costing more than Rs. 18,000, some 50 per cent higher than the cost of flying to Chennai and back.

It is not possible to travel by bus from Colombo to Jaffna. There are bus services, but travellers must first come to Colombo from Jaffna by bus! In addition, if a person travels to Jaffna by air, the return also has to be by air! One cannot fly to Jaffna and return to Colombo by bus without special military approval.

A fleet of over a dozen buses takes off from Jaffna between 8 to 9 o’clock in the morning everyday, most of them bound for Vavuniya. The bus fare from Jaffna to Vavuniya is only 200 rupees, which explains why most people travel on these buses.

The luxury bus that travels direct to Colombo, on the other hand, costs Rs. 2,800. The delays in travelling by bus can be very long (four to five hours in general) due to the need to travel together in a military-escorted convoy.

From the time passengers board the first bus, to the time that the last one is boarded, the vehicles are parked in the hot sun with the people having to sit inside. In the meantime, the bus gets hotter and hotter, and noisier too, with small children wailing inside.

WASTING TIME: In addition, the reporting or checking-in time for journeys to and from Jaffna, whether they are for travel by air or by bus, are onerous and vexatious. I had to be at the airline’s office at 4 a.m. to take a flight that left four hours later.

Those who wish to take the bus that leaves Jaffna at around 9 o’clock in the morning are required to report to the bus terminal some three hours in advance. Indeed, these requirements have to do with the need for security precautions. But what I observed this time around was that passengers were simply doing nothing, while nothing was happening by way of security checks… this was the case most of the time.

These long delays reflect poorly on both the Government and on the privately-owned airline’s concern for the well-being of passengers who are exhausted by the lengthy delays.

Indeed, the airline’s own complicity in this inefficiency would tend to be glossed over, with the major part of the blame accruing to the Government. What is most disappointing is that the procedures seem not to have changed from those that existed in times of war, when the security threat was much greater than it is now.

When I arrived at the airport for my return flight to Colombo, I was told that one of the flights to Colombo had been cancelled and there may not be enough room for everyone to be taken aboard the next flight..."

Posted via email from Nomadic Republic2

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Ganesh Sharma said...

Well Wee cheng

That advise can now be removed as I travelled to Jaffna on 28 Jan 2010 and spent a week there and loved every minute of it.

I return home to Singapore on 6 th of Feb 2010 safe and sound.

I travelled by bus because no flights were available.

Except for one checkpoint at Vauvuniya it was almost smooth sailing. the whole trip,