The statement of His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka at the Online Summit level Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Contact Group in response to COVID-19 on 4 May 2020

5 May 2020

Your Excellencies,

Ayubowan!

Good Evening!

At the outset, I congratulate His Excellency Ilam Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, the Chair of the Non Aligned Movement, for the timely initiative to hold this Summit, to address one of the most critical challenges the world has faced in modern times.

I am pleased to be participating at this Summit, in support of global solidarity, unity and renewed multi-lateral cooperation in overcoming COVID -19. Sri Lanka firmly believes that this Summit will serve as an important platform for the NAM Member States to support collective global action in combating this deadly virus and sharing best practices and lessons learnt.

I extend my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and express deep appreciation to the frontline healthcare and essential workers, both in Sri Lanka and globally, for their dedication and selfless commitment.

Sri Lanka remains deeply concerned by the unprecedented consequences arising from this pandemic to all our countries and peoples, including its catastrophic health impacts, accompanying humanitarian crisis, devastation of economies and social and psychological tensions, among others.

Sri Lanka, therefore, is pleased to endorse the declaration of this Summit.

Sri Lanka recognizes the timely initiative to establish a NAM Task Force to compile a database of basic humanitarian and medical needs of the member states to sensitize donors on urgent requirements.

We commend the “COVID 19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan” and the establishment of the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Sri Lanka also supports the endeavours of the WHO which has been playing a vital role in shaping the global response to the pandemic.

Sri Lanka has been successfully containing and controlling the COVID-19 threat. Out of the total PCR tests conducted so far only 3% has been confirmed as infected. The death rate is at a very low level of 0.97%.

In early February, my government established a Task Force comprising key health personnel, high-ranking military personnel and administrators to monitor the spread of the pandemic and also to take required measures to combat the spread of the virus.

The first Covid-19 Sri Lankan patient was identified on March 11th. Initially patients were Sri Lankans who came from several countries. Since then, 717 infected persons have been detected, 183 persons have been cured and discharged while 527 persons are being treated as active cases. Most of these persons were asymptomatic.

We adopted a few special and unique measures: establishment of quarantine centres managed by the Armed Forces and the deployment of the State Intelligence Services, the police and Public Health Inspectors to do contact tracing. Both these measures have helped Sri Lanka cope with this pandemic quite successfully enabling the health authorities to function at the optimum level.

Whenever a person afflicted with the virus was detected the contact tracing method was used to find out details of persons with whom the afflicted person had come into contact. Once identified, all such persons were taken to a specially designated quarantine centre or arrangements were put in place to self-quarantine such persons. If an entire area was found to have been contaminated, such areas were isolated and quarantined. Of the 31 clusters identified so far, 27 have been completely neutralized while the other 4 are being kept under strict control eliminating any spill over to the general population.

There have also been extensive PCR testing and health authorities are continuing to conduct more PCR tests.

Given an excellent free healthcare system which includes a well-established preventive mechanism placed throughout the country, Sri Lanka has been able to contain the spread of this deadly virus utilizing the public health processes.

In order to assist the health authorities and other services deployed to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, my government declared a curfew from March 18th throughout the island and restricted movement of people.  

With work coming to a standstill, Sri Lanka has taken a series of measures to mitigate the challenge. They include,

 

-       Financially supporting low-income families, pensioners and differently-abled, day-income earners and farmers

-       Managing the repatriation of Sri Lankans in a coordinated manner.

-       Exploring avenues of business to create new economic trends while supporting existing industries.

-       Moving forward to the use of digital technology including to connect the farmer, consumer and supplier, delivery of essential items and services, and distant education.

 

It is essential to ensure that all countries have unrestricted access to vital medical resources required to respond to this virus and do not face impediments in their procurement.

As Sri Lanka notes with deep concern that developing countries are facing an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to the pandemic, need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognized.

In this regard, Sri Lanka reiterates its call and joins global appeals for international financial institutions and donors to provide debt relief and greater financial assistance to vulnerable countries.

It is important to emphasize that Middle-Income Countries too face critical and diverse economic and social challenges that have been augmented by this pandemic. Therefore, it is important to also focus on their needs at this particular juncture and accord the necessary financial support to avert negative economic consequences.

