18 September, 2019

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Restructuring Our Economy & Our Foreign Policy

By Mangala Samaraweera

In my view, it is the failure of our present and previous constitutions to acknowledge the diversity of Sri Lanka and its inherent multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual character that has been in many ways at the centre of our failure to build and sustain the durable peace that our country so desperately needs. As a result we are restructuring our economy to encourage greater investment and increase exports. To this end, we are in the process of creating a transparent and rules-based level playing field for business, leveraging our unique geo-economic location and securing greater market access for goods and services produced in Sri Lanka.mangala

Mr. Samantha Ranatunga, Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce,
Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Minister for Special Assignments,
Datuk Azzat Kamaludin, Chairman of Dialog Axiata and the Keynote Speaker today,
Captains of Industry, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by commending and thanking the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce for organizing this Investment and Business Conclave bringing investors from 27 countries, including a number of Overseas Sri Lankans, to Sri Lanka at a time when the country is embarking on a new journey towards peace and prosperity. I would also like to thank the potential investors here today for placing your confidence in the possibilities that our country has to offer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sri Lanka gained independence on the 4th of February 1948 amidst much hope and expectation. A British newspaper editorial written on that day not only predicted a bright future for our country but also went so far as to say that, given its strategic position on one of the world’s busiest sea and with an abundance of natural and human resources, Ceylon would no doubt soon become the Switzerland of the East. The comparison to Switzerland reflected the general anticipation that this newly independent island nation would be a rich and developed democracy united in its diversity.

68 years later, or if I may say so, two youth insurrections and a 26 year-old civil war later, Sri Lanka has yet to achieve that promise of hope. Many opportunities have been squandered away for reasons of political expediency. The refusal by many of our post-independence politicians to acknowledge the ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity of our country and the lack of political courage by those who understood this reality made Sri Lanka prey to politics of extremism. The deafening silence of the moderate majority on both sides of the divide, combined with political leaders who lacked the courage of their convictions to tell the truth, pushed Sri Lanka to the precipice.

On the 8th of January 2015, the people of Sri Lanka took a bold decision not to stare any longer into that abyss; they decided to pull back from the precipice and the country embarked on a new journey to win the future our people truly deserve.

This journey towards peace and prosperity is based on three pillars: democratisation, reconciliation and development. These objectives must be addressed in parallel if we are to succeed. There can be no sustainable development without democracy and reconciliation and vice versa. As President Sirisena often says, development cannot only be measured by bricks and mortar alone but the hearts and minds of the people must be taken into consideration. Today the people of Sri Lanka have chosen democracy, good governance and the rule of law over authoritarianism, arbitrary rule and impunity; they have chosen stability, reconciliation and peace over the politics of fear and hate. And they have also chosen openness to the world and a competitive, transparent rules-based economy over isolationist crony capitalism. Therefore, it is on the basis of these goals that the government is building a firm foundation for unleashing Sri Lanka’s potential for the 21st Century.

Ladies and Gentleman,

In my view, it is the failure of our present and previous constitutions to acknowledge the diversity of Sri Lanka and its inherent multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual character that has been in many ways at the centre of our failure to build and sustain the durable peace that our country so desperately needs.

Therefore, this government has embarked on the process of creating a new, truly democratic, constitution that reflects the needs and aspirations of all Sri Lankans. The new constitution must be the flagship of Sri Lanka’s commitment to being a modern vibrant democracy united in its ethnic, religious and cultural diversity; it must also reflect our commitment to individual and human rights, as well as internationally accepted humanitarian laws. The new constitution must also ensure non-recurrence of the various tragedies our country has endured over the last 68 years.

For the first time in history, the traditional rivals in Sri Lankan politics – the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) – have come together to form a grand coalition for the first time, heralding a new era of consensual politics based on a collective determination to ensure Sri Lanka’s unity and stability by building a durable peace based on equality, justice and freedom.

Also, after decades of violent conflict we need to understand, come to terms and deal with our past, if we are to move forward. Therefore, based on the proposals outlined by the Government at the Human Rights Council in September last year, the Government took the bold and historic step of co-sponsoring a UN resolution on promoting human rights, accountability and reconciliation. This was taken not to appease the international community but as President Sirisena said in his Independence Day message on the 4th of February this year,

“It is now time for us to seize the current opportunity that is before us to implement the provisions of the Resolution, not because of international pressure, but because, as a nation, we must implement these provisions for the sake of restoring the dignity of our nation, our people, and our military, in order for Sri Lanka to regain her due position as a strong democracy among the community of nations.”

