As the diplomatic crisis in Qatar continues, Sri Lankan authorities assure that all dealings between Sri Lanka and Qatar will proceed as normal. On Monday Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt to cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member of undermining security in the region by siding with Iran and claiming that it supported the Islamic Brotherhood and ‘Iranian-backed terrorist groups’. Amidst chaos in the Gulf, confusion reigned at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) yesterday as false reports surfaced that banks at the BIA had stopped exchanging Qatari Riyals. When Daily News contacted representatives from the BIA branches of Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, and Commercial Bank, they confirmed that the banks were still exchanging Riyals. The BIA Duty Manager claimed that the Central Bank (CB) had informed banks not to accept Riyals, but the CB released a statement categorically denying that it had informed banks not to exchange Riyals.
A representative from the airport’s Sampath Bank branch refused to give any information on the matter over the phone.
Some private money changers, however, have not been buying Riyals for the past three days.
Sri Lankan Airlines in the meantime assured that they would continue to operate its flights to Doha, Qatar as per schedule despite the diplomatic tensions in the Middle East.
Sri Lankan Airlines said they were closely monitoring the situation in the region and added that the regional tension has not affected them. Sri Lankan Airline flights to Doha which operate on a daily basis will function as usual.
Etihad Airways and Emirates however suspended all flights to and from Qatar yesterday, as UAE airspace and territorial waters are closed off for Qatari vessels and aircraft. Foreign media also reported that Qatar Airways had in turn suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt until further notice.
Sources indicate that Sri Lankan Airlines could benefit from the termination of flights from the United Arab Emirates to Qatar, as customers flying between Sri Lanka and the two countries might take their business to the airline. Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorale reassured that Sri Lankans in Qatar will not have any issues due to the diplomatic tensions in the Middle East.
“It is an issue between the regional countries. The decision has not caused any problem for Sri Lankans living there”, she said.
Minister Athukorale said there were no problems so far in the diplomatic circle as well.
She requested migrant workers to inform the embassy there if they had any plans to return to Sri Lanka. “We will take initiatives to bring them back to the country, if there are any issues”, she said.At present 140,000 Sri Lankans live and work in Qatar apart from another 1.5 million foreign nationals working there.
“All countries have responsibility over their citizens working in Qatar. Therefore, the government will take appropriate measures when needed”, she said. “If you need to know any information please contact the Sri Lankan Embassy in Qatar without believing in fake news”, she said. (Daily News)