Sri Lanka believes that national and regional level initiatives complement and strengthen the global response to the crisis. Sri Lanka contributed USD 5 million to the SAARC COVID - 19 Emergency Fund to assist the South Asian region in its efforts to deal with the challenge.

Sri Lanka wishes to share its experiences and successes in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic with fellow members.

May I reiterate Sri Lanka's appreciation of the Chair of the NAM for organizing this Summit and pledge our support for the NAM’s initiatives in combating and overcoming this pandemic.

Thank you.

President’s Media Division

 

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Modalities to issue temporary travel documents to undocumented workers abroad agreed on

5 May 2020

Modalities to issue temporary travel documents to undocumented workers abroad following proper authentication procedures have been agreed on by the Department of Immigration and Emigration. This follows consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations and Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE). It is intended to facilitate the repatriation of migrant workers, once the Government decides on a timeline for their repatriation.

This was discussed at a meeting convened today (04 May 2020) by the Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, Dinesh Gunawardena with the relevant line agencies.

The interest expressed through the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ portal by migrant workers to return and the amnesties presently declared by Kuwait and Jordan were reviewed. The vulnerability faced by migrant workers particularly in the Maldives and possible measures to address it was also discussed. The programme by the Foreign Ministry and the SLBFE to provide dry rations to the Sri Lankan migrant communities most affected was also assessed.

Minister Gunawardena briefed those present on the negotiations that have taken place with the foreign governments concerned and efforts being made to be responsive to these governments while ensuring that any repatriation remains consistent with the ongoing quarantine process.

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Senior Additional Secretary (Development) of the Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations Sujeewa Thissera, Controller General of Department of Immigration & Emigration Sarath Rupasiri, Chairman of Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Kamal Ratwatte, and other Senior Officials participated at the meeting.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

 

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Foreign Minister discusses prioritization in repatriation and new job opportunities overseas

1 May 2020

Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations Dinesh Gunawardena in a wide-ranging interview has focused on the Government’s prioritization on the repatriation of overseas Sri Lankans and the additional services in place to facilitate the urgent needs of the migrant workers in the Middle East.

The Minister noted that notwithstanding the COVID-19 crisis 500 new job opportunities have opened in the Republic of Korea which the Foreign Employment Bureau will be making public shortly. Minister Gunawardena made these observations in an interview with Chamuditha Samarawickrama recently at the Foreign Ministry.

Weblink: https://www.mfa.gov.lk/foreign-minister-discusses-repat-an…/

Full interview at: https://youtu.be/U2Ob_PYM9rk

 

 

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The Message of His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, on International Workers’ Day, 1 May 2020

1 May 2020

I wish to make use of this occasion of the International Workers’ Day to salute and pay my respect to the working masses who are making boundless sacrifices in the face of challenges before the nation caused by COVID – 19 outbreak.

Many were the challenges we faced and overcame throughout history. In each such instance, working class in the country is the segment that was directly affected and at the forefront.  History has proven their resilience and commitment, which, indeed is a great credit to the working class. It is certain that we will win the battle against COVID – 19 as we had conquered all the difficulties in the past, hand in hand with the working class.

International Workers’ Day is an opportunity to showcase the unity, strength, and revolutionary spirit of working people to the world. The global working community has lost the opportunity to celebrate May Day this time due to the global pandemic. Nevertheless, I am confident that their determination to create a better and just society will remain the same.

Our government, despite difficult circumstances, did not disrupt the daily life of the working people. We not allow any room for such a situation to occur. Similarly, we will take steps to secure the daily livelihood of the workforce by ensuring the functioning of the production and service sectors while mitigating the effects of the epidemic.   

Last year the working class of our country had to forego May Day celebrations due to the Easter Sunday carnage. Even though we have ended that inhumaneness, due to unexpected world epidemic situation, this time too, May Day celebrations and processions will not be held.  This decision was taken according to the guidelines prescribed by the health authorities. Nevertheless, we should pursue the struggle to achieve just rights. May the aspirations of this International Workers' Day may further enhance the courage for the collective efforts of rebuilding the Sri Lankan nation and the economy of the country.

I salute the Sri Lankan working class.

 

April 30, 2020                                         

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

President of Sri Lanka

 

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Repatriation of Sri Lankan Students from South Asia concludes

30 April 2020

With the arrival this evening (30 April) of UL 1188 carrying 125 Sri Lankan students from Kolkata, the operation to bring home 1065 Sri Lankan students based in the South Asian region, over 10 days, reached a successful conclusion.