Under this resolution, the government committed itself to a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past via the creation of four reconciliation mechanisms viz an Office of Missing Persons, a Truth, Reconciliation, Justice and Non-Recurrence Commission, a domestic accountability mechanism and an Office of Reparations. This resolution was welcomed by the main political parties, including the main minority political parties. Together with the new constitution, these measures will collectively address many of the root causes of conflict and ensure true long-term unity, stability and durable peace. And public consultations on both the constitution and the reconciliation mechanisms are already underway.

However, the Government recognizes that reconciliation alone will not create the necessary systemic political stability and good governance that Sri Lanka requires. Over the last year, a range of steps have been taken to restore Sri Lanka’s democratic heritage.

Last year, the Government passed a constitutional amendment which re-established term limits and restored the independence of the judiciary, public service, police and other public bodies. The days of impunity and political violence are also over: Sri Lanka recently signed the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and investigations into the countless crimes that took place over the last few years are underway. After systematic censorship and abuses against journalists, full press freedom has been restored. The Freedom of Information Act will be presented in Parliament as soon as the concurrence of all provincial councils have been obtained.

But if democracy and reconciliation are to succeed, the peace dividend must be felt by all sections of society; it must trickle down from the very top to the very bottom improving the living standard of all, especially the vulnerable. The peace dividend for the unemployed youth must be greater and better job opportunities, for the housewives better living standards, for the farmers, higher prices and access to markets, for the students more schools, technical colleges and universities with better-trained teachers, for the elderly greater access to hospitals and medicine.

As a result we are restructuring our economy to encourage greater investment and increase exports. To this end, we are in the process of creating a transparent and rules-based level playing field for business, leveraging our unique geo-economic location and securing greater market access for goods and services produced in Sri Lanka.

Our foreign policy has been reset to achieve these objectives. The first and foremost basis for our foreign policy today is our national interest. As Nehru said in 1947, shortly after independence, ‘Whatever policy you may lay down, the art of conducting foreign affairs of a country lies in finding out what is most advantageous to the country.’

We want the best the world can offer for our people. Our friendship with our sister and neighbor, India, has reached new levels of excellence in the last twelve months and Sri Lanka is positioning herself as the gateway to India and the sub-continent to share the economic benefits of one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Our historic relations with our other powerful friend and neighbor, China, are as strong as ever and next month’s visit by our Prime Minister to Beijing will further strengthen our ties.

Our cordial ties with the US have now been elevated to that of a very special friendship making the US one of Sri Lanka’s staunchest friends in the international community. The US-Sri Lanka partnership dialogue bears testimony to this bond. The EU again stands ready to assist Sri Lanka’s march forward and the U.K. remains a time-tested friend. Securing the GSP+ concession seems a possibility again.

Japan and South Korea [which I am visiting tomorrow] are as always rallying around Sri Lanka. Our friends in Russia and the Middle East are extending their hands in friendship and support.

Sri Lanka is now at the centre stage of international relations. Along with Myanmar and Tunisia, there is a tsunami of goodwill and support developing around the globe for Sri Lanka. An unprecedented window of opportunity has opened and as Sri Lanka turns 70 in 22 months’ time, we are firm in our resolve win and overcome all the challenges which have held our nation back for so long.

*Address by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs – 8 March 2016

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Latest comments

  • 6
    2

    The first step towards economic prosperity is to recover the stolen public funds and prosecute those who committed the crime to restore public confidence in the government.

    • 5
      3

      Let’s be frank. This man Mangala Samaraweera only sees every problem from the point of view of the minorities.

      It is no secret that he is using the minorities to push his own barrow of the sexual minority he belongs to and promotes. He hates Sinhala Buddhists for rejecting his lifestyle according to 3000 year old tradition. But that won’t change a thing.

      There have been many people like Mangala Samaraweera who have tried to change the world to suit their personal vested interests and no doubt, he also wil be a ‘flash in the pan’ like all the others.

      We must get rid of this thief as quickly as possible.

      • 0
        0

        Atha Netha,
        You say:
        “It is no secret that he is using the minorities to push his own barrow of the sexual minority he belongs to and promotes. He hates Sinhala Buddhists for rejecting his lifestyle according to 3000 year old tradition. But that won’t change a thing.”

        Since when have the Sinhala Buddhists abhorred this minority lifestyle? Do you not know what happens to the under-aged “abiththiyas” in Sinhala Buddhist temples?
        Please take your head out of the sand.

  • 2
    3

    I think its the correct time to reform the tax system along with the constitution. After all they both complement each other.

    Most good folks who pay their taxes on time are screaming blue murder when rates rise. The large black economy is silent as it never paid taxes anyway.

    The tax system needs to meet existing and future challenges. The existing challenges are the large black economy. There is no need to re-invent the wheel as many advance economies have already met this challenge.

    Australia for example maintain a Tax file number and a Business Number for all tax paying entities. The tax collection is done by the tax payers themselves. The tax identifications keep track of whom pay taxes and when. Their IT systems are smart enough to identify when there are anomalies in the system.

