Remarks to Media by Mangala Samaraweera Minister of Foreign Affairs following bilateral talks with H.E. Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 July 2016
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both an honour and enormous pleasure for me to welcome Honourable Stéphan Dion, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, to Sri Lanka.
Honourable Stéphan Dion’s visit is a landmark in our bilateral relations with Canada. This official visit of a Foreign Minister from Canada takes place after 13 long years.
Though geographically distant, Canada and Sri Lanka have shared a remarkable relationship over the years, and it was somewhat sad to watch our relations drift for awhile.
Today, with this visit, we have affirmed our commitment to build on our multifaceted, bilateral relationship and forge stronger links between our peoples.
I am sure many of you would have heard of Leonard Birchall, the young pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force who served in Ceylon, and who was dubbed by Sir Winston Churchill as the ‘saviour of Ceylon’ during the 2nd World War. There exists a monument to this day in Koggala, to commemorate the ‘Canadian contribution to the defence of Ceylon’ at the time.
Dr. Mary Irwin Rutnam, who was a pioneer in the Sri Lanka feminist movement, and Professor Evan Alan Hardy who set up the Hardy Advanced Technology Institute in Ampara, are etched in the memory of Sri Lankans across generations.
We have benefitted from Canada’s generosity through the years. From assistance for the Airport at Katunayake, to the gift of train locomotives to the Sri Lankan Railways; assistance for the Maduru Oya dam, and support in adversity following the Tsunami and Conflict – Canada has always stood by us.
When conflict raged, Canada became home to many of our brothers and sisters who sought refuge.
Today, following the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections here last year, when Sri Lankans cast their votes to strengthen democracy, good governance, and the rule of law; for reconciliation, a durable peace, and an end to impunity; we in Sri Lanka are re-engaging with the world, renewing friendships, forging new partnerships, and seeking what is best in the world for all our people.
We are laying the foundation for a new Sri Lanka, on the pillars of democracy, reconciliation and economic development. This will allow our people to reap the fruits of increased economic growth and prosperity, which had been eluding us since Independence.
We look to friends like Canada to assist us in enhancing our local capacity, and through technical expertise, greater trade and investment.
During our meeting today, we discussed a range of issues of bilateral importance including development cooperation; reconciliation efforts; economic cooperation; governance; and people-to-people ties.
We also discussed the importance of providing an economic peace dividend for the people of Sri Lanka and the interconnected nature of reconciliation and development.
I also informed Minister Dion that we are keen to engage with the Sri Lankan community in Canada, and invite them to visit the country that they left, or was compelled to leave, long ago. I explained that we are keen that they also explore meaningful ways of contributing to Sri Lanka’s reconciliation and development efforts.
Earlier today, Foreign Minister Dion called on President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. I believe that the interactions he had provided an invaluable opportunity to discuss ways and means of enhancing our close and friendly relations.
A little later today, Minister Dion will meet my Cabinet colleague Honourable Mano Ganesan and sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the ‘National Languages Equality Advancement Project’ that will contribute to improving the delivery of government services in both official languages – Tamil and Sinhala.
Tomorrow, Minister Dion will be visiting Jaffna where he will meet the Governor and the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, and civil society representatives, and also visit Canadian funded projects.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank High Commissioner Shelley Whiting and her team for the remarkable work that they do here in Sri Lanka, to make our ties stronger.
Foreign Minister Dion, I wish you and your delegation a pleasant stay in Sri Lanka, and I hope that you will visit us again soon and would also make time to experience some of the natural beauty and historic sites of Sri Lanka.
Full Audio of Remarks by both Foreign Ministers uploaded to SoundCloud site (Approx 16 minutes)