Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris met the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss on 26 October 2021 at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Minister Prof Peiris informed Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss that having fully vaccinated about 82% of the eligible population, life is getting back to normalcy in Sri Lanka. He informed that tourism which collapsed during the pandemic is picking up with modest numbers and other businesses are also picking up. He stated that Sri Lankan apparel industry which remained resilient even during the height of the pandemic was able to shift to produce other items such as Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs).
Minister Prof Peiris stated that Sri Lanka-UK bilateral relationship is very strong, and the two countries have a lot in common and there is a solid foundation to build on. He added that Sri Lanka is an example of a robust and time-tested democratic tradition where Sri Lankans began enjoying the universal adult franchise 17 years before gaining independence, when it was still the Colony of Ceylon.
Referring to the investments successive Sri Lankan Governments have made for human resource development such as provision of free healthcare and free education up to university level, Minister Prof Peiris stated that some of the products of Sri Lankan free education system are contributing to the UK’s economy.
Minister added that the British influence is visible in every aspect of Sri Lanka’s life be it politics, trade, finance, legal and education. The names of major Sri Lankan companies indicate their origins and have been set up by British businessmen. Referring to the Free Trade Agreements Sri Lanka has signed with India and Pakistan, he stated that such agreements provide an opportunity to British companies and act as a conduit to manufacture in Sri Lanka for export to these markets.
He also informed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has encouraged him to engage in a dialogue with the diaspora and the Government is also reaching out to the Tamil National Alliance. The Government has also commenced an engagement with the civil society organisations, has released some suspects held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and is revisiting the PTA to make changes which are not cosmetic but substantial. He also stated that the offices such as Office of Missing Persons, Office for Reparations and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation are engaged in useful work.
Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss reciprocated the sentiments expressed by Minister Prof. Peiris and stated that she was fortunate to have visited Sri Lanka and the two countries need to engage more on investments. She added that the UK is developing a broader investment portfolio which Sri Lanka could be a part of.
29 October, 2021