    The future tax challenges will come from online-payment phenomenon. How is the govt going to collect taxes when someone purchase a book from Amazon for example?

    Sri Lanka needs a smart and innovative forward thinking person to come up with a solution. I already know the answer. I would love to work under the PM and drive home the needed changes.

    • 6
      0

      Foreign Minister didn’t mention anything about tax reform. Why are you talking about tax reform. We need to provide income generating opportunities before taxing people. Otherwise it will backfire on the government, because the government is making people poor by increasing tax without letting them making money.

    • 0
      0

      Vibhushana,

      “Sri Lanka needs a smart and innovative forward thinking person to come up with a solution.”
      Yes, his TV interview re. Dhanno Budunge was a class act.

      About Amazon, I believe the govt. does not charge taxes on books. But on other items , the Customs do charge depending on declared value.
      Are you referring to VAT?

  • 6
    1

    “Ceylon would no doubt soon become the Switzerland of the East.” – British Newspaper.

    The British who divided India and Pakistan also divided Tamils and Sinhalese. They know well fought independence will end up in a disaster; but they had decided to say few nice words to make sure that you would not understand their trick.

    You would believe anything, if you believe the rulers who divide and rule others to rule the world – Antany Peter.

    According to my analyses Mangala Samaraweera is the most ineffective and inefficient Foreign Minister in the history of Sri Lanka. Recently, New Zealand Prime Minister visited Sri Lanka. But the Taj Samudra hotel billed the visitors for their stay. Eventually Primer Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe got involved and made sure that the Sri Lankan foreign Ministry takes the bill. The normal practice is the host country bear the cost. The current Foreign Minister doesn’t even know what is normal within the foreign ministry. I don’t think that he has the ability to understand our economy or our foreign policy. Recently, I have read two of his articles which has few spelling mistakes. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera must resign and offer the position to an amicable Sri Lankan who has extensive knowledge in foreign affairs.

    • 0
      0

      Antany Peter,

      “Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera must resign and offer the position to an amicable Sri Lankan who has extensive knowledge in foreign affairs.”

      Whom do you have in mind?

      • 0
        0

        If you can’t come up with a name, clearly we are not making leaders. How long do you plan on putting up with Mangala?

  • 4
    1

    First begin the recovery of funds stolen by the Whisky Madam.
    beging the clean up from 1994.

    Provide a couple of tots of the spirits and whisky madam will come out with many smart & innovative forward thinking & solutions to her problems and what were created by her.

    Vibushana… you’ve got a bright idea. To put it into practice first you will need to place an order for couple of litres of shaving foam. A bulk order would be fine.
    We are also able to provide purified cheap Thala Thel in drums for you to help you make the much needed changes..

  • 0
    1

    full press freedom has been restored.

    • 3
      0

      [Edited out] did you find that 18 billion dollars stolen by MR, you have no credibility or brain to say a such a thing, big lire

  • 2
    3

    restructuring towards grave….yamapalanaye cant take us anywhere else

  • 0
    0

    Dear Minister
    Why is that the President told the visiting ICRC Chief last week that foreign visitors are going to the North when reconciliation is mentioned and that the people in the North and the East are victims and reconciliation has to come from the South which thus needs to change its MINDSET. This is the TRUTH and has been missing in the last 68yrs.
    So any Sinhalese interested in justice, peace and reconciliation must tell the parliament and the SOUTH that they need to do the first thing first.
    But what this government is doing shows that it is only interested in the economic development of the South and not in the resolution of the ethnic issue.
    The ”busy” business of appointment of various bodies related to ”reconciliation” are ploys to get foreign financial investment which goes mainly to the South while the armed forces destroy the economy and environment of the North and part of the East.
    Is there any statement about the economy of the oppressed North and the East: they talk about the ”development of all” – yes there are undeveloped parts of the South but the reasons are totally different. Yes both reasons must be admitted and changes made accordingly – that will be moving towards more democracy.
    We have seen only token changes in the North to get financial investment from what goes on inside the country and the speeches made by the Minister at CommunityforDemocracies(Bern, 2 March) and at USIP(Washington, 25 February).
    His speech to Chamber of Commerce is in total contrast to that made by former Governor of Northern Provincial Council to the same Chamber last 25 June.

  • 1
    1

    Any one from the North talking about “Reconciliation”?

    They have only “Demands”

    Till we talk about”reconciliation”, there will be no end to their “Demands”

    • 0
      0

      ”The President told the visiting ICRC Chief last week that foreign visitors are going to the North when reconciliation is mentioned and that the people in the North and the East are victims and reconciliation has to come from the South” :

      Oppressed people(=victims) from the North demand justice which leads to peace which leads to reconciliation. So when there is change in the mindset of the South there will be justice to the people in the North. Then there will be peace and reconciliation in the country. ”Demand” evaporates.

