SAARC meeting begins, crackdown on dogs

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : A meeting of officials of South Asian countries began here Sunday, after an unprecedented crackdown on stray dogs ahead of the SAARC summit early next month.

Support TwoCircles

A foreign ministry official said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) commenced its meeting, with Sri Lanka taking the chair from India.

Grace Asirwatham, director general of SAARC and the foreign ministry’s South Asia wing, took charge of the 33rd session of the Programming Committee from Indian joint secretary Kheya Battachariya, the official told IANS.

The Sunday meeting of the officials will be followed by a meeting of the council of ministers July 31 and Aug 1.

Heads of state and government from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will gather at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) Aug 2-3 to thrash out agreements on various regional issues, mainly in the spheres of trade, education, cultural and tourism.

The government has deployed 19,000 additional security personnel to provide security cover for visiting leaders and their delegations in the capital of 650,000 people.

The hotels where the VIPs will stay, the convention centre and the roads leading to these venues have been declared high security zones. Shuttle buses will be used to ferry passengers going to these areas.

Meanwhile, local authorities have unleashed a major crackdown on stray dogs in the vicinity of the summit venue. One official said the foreign ministry wants a “dog free zone”.

On Saturday, Colombo Municipal Council workers, acting on a request from Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, rounded up stray dogs.

“This is not in view of the security but to keep the venue clean,” a foreign ministry official said.

A local official said 24 dogs had been taken to the dog pound. The dogs would be released in the same area after the summit.

“It’s a difficult task to catch street dogs. Even if we remove all in one area, more dogs come there. But for now we are doing our best to take away the ones roaming near the summit venue,” an official said.