President Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged all nations in the world that are undergoing difficulties to be united in seeking solutions.
Addressing the African Envoys meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (3), President Wickremesinghe explained the new phase of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, adding that Sri Lanka and Africa have been there for each other during times of trouble.
The President said Sri Lanka also shares a commonality with many African States in respect of its legal system.
He said Sri Lanka also maintains significant economic ties with the African region, though there is scope for further growth.
Furthermore, the President said investment, tourism, and migration flows have also grown in recent decades, though the African Continent remains small in terms of total flows to Sri Lanka.
Foreign Diplomats of the African Continent commended President Wickremesinghe’s efforts in maintaining peace in the country and his commitment to reconnecting and strengthening relations with the African continent.
The Diplomats said that they focused on further strengthening the bilateral relationship by aiming at economic cooperation and investment, expanding tourism in Sri Lanka, and granting South African assistance, guidance and counselling in setting up a credible truth-seeking mechanism to achieve a lasting reconciliation amongst communities. They also look forward to air and maritime connectivity to enhance the relationship with Sri Lanka and ensure continuous engagement.
Speaking further the President said that 75 years ago Sri Lanka gained independence and worked together with India, Pakistan and Burma to ensure the countries that had gained independence during that period were able to make their voices heard. The end result was the Colombo Power Conference attended by these four powers and Indonesia. It was then decided to call the Afro-Asia Conference.
The none-aligned movement gave the African countries a chance to demonstrate that they too have a voice in the affairs of the World.
During the 1980s, the power structures of the world began changing with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the focus was mainly on Sri Lanka as a result of the war and even after the war, the focus was still on the country due to issues regarding the economy and efforts on reconciliation. That phase is now coming to an end.
President Wickremesinghe appreciated the African countries for all the support given to Sri Lanka in Geneva.
“Now as we see a genuine shift of power from West to East and to Asia and then Africa, that shift of power must continue. As we see that East Asia along with China is emerging, South Asia together with India and Africa will also follow towards the latter part of this century. So we must keep this relationship strengthened to ensure we have a bigger voice.
There are two issues, one is the Ukraine situation which we are refusing to get involved in and the other one is the situation that is building up in Taiwan.
What is happening in the world today is one-sided. Especially in the case of Africa, it needs to get more resources and develop a stronger voice. Sri Lanka supports Africa in this measure. Next is climate change. While billions are being given to the Ukraine war, very much is being pledged for Climate change. So we have to make our voice heard when we go to the UAE and we have to ensure that there is no compromise. My personal view is it should be a take or leave the situation.
In these areas, Sri Lanka’s policy now is to look at the Western Indian Ocean and towards Africa. Sri Lanka has relations with the Middle East, but Africa is what Sri Lanka has to engage in politically, economically, culturally and with some of the other countries, sports-wise. Especially, Sri Lanka needs to open political dialogue with the African Continent.
There are Sri Lankan companies that are willing to invest in Africa and we are encouraging them to connect with African countries. Africa will be important with Trans-African highways. It makes sense for all of us to work together. Therefore, whatever Sri Lanka can do to help, we will,” the President said.