The Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G L Peiris, visited Singapore last week.
During his visit, the Minister called on Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister for Manpower and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and conveyed President Rajapaksa’s message of congratulations on his new appointment.
Minister Peiris briefed the Deputy Prime Minister on the current situation in Sri Lanka and the Government’s initiatives in respect of reconciliation and steps taken toward economic development.
He pointed out that the numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been drastically reduced and added that the overwhelming majority of ex-combatants have been reintegrated into society. He pointed out that the Government was keen on arriving at an agreement with the Tamil political parties on appropriate constitutional arrangements. Minister Peiris emphasized that the Government encourages the Tamil Diaspora to involve themselves actively in developmental activities. Minister Peiris invited Deputy Prime Minister Shanmugaratnam to visit the country and see for himself the new developments in Sri Lanka.
Minister Peiris met with Lim Hng Kiang, Minister of Trade and Industry of Singapore, and congratulated him on his reappointment to the new Cabinet of Singapore. Prof Peiris said that Sri Lanka is very keen to expand the scope of existing relations for mutual benefit.
The Minister of External Affairs stated that the BPO/KPO sector in Sri Lanka is a fast growing area where ample opportunities are available for Singaporean business entities, seeking outsourcing. This will enhance employment opportunities in Sri Lanka, he said. Minister Peiris highlighted that Sri Lanka’s tourism which had never grown earlier at the pace it is now growing is a sector that responds fast to the growing dynamics in the renaissance period that began with the conclusion of the 30-year long conflict.
The Singaporean Trade and Industry Minister said that the trajectory of the Sri Lankan economy is very positive and the culture and the talents of citizens of a country are key to the success of its development. He further mentioned that the Sri Lankan High Commission in Singapore has been actively working with organizations such as IE Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation to further increase awareness of emerging business opportunities in Sri Lanka among Singaporean businessmen.
Prof. Peiris was invited by the Institute of South Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore to deliver an address on the topic ‘The Current Situation in Sri Lanka and The Way Forward’.
Minister Peiris briefed his audience of diplomats, academics and officials on the current situation in Sri Lanka, stating that after almost three decades, the Government has been successful in restoring peace, stability and security in all parts of the country. The Minister stressed that the first priority of the Sri Lankan Government after the war, was the addressing of humanitarian concerns in order to ensure resettlement and reconciliation, including early return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their respective homes. He pointed out that 95% of the displaced have been resettled in their original places of domicile or in new homes. “The very small number remaining in the camps stay there willingly. They visit relatives and return to the camps of their own free will”, the Minister stated.
Another crucial part of the humanitarian efforts made by the Sri Lankan Government was the integration of ex combatants into society. Minister Peiris said that this was more a human story than a political story, emphasizing that 140 of these young ex combatants have been successful at the GCE A’level Examination.
Referring to the political aspect of the current situation in Sri Lanka, the Minister of External Affairs stated that the Government has embarked on negotiations with the elected representatives of the Tamil community and has already completed 5 rounds of talks with Tamil political parties. On the Tamil Diaspora, Prof Peiris stressed that Sri Lanka was engaged in talking to some sections inviting them to take a hand in the country’s economic and social development and help improve the livelihood of people in the north and east. “We encourage the Tamil Diaspora to involve themselves in developmental activities”, he stressed.
The Minister also visited the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore which is devoted to research into political violence and strategies with regard to counter-terrorism. Statement by Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo