Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has called on migrant workers as well as students and parents, to carefully calibrate the effect repatriation at this time could have on their jobs and education, before making decisions to seek to return to Sri Lanka, availing of the limited flights being operated by the Government for those facing compelling circumstances. He made this observation yesterday (16 May 2020) in an appearance on the ‘News at 9’ on Sri Lanka Rupavahini, where he noted that over 38,000 Sri Lankans are seeking to be repatriated, of that nearly 28,000 migrant workers. The comments made by the Secretary are below;
Priority right now of the Government following the Cabinet Paper presented by my Minister Dinesh Gunawardena two weeks ago, is to bring back the migrant worker category which needs to come, but more so in some cases have to come. Because they have gone out of status and are illegal, they also as a result of being illegal do not have access to the health facilities and anything else in those countries. There are many who have been thrown out of jobs. They are pretty much destitute. Thereafter we can consider those who want to come, but who have jobs and who simply want to come on holiday to avoid any Corona vulnerability.
Our plea to these employees, as we did to students some time ago, is to ask them to carefully calibrate the possible loss of jobs or loss of educational opportunity or major delays which can occur from their coming. Because in students, we particularly find that in some places, one set of parents want children to come, another set of parents want children to stay and finish their exams. So, while I know these are personal choices alright, I think there must be some rationality in doing this. Because from the Foreign Ministry perspectives, we are working very hard to get them back today, but I know that one month, two months from now, we will once again be asked to try to reconcile their status as students, when there are difficulties for them to get back or lose out on semester. It is the same with those who lose their employment.
So as much as the Foreign Ministry and the Government is trying to bring back people, that these people who are wanting to return, make a very careful assessment of their essential needs, as against just wanting to come for the short term. This may not be the best time to use this limited window and have to go into quarantine for 21 days when they come here as well.
We are going to try as much as possible to ensure that those who stay back are assisted to the extent possible, particularly the most vulnerable through the various networks of our 67 Missions, 16 where SLBFE is also present, to try and provide dry rations and where necessary medicines so that the problems they face are managed out there where they are.
As for those on short term visits, we have to bring them back. They have nowhere to go. We are conscious of that. The difficulty to some extent is the fact that they are spread all over and Sri Lankan Airlines, even cargo flights which now are flying, are not flying out to many of these capitals. So, while we are integrating them in flights already coming, how we bring them all back is a matter which is at the moment being discussed at the highest levels.
Ministry of Foreign Relations
17 May 2020
The Ministry of Foreign Relations handed over Rs. 27.7 million to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday (May 14th), raised through the network of Sri Lanka Missions overseas, to support COVID-19 Health Care and Social Security Fund.
Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha handed over the cheque to the President, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena at the Presidential Secretariat.
The unprecedented response by the Sri Lankan community members, associations and well-wishers overseas despite varied hardships in their countries of residence, was a reflection of their keen endorsement towards the efforts made by the Government in minimizing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka.
In addition to raising funds, the Missions abroad have also been sourcing large consignments of much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from around the world, ranging from large quantities of thermometers, test kits, nebulizers, humidifiers, ventilators, and other types of protective gears.
The Sri Lanka Foreign Service Association (SLFSA) having raised Rs. 2.8 million by way of contributions of its members, also handed over the donation to President Rajapaksa on 6 May 2020, to further support the Fund.
President’s Media Division
At the outset, I congratulate His Excellency Ilam Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, the Chair of the Non Aligned Movement, for the timely initiative to hold this Summit, to address one of the most critical challenges the world has faced in modern times.
I am pleased to be participating at this Summit, in support of global solidarity, unity and renewed multi-lateral cooperation in overcoming COVID -19. Sri Lanka firmly believes that this Summit will serve as an important platform for the NAM Member States to support collective global action in combating this deadly virus and sharing best practices and lessons learnt.
I extend my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and express deep appreciation to the frontline healthcare and essential workers, both in Sri Lanka and globally, for their dedication and selfless commitment.
Sri Lanka remains deeply concerned by the unprecedented consequences arising from this pandemic to all our countries and peoples, including its catastrophic health impacts, accompanying humanitarian crisis, devastation of economies and social and psychological tensions, among others.
Sri Lanka, therefore, is pleased to endorse the declaration of this Summit.
Sri Lanka recognizes the timely initiative to establish a NAM Task Force to compile a database of basic humanitarian and medical needs of the member states to sensitize donors on urgent requirements.
We commend the “COVID 19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan” and the establishment of the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Sri Lanka also supports the endeavours of the WHO which has been playing a vital role in shaping the global response to the pandemic.
Sri Lanka has been successfully containing and controlling the COVID-19 threat. Out of the total PCR tests conducted so far only 3% has been confirmed as infected. The death rate is at a very low level of 0.97%.
In early February, my government established a Task Force comprising key health personnel, high-ranking military personnel and administrators to monitor the spread of the pandemic and also to take required measures to combat the spread of the virus.
The first Covid-19 Sri Lankan patient was identified on March 11th. Initially patients were Sri Lankans who came from several countries. Since then, 717 infected persons have been detected, 183 persons have been cured and discharged while 527 persons are being treated as active cases. Most of these persons were asymptomatic.
We adopted a few special and unique measures: establishment of quarantine centres managed by the Armed Forces and the deployment of the State Intelligence Services, the police and Public Health Inspectors to do contact tracing. Both these measures have helped Sri Lanka cope with this pandemic quite successfully enabling the health authorities to function at the optimum level.
Whenever a person afflicted with the virus was detected the contact tracing method was used to find out details of persons with whom the afflicted person had come into contact. Once identified, all such persons were taken to a specially designated quarantine centre or arrangements were put in place to self-quarantine such persons. If an entire area was found to have been contaminated, such areas were isolated and quarantined. Of the 31 clusters identified so far, 27 have been completely neutralized while the other 4 are being kept under strict control eliminating any spill over to the general population.
There have also been extensive PCR testing and health authorities are continuing to conduct more PCR tests.
Given an excellent free healthcare system which includes a well-established preventive mechanism placed throughout the country, Sri Lanka has been able to contain the spread of this deadly virus utilizing the public health processes.
In order to assist the health authorities and other services deployed to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, my government declared a curfew from March 18th throughout the island and restricted movement of people.
With work coming to a standstill, Sri Lanka has taken a series of measures to mitigate the challenge. They include,
- Financially supporting low income families, pensioners and differently-abled, day-income earners and farmers
- Managing the repatriation of Sri Lankans in a coordinated manner.
- Exploring avenues of business to create new economic trends while supporting existing industries.
- Moving forward to the use of the digital technology including to connect the farmer, consumer and supplier, delivery of essential items and services, and distant education.
It is essential to ensure that all countries have unrestricted access to vital medical resources required to respond to this virus and do not face impediments in their procurement.
As Sri Lanka notes with deep concern that developing countries are facing an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to the pandemic, need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognized.
In this regard, Sri Lanka re-iterates its call and joins global appeals for international financial institutions and donors to provide debt relief and greater financial assistance to vulnerable countries.
It is important to emphasize that Middle Income Countries too face critical and diverse economic and social challenges that have been augmented by this pandemic. Therefore, it is important to also focus on their needs at this particular juncture and accord the necessary financial support to avert negative economic consequences.
Sri Lanka believes that national and regional level initiatives complement and strengthen the global response to the crisis. Sri Lanka contributed USD 5 million to the SAARC COVID - 19 Emergency Fund to assist the South Asian region in its efforts to deal with the challenge.
Sri Lanka wishes to share its experiences and successes in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic with fellow members.
May I re-iterate Sri Lanka's appreciation of the Chair of the NAM for organizing this Summit and pledge our support for the NAM’s initiatives in combating and overcoming this pandemic.
President’s Media Division
Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has observed that even as the Foreign Ministry was preoccupied with endeavouring to mitigate a multitude of problems faced by Overseas Sri Lankans, it was in parallel also seeking to re-position Sri Lanka’s exports in the context of market conditions that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. He said if this was successful, Sri Lanka would emerge one step ahead in the global supply chain, in a post COVID-19 world.
