Colombo, Voting in Sri Lanka parliamentary polls on Monday showed an increase compared to previous turnouts, poll monitors said.
“It is a good sign to see the people enthusiastically casting their votes to elect the members of the new Parliament. The situation at election centres has so far been trouble free,” Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Executive Director Ranjith Keerthi Tennakoon said.
He said CaFFE has deployed about 9,000 election monitors at voting centers across the country in addition to 430 mobile units, Daily Mirror reported.
Meanwhile, Centers for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Media Coordinator Anuradha Guruge said queues began to increase after 8 a.m. with more people coming out to cast their votes.
“The CMEV has deployed around 5,000 local monitors, 21 foreign observers, 75 mobile units in addition to about 100 monitors who will be at counting centers.
Sri Lanka’s government announced Tuesday it will reduce ground handling charges for airlines and slash aviation fuel prices and embarkation fees to help the country’s vital tourism industry recover after Easter suicide bombings killed more than 250 people.
Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the decision will lead to an increase in flights to Sri Lanka and a reduction in ticket prices, which will attract more tourists to the Indian Ocean island nation, famed for its pristine beaches.
Seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and Britain. Tourist arrivals declined 57% in June from a year earlier, dealing a severe blow to the tourism industry, the country’s third-largest foreign currency earner after remittances from overseas workers and textile and garment exports.
The cuts in charges and fees will be in place for six months, said Johanne Jayaratne, head of the government’s tourism development agency. About 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when 29 airlines offered 300 flights per week. After the April 21 attacks, 41 fights per week were canceled, amounting to a loss of 8,000 passenger seats. Several airlines have reinstated their normal schedules since then, but others have not.
Dimuthu Tennakoon, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives, said the government decision will encourage airlines to increase their capacity and offer attractive fares.
“That will definitely happen with this reduction because fuel and ground handling contribute a significant percentage of the total cost element of any airline,” he said.
Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism and 2 million indirectly. The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion. (VOA)