Press Releases

STATEMENT BY FOREIGN MINISTER HON. ROHITHA BOGOLLAGAMA AT THE DPL BRIEFING HELD AT THE FOREIGN MINISTRY ON 02 MARCH 2007

Excellencies,

At the outset, let me thank Your Excellencies, for your presence at the briefing this afternoon in response to the invitation extended by me, although at short notice. I returned to Sri Lanka early to meet with you at this time of concern of the well being of the diplomatic community, while the President is still on his State visit the Peoples Republic of China. I extend to you, and in particular, to those representatives of the Diplomatic Corp and International organizations that visited Batticaloa last Tuesday, and were victims on the LTTE’s mortar attack, our sincere regret at the turn of events. The Ambassadors of the US, Germany, Japan, Italy and France, the Resident Coordinator of the UN and Resident Representatives of the World Food Program, UNICEF, FAO, ILO and UN security staff were on this humanitarian mission, along with Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights and the Governor of the North and the East and several officials of the Government.

The Government of Sri Lanka condemns this dastardly act in the strongest possible terms.

Given the potential damage that this attack could have caused, we are greatly relieved it did not result in greater harm. This morning shortly after my arrival I visited the Italian Ambassador Pio Mariano, who sustained a head injury due to shrapnel and was initially treated at the Batticaloa hospital, and later underwent surgery at the Colombo General Hospital. I was encouraged to find the Ambassador in good spirits. We are also relieved that US Ambassador Robert Blake was only slightly hurt. I also extend my wishes for a speedy recovery to the officials from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, SCOPP and the security forces who were injured due to this incident.

As I already stated from Beijing, this mission was a humanitarian mission, undertaken under the leadership of Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, to assess the resettlement in process that is currently in progress in the East of Sri Lanka, which areas have recently been cleared of the LTTE and where the resettlement of IDP is presently taking place. It was described as a “Needs Assessment Mission to Batticaloa”. It was intended to asses the work that is progressing, in order to ensure that there is an accelerated programme of restoration of normalcy, with assistance from friends of Sri Lanka – on a bilateral and multi lateral basis. A similar mission was undertaken to Jaffna two weeks ago by the same group and following a review meeting held with the Secretary/Defense, an action plan agreed upon is already being implemented.

In this instance the diplomats were to particularly visit Vaharai, to discuss issues of resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced. This activity was being done according to a plan initiated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa aimed at assisting the Tamil people, with international assistance.

While the LTTE may wish to confuse the world that they were not aware of the presence of diplomats on that flight, it is clear that this was a pre-meditated and deliberate attack aimed at harming members of the diplomatic community. This is clear due to several reasons:

  • Public notice of the visit had been given for over a week and given the number of Embassies and international agencies involved and the regional office staff of these organizations and of NGOs who were to join them in Batticaloa, a large number of persons knew of the visit.
  • The mortar attack took place immediately after the main party consisting of the Minister and Ambassadors had disembarked from the helicopter.
  • The mortar fire was well directed and executed, and even corrections made in the targeting, which is possible, only if the fall of mortars was being closely observed.
  • The presence of foreign nationals would have been evident to any observer.

The question then arises as to why the LTTE resorted to such action?

Firstly, the LTTE attack seeks to undermine the sincere effort undertaken and carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka, with the assistance of the international community to develop the North and the East and extend humanitarian assistance to the thousands of innocent civilians who have been displaced due to LTTE sponsored terrorist activity and ethnic cleansing.

Second, the LTTE’s attack was to convey to the International Community that the LTTE opposes the resettlement, development and providing relief to the North and the East, possibly fearful that they are losing their grip over the Tamil people.

Thirdly, this action shows a brazen defiance of the international community. It underlines the fact that the LTTE now acts in total disregard of international opinion. This is possibly a reflection of the growing sense of frustration on the part of the LTTE, due to the increasing international isolation of the group. This in fact is the third in a series of acts directed against diplomats by the LTTE. Previously the visiting Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy as well as the former Pakistan High Commissioner have faced similar attacks.

While we always knew that the LTTE is a totally ruthless terrorist organization, this action against members of the Diplomatic Corps constitutes a grave violation of all norms of civilized behaviour.

This attack should also make one appreciate even more, why it is so important that the security forces nutralise the LTTE long range gun positions that pose a threat to the restoration of normalcy in the North and the East.

While finding a political settlement to the present conflict and restoring normalcy in the affected areas, this incident should also make us more determined to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations that stands in the way of achieving that goal in Sri Lanka.

