Cablegate: Annual Osac Crime/Safety Reports
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000100
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC KSAC
SUBJECT: ANNUAL OSAC CRIME/SAFETY REPORTS
REF: STATE 01947
The American Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka submits the
following 2004 Crime and Safety Report for the Overseas
Security Council (OSAC):
I. Overall Crime and Safety Situation:
While Sri Lanka has a high crime rate, relatively little
crime has been directed against the Embassy Community
residing in Colombo. Visitors or residents should not be
lulled into a false sense of security, however. In recent
months Post has noticed an increase in violent crimes in
Colombo, although foreigners have not been the targets of
these crimes. Routine petty crime (i.e. pickpockets, theft
from hotel rooms etc.) can happen if the traveler fails to
take appropriate personal safeguards. Street hustlers are
common around the hotels, shopping centers and tourist sites.
The Regional Security Office has received reports from
American tourists who have fallen victim to street hustlers.
Visiting American businessmen have reported several instances
of threats, intimidation, and/or property confiscation over
business deals gone sour.
II. Political Violence:
After nearly 20 years of fighting between the Government of
Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
the cease-fire signed in February 2002 appears to be holding.
However, isolated incidents of violence continue to occur in
the northern and eastern provinces. The U.S. Government
still designates the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization
In the past, the LTTE has not specifically targeted foreign
visitors or American interests. Past actions by the LTTE,
however, demonstrate that the potential for accidental
involvement of foreigners does not deter LTTE terrorist
actions. Americans have been injured as innocent bystanders
during LTTE attacks. In recent months there have been
clashes between Muslims and the LTTE in the Eastern Province.
Partisan political demonstrations do occur with some
regularity. The main political parties, the United National
Party and the People,s Alliance, have some mercurial
supporters, and their demonstrations can turn violent. While
the rallies and demonstrations staged by major parties focus
on domestic issues, extreme Buddhist, far leftist, and
radical Islamic groups have staged demonstrations directed
against Western, and specifically, American interests. In
the past years, local interests with some outside support
organized demonstrations against the United States for
various reasons including its support for Israel, its
involvement in the Peace Process, and Operation Iraqi
Freedom. Since November 2003, radical Buddhists have
attacked and damaged over a dozen Christian churches
throughout Sri Lanka.
Demonstrations are usually publicized in advance in the local
newspapers but not always in the English print or television.
Demonstrations can occur in all parts of Sri Lanka,
particularly in Colombo. Depending on the nature of the
protest, the most common venues for demonstrations in Colombo
are the Fort Railroad Station or the area around Town Hall.
Police presence is usually good, and the police presence
usually succeeds in preventing the demonstration from
III. Post Specific Concerns:
Official Americans traveling to the Northern and Eastern
Provinces must first receive permission from the Embassy.
Visitors should contact the Regional Security Office prior to
traveling in these areas.
Driving in Sri Lanka is an arduous task. With poorly
maintained roads and heavy traffic, the likelihood of being
involved in a traffic accident is high. Vehicles drive on
the left side of the road, which can be a problem for drivers
who have only driven in the United States. Visitors should
consider hiring a car and driver. If visitors choose to
drive they should use caution since immediate medical care
for traumatic injuries is unavailable in most parts of the
IV. Police Response:
Police response to criminal incidents is fair. If an
American citizen is the victim of a crime, he or she should
immediately contact the police and the Consular or Regional
Security Office at the embassy. The general emergency
telephone number to contact the police in Colombo is
243-3333. When outside Colombo, first dial "011" followed by
the seven-digit number. This number will allow contact with
police headquarters, who will then forward the emergency call
to the nearest police unit. If the police detain an American
citizen, he or she should immediately contact the Consular
Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. (See section VII).
V. Medical Emergencies:
Emergency medical care throughout Sri Lanka is below the
standard of care in the United States. After a nearly twenty
year war, hospitals in Colombo have gained experience
handling traumatic injuries and provide reasonable emergency
treatment. Hospitals outside Colombo do not provide the same
level of care. Most serious follow-up treatment will require
medical evacuation to another country. The Consular section
maintains a list of medical facilities and doctors.
Travelers to Sri Lanka are encouraged to purchase a travel
insurance policy that covers medical evacuations.
Medical institutions used by the embassy are as follows:
Apollo Hospital, 578 Evitigala Mawatha, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka,
Nawaloka Hospital, 23 Sri Saugathodaya Mawatha, Colombo 2,
Sri Lanka, phone 230-4444 or 230-4455. Nawaloka Hospital has
a cardiac care unit.
Asiri Hospital, 181 Kirula Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka, phone
250-0608 or 259-3929.
National Hospital, Regent Street, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka, phone
Local ambulance service is usually available through the
Air medical evacuation service is available through "SOS
International", based in Singapore. When dialing from Sri
Lanka, dial 00-656-338-9277. This is the direct number to
the SOS International office.
VI. Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim:
Travelers to Sri Lanka should have a safe and enjoyable
visit, if they exercise a common sense approach to their
personal protection. Sri Lanka is rebuilding its tourist
industry and the police have been responsive when tourists
become victims of crime. Be wary of street hustlers and only
use services recommended/provided by your hotel or approved
by the Sri Lankan Board of Tourism. It should be noted that
there are severe penalties for drug related crimes, which
apply to both Sri Lankan citizens and foreigners.
Travelers should avoid all political rallies and
VII. For Further Information:
The Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri
Lanka. The Embassy can be contacted during work hours at
94-11-244-8007 or after hours at 244-8601. If calling from
Sri Lanka but you are outside Colombo, first dial "011",
followed by the seven-digit number.
An OSAC Country Council for Sri Lanka is in the process of
being formed in 2004. The American Chamber of Commerce in
Colombo is located at the Colombo Hilton, 3rd. Floor, Lotus
Road, Colombo 1, and can be contacted at 94-11-233-6073/4 or
254-4644 ext. 2318; fax 233-6072 and email at
Travelers are encouraged to review the latest consular
information sheet before coming to Sri Lanka. The sheet is
available by calling the Department of State at (202)
647-5225 or by visiting the web site at www.travel.state.gov.
Once in Sri Lanka, American citizen travelers are encouraged
to register with the Embassy,s Consular section.