The Foreign Secretary made these observations earlier this week in an appearance on the Sri Lanka Rupavahini’s ‘Ethera Methara’ programme. Commenting on the efforts by Sri Lanka’s network of 67 Missions and Consulate-General Offices abroad in promoting Sri Lanka’s exports during these constrained times, he said the Ministry’s traditional ‘Economic Diplomacy Programme’ led by the Economic Affairs Division, has been modified to accommodate the changed circumstances.
It is noted that the Ministry of Foreign Relations, together with the Export Development Board (EDB) and Sri Lankan Missions abroad, are continuing to explore access for Sri Lankan products into new markets, to support the government’s economic plan in sustaining the economy during the pandemic and mitigating the economic downturn in its aftermath. Informed by weekly updates provided by Missions abroad on the evolving world markets as well as prevailing procedures, requirements and restrictions in their countries of accreditation, in the background of COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative has thus far facilitated in connecting Sri Lankan exporters with importers in ten countries with regard to tea, spices, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), rubber gloves, face masks, reusable masks, surgical masks, surgical caps, surgical gowns, sanitary tissues, processed food, fruits and vegetables, spices and seafood.
Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs P.M. Amza notes that, to date 56 market updates have been filed by Sri Lanka missions abroad and all of them have been uploaded in the EDB website, which can be accessed at https://www.edb.gov.lk/marketalerts. The summary of the market updates received so far revealed that there is demand for Ceylon Tea from 21 countries (including orders amounting to 336 MT to Turkey, 100 MT to Egypt and 25 MT to Libya, materialized during the last two weeks),face masks from 25 countries, protective gowns from 15 countries, PPE from 13 countries and rubber gloves from 15 countries. There are also demands for food and vegetables from 13 countries.
The Ministry is also working with Sri Lanka Tea Board in expediting the process of authentication of export documents, in respect of tea consignments to various destinations in Middle East and Turkey, as well as several other products. Recognizing the difficulties faced by exporters the Ministry is also formally pursuing requests with the Customs and other relevant agencies in significant export destinations to facilitate the clearance of relevant documents of Sri Lankan exporters. Several Colombo based Diplomatic Missions have also cooperated in this endeavour by taking appropriate measures to also authenticate export documents.
Additionally, the Ministry is also supporting Sri Lanka Tourism in the facilitation required for over 12,000 foreign tourists who have chosen to remain in Sri Lanka, despite the present COVID-19 pandemic and the prevailing curfews in many parts of the country. This includes over 4000 tourists from Western countries, notwithstanding the continuance of commercial as well as charter flights to return home. Visas for tourists in Sri Lanka were automatically extended in the face of the crisis situation, up to 12 May, 2020.
Ministry of Foreign Relations
23 April 2020
In a post earlier today to Missions in Sri Lanka and abroad on the one-year anniversary of the suicide attacks on Easter Sunday, 21st April 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Relations observed:
“On this day, Sri Lanka remembers all those lives lost and changed forever in barbaric acts of violence one year ago. We share the grief of families who lost their loved ones and stand in solidarity with those countries which lost their nationals”.
These attacks on churches and hotels killed around 270 persons, Sri Lankans as well as foreign nationals from 14 countries from across the world, and injured many others, on a day venerated by Christians the world over. Among those killed were citizens from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, India, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and USA.
In commemorating this date and the loss of so many lives in Sri Lanka, officials of Sri Lanka Missions in countries of accreditation which lost their nationals in these attacks, took the initiative to contact the families of those foreign nationals, to express Sri Lanka’s grief at their loss and offered continued solidarity. Others were conveyed formal sentiments of condolences through their respective Foreign Offices. The officials were in return met with grace and appreciation even at this time of remembrance of grief and irreplaceable loss.
Ministry of Foreign Relations
21 April 2020
"Ethera Methera" programme on COVID-19 (Part 2) telecast on Rupavahini on 19 April 2020 at 6 pm featuring interviews with Mr Ravinatha Aryasinha, Secretary/ Foreign Relations and Mr W M V Wansekara, Actg General Manager/SLBFE can be accessed at the following web-link: