Full text of the speech made by His Excellency the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the National Ranaviru Day commemorations on May 19th 2020.

20 May 2020

Reverend Maha Sanga representing Maha Nayaka Theros and Anu Nayaka Theros of Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters, Amarapura and Ramannya Nikayas,

His Eminence Cardinal,

Hindu Kurukkal leader, Islam Mowlawi,

  • Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa, former President and the Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
  • Hon. Maithripala Sirisena, former President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
  • Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda,
  • Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Gunatilleke, Governor of the Western Province
  • Secretary to the President,
  • Secretary Defence,
  • Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force,
  • Acting Inspector General of Police, Director-General of the Department of Civil Defence,
  • Distinguished guests,
  • War heroes of Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and Civil Defence,
  • Dear parents, wives, sons, and daughters of war heroes,

May 19th is a very important milestone in the history of Sri Lanka.

11 years ago on a day like this, on May 19th, 2009, we completely defeated the separatist terrorism which had been a curse to the country for nearly 30 years.

It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who gave the leadership for this battle in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief.

With the end of terrorism, an environment where people could live without fear or anxiety and enjoy their human rights freely was created.

After a period of 30 years, we ensured democracy and build an atmosphere where free and fair elections could be held.

The atmosphere where people can travel freely without any restrictions to any place of the country was restored.

Our war heroes and their families made immense sacrifices to usher in peace to the country which was engulfed in terror.

War is not a bed of roses. Especially, the war heroes had to face numerous bitter experiences and difficulties when battling one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world which did not respect the law.

During those 30 years, helpless civilians got killed everywhere in the country. A large number of lives and properties were lost due to suicide attacks, bombing in buses, trains, and buildings carried out by the terrorists.

The prime objective of the Humanitarian Mission was to bring lasting peace in the country.

Because of the exceptional sacrifices made by our war heroes, today we have the opportunity to live in peace and harmony in a unitary state.

Our country, nourished by Buddhist philosophy, possesses a form of administration that an oasis for all religions and all nationalities.  

Throughout its history, people in this country including Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay, and Burgher have had equal rights.

The motive of the extremists was to divide us. If they were successful in their attempt, our history could have taken a different course. Sri Lanka could have become a country where communities hate each other, engage in continuous battles for borders, fear of war is a common norm of life, and another hapless and divided country.

The honor of liberating the country from this catastrophe should be given to all our heroic troops who fought for the peace in our country for a long time.

We remember with immense gratitude, all the war heroes including General Kobbekaduwa and General Vijaya Wimalarathna who fought for this victory for more than 3 decades and laid their lives for the country.

As an officer who was engaged in active service for around 20 years, later as the Secretary Defence for 10 years as well as a citizen I am very well aware of the sacrifices made by our war heroes.

Pain of the war is not strange to me.

Therefore, I will not allow any room for attempts to discredit and destroy the dignity of our war heroes who made countless sacrifices to bring peace to entire Sri Lanka.

I assure you that under my administration, we will take every measure always to protect the dignity of our heroic forces.

It is a national responsibility to ensure their rights.

In a situation where even leaders of powerful countries have emphatically stated that they would not allow any action against their war heroes, in a small country like ours where our war heroes have sacrificed so much, I will not allow anyone to exert undue pressure on them or harass them.

If any international body or organization continuously target our country and our war heroes, using baseless allegations, I will also not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from such bodies or organizations.

We pay the tribute of the nation to all war heroes and their families who contributed to the battle against separatism for 3 decades.

The highest honour that can be bestowed on them is to transform this country which was protected by them by laying their lives to a land where every citizenry can live in peace, harmony and with dignity.

At this War Memorial, I invite all patriotic citizens to make your fullest contribution towards this endeavor.

I thank you all.

May the noble Triple Gem bless you. 

FOREIGN SECRETARY APPEALS TO OSLS TO RETHINK PLANS TO BE REPATRIATED UNLESS IN COMPELLING CIRCUMSTANCES

17 May 2020

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has called on migrant workers as well as students and parents, to carefully calibrate the effect repatriation at this time could have on their jobs and education, before making decisions to seek to return to Sri Lanka, availing of the limited flights being operated by the Government for those facing compelling circumstances. He made this observation yesterday (16 May 2020) in an appearance on the ‘News at 9’ on Sri Lanka Rupavahini, where he noted that over 38,000 Sri Lankans are seeking to be repatriated, of that nearly 28,000 migrant workers. The comments made by the Secretary are below;

Priority right now of the Government following the Cabinet Paper presented by my Minister Dinesh Gunawardena two weeks ago, is to bring back the migrant worker category which needs to come, but more so in some cases have to come. Because they have gone out of status and are illegal, they also as a result of being illegal do not have access to the health facilities and anything else in those countries. There are many who have been thrown out of jobs. They are pretty much destitute. Thereafter we can consider those who want to come, but who have jobs and who simply want to come on holiday to avoid any Corona vulnerability.

