|Foreign Minister Bogollagama highlights Sri Lanka’s people-centric Foreign Policy|
|Tuesday, 09 September 2008 13:18|
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rohitha Bogollagama has emphasized the need for diplomats who are posted abroad to represent Sri Lanka, to have a thorough knowledge of the country’s system of local administration and the day to day problems confronting the people. Hence, he has decided that all Heads of Mission and Foreign Service officers should serve a period of orientation attached to a District Secretariat, prior to their departure, in order to gain an understanding of the range of services provided by the Government to the people at the grassroots level including Samurdhi welfare, and various development programmes initiated by the Government.
Minister Bogollagama made these remarks during the course of his key-note address as Chief Guest at a ceremony held last Friday (05 September 2008) at the BMICH to award certificates to participants who had successfully completed courses conducted by the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI). Speaking further, the Minister said that he expects all officers attached to the 55 Missions abroad to look after the interests and welfare of Sri Lankan nationals, particularly in sympathetically addressing the problems confronted by the large expatriate community in the Middle East. This year alone, the Foreign Ministry has been able to disburse over Rs. 70 million as compensation, end of service benefits and other dues to the next of kin of Sri Lankans who have lost their lives while employed in the Gulf States. This has been made possible, only due to the hard work performed by the Sri Lankan Missions in those countries in expediting the processing of several long outstanding claims.
The Foreign Minister, referring to the presence of a large number of officers belonging to the armed forces in the audience, who had successfully followed the courses at the BIDTI, expressed his happiness that the BIDTI has expanded its scope of training beyond the Foreign Service to include service personnel, as well as the general public who wish to gain an insight into the world of diplomacy and international relations.
Minister Bogollagama highlighted the people-centric focus of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, in line with the Mahinda Chinthana policy frame-work of the government. Tracing the history of foreign policy making since independence in 1948, the Minister referred to the adoption of non-alignment as a guiding principle of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, following the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung in 1955. He recalled that Sri Lanka reached its zenith under the late Prime Minister, Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike who hosted the Non-Aligned Summit in Colombo in 1976 and led the Non-Aligned Movement, with wide acclaim.
In the present day context of fast changing developments in the world, Sri Lanka is forging new relationships and partnerships with friendly countries, regional and international organizations. This has enabled Sri Lanka to articulate its own agenda effectively to the international community. Today, Sri Lanka has gained greater visibility and influence internationally, as Chair of SAARC, having successfully hosted the 15th Summit in Colombo recently. In the last few years, Sri Lanka has acquired membership in many prestigious regional and multilateral fora, such as the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Shangri-La Dialogue. The connectivity that the country has achieved through these linkages has stood Sri Lanka in good stead in promoting her national interest.
Foreign Minister Bogollagama commended the services of the armed forces in effectively combating terrorism and referred to the successful clearing operations in the Eastern Province last year, followed rapidly by the restoration of civil administration and democracy, without leaving a vacuum. He expressed confidence that the people in the North who are under the stranglehold of the terrorists would also be able to enjoy the benefits of democracy in the near future.
The Foreign Minister paid a glowing tribute to Dr. Vernon Mendis, a renowned diplomat who had provided visionary leadership to the BIDTI since its inception in 1995, as well as the present Director General Dr. Lorna Dewaraja who has continued to maintain the highest standards of academic excellence at the Institute.
Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mahinda Bandusena read the Prime Minister’s message. Acting Foreign Secretary, Prasad Kariyawasam and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were present on the occasion.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
09 September 2008