It has been the practice of the Buddhist in our country since ancient times to remember, with utmost devotion the arrival of Arahat Mahinda Thero in the Island carrying the message of the Buddha, by observance of religious rituals. Such devoted remembrance is due to the fact that the arrival of Arahat Mahinda resulted in a significant transformation of religious, cultural, social and political civilization of Sri Lanka.
The first meeting between the Arahat and King Devanampiyatissa, that took place over two thousand years ago, is the most significant encounter in Sri Lankan history. With the advent of Arahat Mahinda, our social values, economy, literature and arts and crafts took a new turn. Henceforth, the Buddhists of Sri Lanka were inspired to build sky-scraping stupas, ocean like gigantic lakes, an agrarian culture that secured the granary of the nation and produce incredible artistic creations that amazed the world. Even more importantly, this socio-religious revolution gave birth to a society that accepts gain and loss, fame and defame, praise and blame, and happiness and pain with equanimity; treats all living beings from plants to creatures big and small with utmost fairness; living a life of purity sans lust or unwarranted attachments and live in accordance with the eight-fold noble path.
The Dhamma and the knowledge base passed on by Arahat Mahinda Thera guided us to rise as a proud and dignified nation. The teachings of the Gauthama Buddha trained us to be mindful of this world and the afterworld and thus be virtuous and civilized. The Poson Poya is etched in our hearts as the most significant day because that was the day we received the Buddha Dhamma, the greatest ever gift we got as a nation.
Strengthened by our past experiences and inspired by Dhamma, we strive for prosperity. It is my belief that justice for all prevails in a spiritually virtuous, disciplined and prosperous society. I must mention here that my Government plans for not only the present, but also for the future based on that solid foundation. Even whilst facing the prevailing pandemic, we did not deviate from our vision that is built on that civilized culture we inherited. A journey without this reality is not possible for us as Sri Lankans.
The greatest tribute we can pay to Arahat Mahinda would be to celebrate this season of Poson by viewing the life in a pragmatic manner in accordance with the Dhamma and depicting to the world the pristine glory of the teachings of the Buddha, based on compassion and nonviolence.
I wish you all a meritorious Poson!
I am pleased to pen this message of greetings on the occasion of the World Environment Day, marked on June 5 every year, which aims at enhancing the awareness among the people on the importance of protecting the environment and drawing attention of the policymakers to environmental issues.
All creatures including the human have an unbreakable bond with the environment. The longstanding deep relationship nurtured by the Sri Lankan community since ancient times with the environment paved the way to enrich our daily life. The necessity to pass on, our age old knowledge of all aspects of the nature to our future generations, as well as to enhance their knowledge regarding the present environmental issues, is felt much more strongly at present than any other time in the history.
The various environmental issues such as floods, landslides, melting of glaciers, air pollution, global warming and climate change that have become formidable threats to the humans are direct results of our own haphazard activities. Destructions caused to the nature will inevitably affect the survival of the humankind. I see the global crisis erupted due to COVID – 19 pandemic as an occasion which undeniably teaches the humans of the importance of environmental conservation.
The necessity of a sustainable environmental strategy has been identified in “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”, the policy statement. Measures will be taken in the future to make environmental protection initiatives mentioned therein such as land management, preserving of biodiversity, increase national forest cover, scientific waste management and eco-friendly human settlements and cities into reality.
I wish the World Environment Day celebrations in Sri Lanka held under the theme ‘Biodiversity - Spaces for Nature’ every success.
Reverend Maha Sanga representing Maha Nayaka Theros and Anu Nayaka Theros of Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters, Amarapura and Ramannya Nikayas, His Eminence Cardinal, Hindu Kurukkal leader, Islam Mowlawi, · Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa, former President and the Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, · Hon. Maithripala Sirisena, former President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, · Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, · Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Gunatilleke, Governor of the Western Province · Secretary to the President, · Secretary Defence, · Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force, · Acting Inspector General of Police, Director General of the Department of Civil Defence, · Distinguished guests, · War heroes of Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and Civil Defence, · Dear parents, wives, sons and daughters of war heroes, May 19th is a very important milestone in the history of Sri Lanka. 11 years ago on a day like this, on May 19th 2009, we completely defeated the separatist terrorism which had been a curse to the country for nearly 30 years. It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who gave the leadership for this battle in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief. With the end of terrorism, an environment where people could live without fear or anxiety and enjoy their human rights freely was created. After a period of 30 years, we ensured democracy and build an atmosphere where free and fair elections could be held. The atmosphere where people can travel freely without any restrictions to any place of the country was restored. Our war heroes and their families made immense sacrifices to usher in peace to the country which was engulfed in terror. War is not a bed of roses. Especially, the war heroes had to face numerous bitter experiences and difficulties when battling one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world which did not respect law. During those 30 years, helpless civilians got killed everywhere in the country. A large number of lives and properties were lost due to suicide attacks, bombing in buses, trains and buildings carried out by the terrorists. The prime objective of the Humanitarian Mission was to bring lasting peace in the country. Because of the exceptional sacrifices made by our war heroes, today we have the opportunity to live in peace and harmony in a unitary state. Our country, nourished by Buddhist philosophy, possesses a form of administration that an oasis for all religions and all nationalities. Throughout its history, people in this country including Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher have had equal rights. The motive of the extremists was to divide us. If they were successful in their attempt, our history could have taken a different course. Sri Lanka could have become a country where communities hate each other, engage in continuous battles for borders, fear of war is a common norm of life and another hapless and divided country. The honor of liberating the country from this catastrophe should be given to all our heroic troops who fought for the peace in our country for a long time. We remember with immense gratitude, all the war heroes including General Kobbekaduwa and General Vijaya Wimalarathna who fought for this victory for more than 3 decades and laid their lives for the country. As an officer who was engaged in active service for around 20 years, later as the Secretary Defence for 10 years as well as a citizen I am very well aware of the sacrifices made by our war heroes. Pain of the war is not strange to me. Therefore, I will not allow any room for attempts to discredit and destroy the dignity of our war heroes who made countless sacrifices to bring peace to entire Sri Lanka. I assure you that under my administration, we will take every measure always to protect the dignity of our heroic forces. It is a national responsibility to ensure their rights. In a situation where even leaders of powerful countries have emphatically stated that they would not allow any action against their war heroes, in a small country like ours where our war heroes have sacrificed so much, I will not allow anyone to exert undue pressure on them or harass them. If any international body or organization continuously target our country and our war heroes, using baseless allegations, I will also not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from such bodies or organizations. We pay the tribute of the nation to all war heroes and their families who contributed to the battle against separatism for 3 decades. The highest honour that can be bestowed on them is to transform this country which was protected by them by laying their lives to a land where every citizenry can live in peace, harmony and with dignity. At this War Memorial, I invite all patriotic citizens to make your fullest contribution towards this endeavor. I thank you all. May the noble Triple Gem bless you.
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