  • 2
    5

    Guys don’t get envious when Samaraweera is doing a good job under difficult conditions.He is the best Foreign Minister we have had since Kadirgamar.He has even done better than LK since he has less freedom in foreign policy than LK had.LK also had the benefit of a near house full external affairs officers to back him.MS has no such talent except some ,a women officer specially,who I understand have slowly started to manipulate him for their own ends and this could be dangerous.LK was too cunning to be such a victim.Cheers!

    • 1
      1

      So you haven’t read his speech on 2 March to the Community of Democracies or when he met the Federal Councillor for foreign affairs on 3 March:
      his postindependence started with the LTTE in the 70s – he forgot the 50s and 60s while he was in Switzerland asking for aid.

      • 0
        0

        Soyza should read the Minister’s speeches(they are given on this website) at UNHRC(14 September2015) and at USIP(25 Feb2016), obviously prepared in conjunction with the Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs(who is our Prime Minister). Then she will understand that he is following the footsteps of former Minister G.L.Pieris flying around the world teumpeting plans of actions depending on the audience. That meansthe present government is not very different from the previous one.

  • 1
    0

    Mr. Minister: Why blame the Constitution for the “Failure” of the past and the present. You too have joined that “Seven Blind Men” and made the number “Eight”. Just “Think”. Where did we go wrong before and after the war? Is it Constitution or the “WAY” we handled our Governance? “WHO” were and are responsible for all the WRONGS this country’s successive Governments of the elected representatives did then and now. Weren’t YOU too, then and now, responsible and accountable for that FAILURE you speak now. The PEOPLE of this country were not born yesterday. They know what you all DID and are DOING. So please do not talk this “BS” in public forums; because that would be like removing your “Amude” (span cloth) to cover your face.

  • 2
    1

    I don’t know from which side of the brain the foreign minister is dreaming, and telling long tales. As for me, I am taking my investments out of Sri Lanka pronto.

  • 2
    1

    Everything is good except for the Sri Lanka being a Gateway to India……Workhorse of India, is more like it, with Lankan Rupees flowing over the proposed land bridge. India has over 2-billion of World Bank loans to pay off, and Sri Lanka is the necessary factor to fulfill obligations.

  • 0
    2

    No news of retrieving the North and part of the East from the clutches of the armed forces and their socio-economic activities.

  • 0
    0

    Wonderful ideals that are espoused but sadly with few practical steps, particularly in the North-East.

    Wouldn’t simply releasing people’s farms and lands and getting the military out of the local economy (competing with local businesses) be a big step forward in getting the economic dividends of peace?

    Or does Mangala =just mean the economic dividends must be felt by the people of the South?

  • 0
    0

    He speaks of a “domestic accountability mechanism” but has purposely omitted to mention the ‘hybrid court’ with foreign jurists mentioned in the resolution.

    He, the President and the government are under coercion not to appoint a ‘hybrid court’, mainly by the army.

    The army continues its oppression of law abiding citizens and suppression of civil liberties in the north and east.
    The army is the “sacred cow” of the regime and their actions are totally ignored, though publicised worldwide.

    The fasting political prisoners against whom there appears to be no evidence of any wrong doing, are told that they have rejected “rehabilitation” which they do not need.

    The new constitution will not result in justice for peoples of the north and east, and is only to entrench the present regime.

  • 0
    0

    ”unique geo-economic location” is the result of unique geopolitical location = gain for successive GoSL = deathknell for ethnic minorities

  • 0
    0

    On the day the Hon Minister made this speech he was asked in the parliament how far he had started to act on the promises he gave UNHRC on 14Sept2015. Nearly six months!!

  • 1
    0

    Switzerland? Never. Let us aim for Thailand fifty years ahead of us or Singapore a hundred years ahead?

  • 0
    0

    Mangalan at least gave our Elite, Anglicans and the Vellalas the right for same sex marriages by signing the UN Charter.

    And he is now working hard to put the knife into our learned Judges and get the Foreigners to do their job.

    So there are 2 points to Mangalan on Foreign Affairs.

    I am not so sure about the Yahapalna Economy .

    The latest to give it a fail is the S & P .

    Add that to Fitch and Moody’s it is a worse report card than what the Greeks got.

    If it a Western Country, which our Yahapalana suckers think it is with Batalanada at the helm, both the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister would have resigned or thrown out.

  • 0
    0

    Minister plans elaborate socio-economic evolution for the South.
    The army frolicks in condemning a night of fasting and prayer into a ”festival” in the North: forgetting the meaning of Sivarathri the people deprived of employment are eager to grab cups of tea and parcels of food from the army(that is blessed with with sumptuous allocation of budget):
    http://www.cimicjaffna.com/Cimicnews_2016_03_08.php

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