Commencing on 21 April 2020, a total of nine (9) Sri Lankan Airlines special flights were used to destinations in India (Punjab, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, New Delhi and Kolkata) Pakistan (Karachi and Lahore), Nepal (Kathmandu) and Bangladesh (Dhaka), to repatriate the  Sri Lankan students who had expressed their desire to return to Sri Lanka in the wake of the COVID 19 Pandemic. Those repatriated also included public and military officials who had completed study and training programmes in the respective countries and had to return to take up official duties back in Sri Lanka. Currently all returnees are undergoing mandatory quarantine at facilities afforded by the Sri Lanka Government.

Following the analysis of data on the most vulnerable Overseas Sri Lankans wishing to return and the recommendation of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, on 14 April, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed that students in South Asia be the first category to be repatriated following the closure of the airport for arrivals to Sri Lanka from abroad. The Ministry in close collaboration with the Sri Lanka Missions in South Asia, the Presidential Secretariat, the Coviod 19 Task Force and the Sri Lankan Airlines, and with strong assistance of the respective foreign governments ensured the safe return of the students stationed across many cities in the region, amidst numerous challenges posed by the complexities arising out of the global Pandemic. 

As the first step, Sri Lanka Missions and Consulates General in South Asia, namely Dhaka, Kathmandu, New Delhi, Islamabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Karachi, undertook the collation of data of the students in their respective jurisdictions, thus building the necessary network with students and academic institutions to map out the repatriation process. The South Asia and SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Relations headed by Director General Aruni Ranaraja coordinated the process with the Missions. A detailed plan for each destination, outlined in consultation with the Presidential Secretariat and the Presidential Task Force was executed including categorization and group formation, with the objective of streamlining both the repatriation and quarantine processes. This clustering of groups continued throughout the process of repatriation and will do so until the conclusion of the quarantine process.

The first repatriation on 21 April 2020, from Pakistan coordinated by the Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad led by Acting High Commissioner U.L. Niyas together with the Sri Lanka Consulate General in Karachi headed by G.L. Gnanatheva brought down a total of 106 persons, who were at 12 academic and training institutes across Pakistan, some located over 1500 Kms from the airport.

The repatriation processes from India coordinated by Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi, headed by Acting High Commissioner Niluka Kadurugamuwa involved three (03) flights, from Amritsar, New Delhi and Kolkata, and brought in a total of 369 Students from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi (NCR), Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, and Chhattisgarh.  

The Western Indian region repatriation was coordinated by the Sri Lanka Consulate General in Mumbai headed by Consul General Chamari Rodrigo and brought 164 persons from academic and training institutes in 15 cities in 05 States of Maharashtra, Gujrat, Goa, Madhya Paradesh and Karnataka.

Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission in Chennai headed by Deputy High Commissioner Vadivel Krishnamoorthy undertook the task to repatriate students in two batches departing from Coimbatore on 26 April 2020 and from Bangalore on 28  April 2020, carrying 113 and 164 students respectively. The students were at Institutes in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh and Telangana.  

The Sri Lanka Embassy in Kathmandu headed by Ambassador Himalee Arunatilaka repatriated 76 students from Kathmandu and Pokhara, which is around 200 km away from Kathmandu. Sri Lankan Airlines undertook the repatriation flight on 24 April 2020 to Kathmandu - a destination to which the national carrier does not have regular commercial flights.

Seventy three (73) students from various locations in Bangladesh, from the cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, Comilla, Savar and Sylhet were repatriated was undertaken on 28 April 2020 by Sri Lankan Airlines.  The Sri Lanka High Commission in Dhaka headed by Acting High Commissioner Sameera Dayasekara spearheaded the repatriation and received the support of numerous state society organizations in Bangladesh.

The Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Sri Lanka Missions in the South Asian region appreciates the cooperation extended by the Governments of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, the state governments and the local authorities, Departments of Immigration, Authorities of Civil Aviation, academic institutes, the respective tri-forces of these countries, and Sri Lankan Organizations particularly the Mahabodhi Society in Kolkata, for providing unstinted cooperation and coordination to make the repatriation process a success.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

 

 

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