Our plea to these employees, as we did to students some time ago, is to ask them to carefully calibrate the possible loss of jobs or loss of educational opportunity or major delays which can occur from their coming. Because in students, we particularly find that in some places, one set of parents want children to come, another set of parents want children to stay and finish their exams. So, while I know these are personal choices alright, I think there must be some rationality in doing this. Because from the Foreign Ministry perspectives, we are working very hard to get them back today, but I know that one month, two months from now, we will once again be asked to try to reconcile their status as students, when there are difficulties for them to get back or lose out on semester. It is the same with those who lose their employment.

So as much as the Foreign Ministry and the Government is trying to bring back people, that these people who are wanting to return, make a very careful assessment of their essential needs, as against just wanting to come for the short term. This may not be the best time to use this limited window and have to go into quarantine for 21 days when they come here as well.

We are going to try as much as possible to ensure that those who stay back are assisted to the extent possible, particularly the most vulnerable through the various networks of our 67 Missions, 16 where SLBFE is also present, to try and provide dry rations and where necessary medicines so that the problems they face are managed out there where they are.

As for those on short term visits, we have to bring them back. They have nowhere to go. We are conscious of that. The difficulty to some extent is the fact that they are spread all over and Sri Lankan Airlines, even cargo flights which now are flying, are not flying out to many of these capitals. So, while we are integrating them in flights already coming, how we bring them all back is a matter which is at the moment being discussed at the highest levels.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations
Colombo
 
17 May 2020
 
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OVER 38,000 SRI LANKANS IN 143 COUNTRIES SEEK TO RETURN HOME

17 May 2020

Over 38,983 Overseas Sri Lankans (OSLs) in 143 countries at present seek to return home, based on information gathered mainly through the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ Web Portal of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. This comprises 3,078 students, 4,040 short term visa holders, 27,854 Migrant workers, 3527 dependents and 484 duel citizens and others. Meanwhile since 21 April, up to now, 3600 OSLs have been repatriated from 15 countries, largely comprising foreign students and government officials on training, as well as their dependents.

Recognizing the need to collect data on vulnerable OSLs, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, with the assistance of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), on 26 March 2020 created the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ Web Portal, within a week following closure of the airport to inbound commercial flights. In parallel to the Portal, Sri Lanka Missions were also instructed to collect data on those who wish to return. The two sources, serve as the base for identifying vulnerable groups, prioritizing and repatriation.

The Contact Sri Lanka Web Portal also serves as a virtual help desk for the benefit of OSLs. According to Acting Director General, Economic Affairs (Multilateral) and Overseas Sri Lankans Anzul Jhan, since its launch, 78,033 Sri Lankans have registered on the Portal and a dedicated team operating effectively 24/7, have answered 7,788 questions posed by OSLs from across the globe – mainly on assistance on repatriation and consular issues, but also relating to other operational and policy matters.

The portal has not only been able to direct Sri Lankans to the nearest Sri Lanka Diplomatic Mission, specially where there is no Sri Lankan representation in the countries concerned, but also to help connect with vulnerable categories of Sri Lankans who are in need of food and also face medical emergencies, with provision of dry rations, medicines and in some occasions facilitating arrangements for shelter. It has also prompted streamlining issues pertaining to transfer of funds by migrants to Sri Lanka and to short term travellers and students from Sri Lanka. Some Missions have also helped students who faced issues in educational institutions and those whose employment contracts have expired to secure new employment agreements, so that they are not compelled to return due to unemployment.

Participating in a television discussion on Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation on Saturday (16 May), Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha said, the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ portal has become a reliable analytical organizational tool in forward planning and in fine-tuning the relations and direct communications between the Ministry, the Missions and the OSLs. He also added that the Ministry looks forward to expanding its utility and functions in the future.

Questioned on the manner in which the Missions abroad have responded in the face of the many challenges posed by the present pandemic, the Foreign Secretary explained to the public the complexity of the multiple tasks the Ministry and Mission staff had to simultaneously address across the globe, in an unprecedented manner. These included meeting the concerns of diplomats and tourists in Sri Lanka, securing Missions abroad, addressing the demands of those who wanted to return, easing conditions on the ground for those who wanted to remain in their host countries in collaboration with host governments and communities, securing essential supplies both medical and food, ensuring Sri Lankan exports reached their destinations and markets were found for new products such as Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), garnering donations for the COVID-19 fund to the tune of Rs.27 million, and engaging with the WHO and other multilateral, regional and bilateral partners in leveraging Sri Lanka’s interests.

Foreign Secretary Aryasinha said, in this context, it was noteworthy that at present out of the 67 Missions of Sri Lanka, 1/3 of Missions function with officers in acting capacity from the Sri Lanka Foreign Service (SLFS), in the absence of an accredited Ambassador/High Commissioner and also several vacant diplomatic posts. He believed this experience has given significant exposure to several young SLFS officers who were acting in the posts of Heads of Mission to face high pressure situations, taking swift and calculated decisions in analyzing the host country situations to identify vulnerabilities, while dealing with aggrieved communities. He believed that such experiences would enrich their future career and would hold them in good stead in their professional progression.

Ministry of Foreign Relations
Colombo
17 May 2020
 
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