Foreign Minister Prof. G. L Peiris met the newly appointed envoys representing 17 countries at the Foreign Ministry on 22 December. The meeting followed the presentation of credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 21 December by the envoys. Most of the envoys are non-resident Heads of Mission based in New Delhi.
Minister Peiris welcomed the Heads of Mission and stated that the Sri Lankan Government looked forward to strong and substantial relationships with all of them. He further stated that during his previous tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs under the leadership of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Government felt that there was insufficient representation in the African continent and deliberate efforts were made to strengthen relations with the African countries. The present Government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is also looking towards forming close bonds with the African nations as well as consolidating relations with the African Union, Minister Peiris said.
The Foreign Minister briefed the Ambassadors on the current situation and developments in Sri Lanka. He stated that the country has achieved substantial success even after the country’s structural plans, priorities and frameworks planned by the present Government were disrupted by the Covid19 pandemic. He stated that 90% of individuals above the age of 30 have been double vaccinated and the country is now providing booster shots. The Minister spoke of Sri Lanka’s efficient health care and delivery system as well as the support given by the armed forces who made that sure vaccines reached remote areas of the country. The Ambassadors were briefed on the resilience of the private sector which changed the nature of products, like the apparel industry producing PPE kits to suit the environment affected by the pandemic, making sure the export income of the country did not get affected and people continued to be employed. In the case of remittances, Minister Peiris acknowledged that remittances were affected due to a large number of Sri Lankans living abroad returning to their home country due to the pandemic. He stated that the government was in discussions with many countries since many now want to return.
The Foreign Minister also explained that the country was ravaged by a 30 year conflict and a conflict of such magnitude is bound to leave residues. He stated that it has taken other countries decades to recover and that Sri Lanka has made every effort to deal with the residual issues. He spoke of mechanisms set up by the Sri Lankan Government like the Office of Missing Persons, Commissions of Inquiry, ONUR, and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka all working towards tackling the remnants of the conflict. Referring to Sri Lanka’s commitment to gender empowerment and gender equality, Minister Peiris mentioned that the Human Rights Commission is headed by a former female judge of the Supreme Court and that Sri Lanka is working towards more female representation in decision making.
Minister Peiris stated that Sri Lanka has always engaged and will continue to engage purposefully and cordially with the United Nations but objected to the excessive interference into the internal affairs of the country. The Minister objected to the setting up of a ‘special mechanism’ by the UN whose sole purpose was to collect data to use against Sri Lanka. He stated that there was no way of knowing what the data was and therefore had no opportunity to test the truth in these allegations.
The Minister called for the empathy of the Ambassadors and High Commissioners present and their backing to Sri Lanka in the international platforms stating that it was important for the UN to support the efforts made by a country to get back on its feet and not tear it down. He pointed out that local institutions must be given the space and time to carve out solutions that sustain the culture and ethics of an individual country.
He concluded the meeting by inviting the Ambassadors to Sri Lanka join the celebration for the upcoming National Day in February 2022 and stated that Sri Lanka looks forward to stronger bilateral relations and cooperation in the UN arena.
The heads of Missions of the 17 countries present were:
I. The Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone – High Commissioner Ernest Mbaimba
II. The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – Ambassador Mohammed El-Kayed
III. The Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – Ambassador Choe Hui Chol
IV. The Government of the Republic of Rwanda – High Commissioner Mukangira Jacqueline
V. The Government of the Republic of Botswana – High Commissioner Gilbert Shimane Mangole
VI. The Government of the Republic of Malta – High Commissioner Reuben Gauci
VII. The Government of Hungary – Ambassador Andras Laszlo Kiraly
VIII. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania – Ambassador Muhammad Ahmad Rara
IX. The Government of the Republic of Tunisia – Ambassador Hayet Talbi Bilel
X. The Government of the Argentine Republic – Ambassador Hugo Javier Gobbi
XI. The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana – High Commissioner Charrandass Persaud
XII. The Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt – Ambassador Maged Mosleh
XIII. The Government of the Dominican Republic – Ambassador David Emmanuel Puig
XIV. The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – High Commissioner Ahmed Sule
XV. The Government of the Republic of Indonesia – Ambassador Dewi Gustina Tobing
XVI. The Government of the Kingdom of Spain – Ambassador Jose Maria Dominguez
XVII. The Government of the Republic of Slovenia – Ambassador Mateja Ghosh
23 December, 2021