A group of senior legal practitioners have stated the travel restrictions imposed by the government on visiting North for foreign passport holders, is illegal as no such law sanctioning the regulation of visits to the Northern province exists.
Releasing a statement on the decision made by the government that now requires foreign passport holders travelling to the North to obtain prior permission from the Ministry of Defense, the Lawyers Collective (LC) has noted that under Article 14 (1) (h) of the Constitution, every citizen of the country enjoys the freedom of movement within the country and that Article 12 (1) prohibits all arbitrary state actions irrespective of whether the affected individuals are citizens or not.
Upon examination of the legal provisions, LC Coveners JC Weliamuna and Lal Wijenayake have stated that a series of Supreme Court decisions have clearly established that any restrictions on travel or freedom of movement must be ‘prescribed by law’ – which means that it should be sanctioned either through a parliamentary statute or by an emergency regulation.
Since there is no such law or regulation in existence at present regulating the travel to the Northern province, the LC points out that no authority including the Ministry of Defense (MoD) is able to introduce administrative procedures that restrict freedom of movement of locals or foreigners.
“The government has not revealed reasons for the restrictions and neither the MoD nor the government have revealed reasons as to why such restrictions are necessary exclusively in the Northern Province,” the legal practitioners have pointed out in their statement adding that the restriction that exists on foreigners is an extremely arbitrary yardstick to be decided by the military.
They have further stated that since there is no war in any part of Sri Lanka that justifies the re-imposition of the travel restrictions, this decision has impacted the tourism development and infrastructural development projects targeting war affected areas.
Furthermore the LC has noted that against the backdrop of Presidential elections in the offing in which the current President who is also the Minister of Defense is likely to contest, such restrictions are not only inappropriate but also raise questions of ulterior motives and the validity of such administrative restrictions.