Around 200 Islamic clerics were among the 600 foreigners expelled from Sri Lanka after deadly bombings on Easter Sunday. Extensive security measures have been taken as schools reopen. Tourism has effectively collapsed.
As children prepare to go back to school on Monday, tens of thousands of security personnel secured public buildings and checked some 10,900 school buildings in the seaside city of Negombo which was hit by several bombings on Easter Sunday.
Authorities have also imposed a curfew in Negombo, located outside the capital Colombo, in an attempt to defuse tensions between local religious groups.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said "police and soldiers combed school premises and the surrounding areas to make sure it is safe for children to go back" on Monday.
Sri Lanka imposed a state of emergency after the April 21 bombings of three Christian churches and three luxury hotels which left more than 250 people dead. Troops and police were given broad powers to arrest and detain suspects and about 150 people have been taken into custody.
A local cleric in Negombo who was known to have traveled to India where he made contact with jihadists has been accused of organizing the coordinated suicide attacks. A local jihadi group who pledged allegiance to the militant "Islamic State" group has been blamed for carrying out the bombings.
As part of the measures taken after the bombings, the government clamped down on foreign Islamic clerics living on the majority Buddhist island nation.
Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said 200 clerics were found to have overstayed visas. They were fined and expelled. "Considering the current situation in the country, we reviewed the visa system and took a decision to tighten visa restrictions for religious teachers," Abeywardena told the AFP.
Police said other foreigners who have overstayed their visas were from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives and Pakistan.
"There are religious institutions which have been getting in foreign preachers for decades," Abeywardena said. "We have no issues with them, but there are some which mushroomed recently. We will pay more attention to them."
There were more cancellations than bookings for hotels on the island following the Easter bombings.
Sri Lanka's Tourism Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes told Reuters on Saturday that cancellation rates averaged 70%, with most of them centered on the capital, Colombo.
The manager of the Warahena Beach Hotel in Bentota said that all her guests cancelled following the news of the Easter bombings.
"There are no bookings: this week, next month, even in October, they have all canceled," Samanmali Collone told Reuters from her deserted beachside restaurant. "We have had issues before but this is completely different," she said.
Tourism was Sri Lanka's third largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency last year, behind textiles and clothing, tea and spices.
jm/rs (Reuters, AFP)