Sri Lanka, having rid itself of the scourge of terrorism and now engaged in building up its economy to ensure a better life for all its people, looks forward to a productive partnership with the government of the Netherlands in confronting the challenges of the future, Professor G. L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and International Trade, told the Dutch government last week.
He was received at The Hague by Frans Timmermans, Minister of European Affairs in the Royal Dutch Government.
Prof. Peiris gave the Dutch Minister a detailed account of the action being taken by the government of Sri Lanka with regard to the resettlement of internally displaced persons. He said that the modalities of the process, with particular reference to topography and relevant security considerations, had been explained authoritatively last week in Brussels to the Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy of the European Commission. This issue is being accorded the highest priority by the Sri Lankan government, with an emphasis on incremental progress within stipulated time-frames.
The Minister underscored the need for understanding of the complexity and magnitude of the issues involved. He referred to the government’s current initiatives in reviving the economy of those parts of the Island which had been ravaged by terrorism, and explained what was being done in collaboration with the private sector for the restoration of livelihoods. The Assistant Trade Representative of the United States is in Sri Lanka visited Sri Lanka and toured the Trincomalee area to discuss the strengthening of public sector-private sector partnerships with a view to accelerating employment generation, Prof. Peiris said.
As for visibility and exposure, more than thirty non-governmental institutions have been given access to IDP camps, which were also visited by legislators from South India.
Prof. Peiris told the Dutch Minister for European Affairs that, as one who had been involved in the government during the last fifteen years, he was personally aware of the extent to which all initiatives with regard to trade, investment and tourism had been impeded by terrorism. It is of vital importance that European nations should recognize fully the entirely new situation which has arisen in the country today, after the eradication of terrorism.
Sri Lanka is now able, after two decades, to derive the fullest benefit from her natural strengths and, in particular, the unique calibre of her human resources and, towards this end, the goodwill and support of Europe are prime requisites, he observed.
He stressed, in his discussions with Minister Timmermans, that the policies of the Sri Lankan government, straddling the entire gamut of humanitarian, economic and political issues, enjoy the wholehearted support of the people of Sri Lanka. This was amply demonstrated by the outcome of the Provincial Council elections held at the weekend in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, where the government secured a two-thirds majority in terms of both votes obtained and seats secured.
This is an extraordinarily difficult feat under the electoral system of proportional representation in operation in Sri Lanka, and these results are an indication of the depth and intensity of popular support, the Minister commented.
He presented to the Dutch Minister for European Affairs the Sri Lankan government’s point of view with regard to the GSP+ issue. Minister Timmermans thanked Prof. Peiris for his presentation, and assured the Minister that Sri Lanka’s views would be fully taken into account by the Dutch government and placed before the European Council when the latter deliberates on the matter shortly.