07/16/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Tight security arrangements as Sri Lanka gets ready to host SAARC Summit

by Melani Manel Perera
For the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit Colombo takes stringent security measures to prevent violence. City and airport are under tight controls; railways stations are closed; and shanty towns near the city centre are evacuated.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Amid tight security, Sri Lanka is set to host the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit on 27 July-3 August. The country’s Defence Ministry announced that some areas of the capital are restricted with limited movement for people and vehicles; other areas are off-limits to civilians.

Some shanty towns close to the city centre are also to be demolished on the orders of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Residents have seven days to clear off and move to some shelters set up by the government elsewhere in the country.

Security arrangements include requiring residents of high security areas and summit employees to get a special pass with photo ID for themselves and their vehicles.

Special arrangements have been made for the Bandaranaike International Airport, whilst Fort, Colpetty and Slave Island railway stations will be closed.

All these measures will remain in place till August 4, a day after the end of the summit.

More than 200 journalists are expected in the Sri Lankan capital for the SAARC summit, the highest ever for a single event in the city.

They too will have to submit to extraordinary security checks. A special bar code will be added to the media accreditation cards issued by the Information Department.

All this is intended to prevent violence or attacks by Tamil Tiger Rebels who have been fighting for independence in certain regions of the country.

Despite some progress at peace talks, the two sides remain far apart and peace is as elusive as ever.

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