By Sajith Premadasa –
I am delighted by the prospect of having this opportunity of meeting all of you. Let me succinctly put forth Sri Lanka’s policy in the future with regard to inter-state relations.
We are firmly committed to maintaining a policy of friendship with all nations, both in the region and beyond. Considering our geographic location, our foreign policy will be focused on working with all nations in partnership, to transform Sri Lanka into a hub in the Indian Ocean, with a knowledge-based, competitive, social-market economy.
For this purpose open trade, freedom of navigation, and a rules-based world order are essential. Sri Lanka will remain firmly committed to these principles.
We will work closely with countries with which we already have development assistance programmes, trade partnerships and strong people-to-people contacts, while forging new and stronger connections with Indian Ocean nations and beyond.
We recognize the significance of our geographic location in the East-West maritime highway, and we want to ensure that we have mutually beneficial, meaningful and constructive partnerships with all nations. Air and maritime connectivity will play a critical role in our nation’s progress.
Trade is essential for our sustenance. As you are aware, Sri Lanka’s first modern and comprehensive free trade agreement with Singapore came into force in May last year. Sri Lanka was also the first country to enter into a FTA with India. I remain committed to pursue a path of enhancing trade and economic connectivity with states in the region and beyond. I also recognize the need to carry forward the regulatory reform agenda to enhance the ease of doing business with Sri Lanka.
Maximizing Sri Lanka’s location, heritage, and diversity in fauna and flora to enhance the tourism industry and also promote Sri Lanka as a Rest and Recreation Centre in the Indian Ocean with sports tourism and newer forms of tourism is also on our agenda.
In order to empower the village and rural population of Sri Lanka that has been somewhat marginalized over the years, I am committed to focus attention on creating special economic vehicles with the participation of international partners to create export-oriented industry and service centres across the country.
It is evident that there cannot be sustainable economic development without reconciliation, stability and peace in our country. The steps that have been taken in the last few years to strengthen reconciliation, rule of law, human rights and democracy have played an important role in placing Sri Lanka on a progressive path to healing and realizing our vision of a reconciled, democratic and developed Sri Lanka. Harnessing our full potential as a modern, stable, prosperous nation requires celebrating, acknowledging and fully recognising our country’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual nature, while securing individual rights and upholding the dignity of all citizens. Our journey on this progressive path to build inclusivity and undertake necessary reform initiatives will continue.
On the international stage, Sri Lanka will pursue meaningful engagement with all partners, and remain committed to facilitating dialogue, building trust, and strengthening multilateral mechanisms and processes.
We will take necessary steps to realize the Sustainable Development Goals while doing our part to mitigate climate change and take measures for adaptation. These are areas in which we will need international support. Combating terrorism and preventing violent extremism are also areas where we will work with the international community.
I want to assure you that we remain firmly committed to working as a team in government, and that we will ensure that Sri Lanka meets its voluntary international commitments.
*Remarks by Sajith Premadasa, Presidential Candidate of the United National Front (UNF) at the interaction with the Diplomatic Corps – Wednesday 02 October 2019