At this crucial point of time when the Government is making every effort to consolidate a political consensus, we call upon the international community to support these endeavours of the Government of Sri Lanka. We also urge you, to bring greater pressure on the LTTE to give up terrorism and return to the democratic fold, and display greater respect for pluralism and the rule of law.

Until such time when we see such a change of attitude on the part of the LTTE, it is incumbent upon the international community to take effective measures to eliminate fund raising and weapon procurement by the LTTE in foreign countries, and to help apprehend those supporting such activity in keeping with our international obligations, as some States have done in the recent past.

This is the earnest appeal I wish to convey on behalf of the Government, through your Excellencies to your respective Governments.

Sri Lankan Embassy holds an Exhibition about Sri Lanka at the El Sawy Cultural Center

The commercial section of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Cairo held an exhibition of Sri Lankan export items and Sri Lankan tourism at the El Sawy Cultural Center, a Cultural Center for International and local artists in Cairo. The exhibition was held along with other countries such as New Zealand, Kuwait, Iran and Brunei Darussalam on the 27th February 2007.

Mr. Mohemed a. M. El Sawy, the founder of the El Sawy Center opened the exhibition. The Sri Lankan stall distributed brochures about Sri Lanakn tourist sites for large number of young Egyptian and expatriate crowd at the Center.

A CD presentation of 15 minutes on Sri Lankan tourist sites was also presented to the gathered crowd.

A tea service as provided by a Sri Lankan community member was arranged by the Embassy.

 Mrs. Shirani  Ariyarathne ( Commercial Secretary)

At the Sri Lanka Stall with and Mr. Mohommed El

Sawy, founder of the El Sawy Cultural Center.

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Group of Egyptian Youth visiting Sri Lanka Stall

Sri Lankan Embassy in Cairo Celebrates the 59th Anniversary of Independence

Sri Lanka Embassy in Cairo celebrated 59th Anniversary of the Independence on the 4th of February 2007 at the Embassy premises. The celebrations began after observing two minutes of silence in memory of National heroes who sacrificed their lives to gain Independence to Sri Lanka. Then the National flag was hoisted by H.E. Wijesiri Hettiarachchi, the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Egypt and the National Anthem was sung collectively by approximately 150 Sri Lankans who were present for the celebrations.

The traditional oil lamp was lit by H.E. the Ambassador, the Sri Lankan Business Community, representatives from the Sri Lankan students community and several Sri Lankans of the migrant workers community.

The Independence message of H.E. the President, was read in all three languages.

In his address, H.E. Mr. Wijesiri Hettiarachchi confirmed the current government’s commitment for peaceful resolutions for the protracted conflict prevailing in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Hettiararchchi also stated that each Sri Lankan should pay homage for the brave armed forces that had guarded Sri Lanka. He set to recall bravery of National heroes who had sacrificed their lives over two decades for sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

As 2007 marks the 50 years of Diplomatic Relations between Sri Lanka and Egypt, the Ambassador said that during the half a century, the relations between the two countries had been flourishing. Completing an Air Service Agreement recently and also entering a MOU of broader cooperation in the field of Cultural Diplomacy as well as growing economic ties between the two countries demonstrate the progress of expanded relations between Egypt and Sri Lanka.

H.E. the Ambassador further illustrated in his statement the gratitude for the Sri Lankan community in Egypt who had rendered the support in all occasions that the Embassy had organized for the past year.

Refreshments with traditional Sri Lankan food were served at the end of the ceremony.

Sri Lanka enters into a MOU on Cultural Cooperation with Egypt

Governments of Egypt and Sri Lanka entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cultural Cooperation on the 18th of January 2007 signed by the two Ministers of Culture in Cairo. Representing the government of Sri Lanka, Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, Minister of Culture and National Heritage and on behalf of the Government of Egypt, Hon Farouk Hosni, Minister of Culture signed the long cooperated MOU on Thursday the 18th.

The signed MOU on cultural cooperation directs the two countries for expanded cultural relations. The new MOU proposes cooperation between the fields of Museums, Libraries, Archaeological Protection, maintaining and restoration of cultural heritage. Exchange of Cultural troops, artists, ballet and theatre on reciprocal basis, exchange of books, traditional and folk arts, cinema and delegations to film festivals are also proposed.

The cooperation in the field of Culture, under the frame work of the initiatives of UNESCO and other International Organizations are proposed in the MOU as a new provision.

The MOU had been expanded into many fields wherein an innovative channel could be enhanced for a better practice of Cultural Diplomacy between the two countries.

After the signing of the MOU, the two Ministers confirmed to carry out the activities of the MOU to nourish the cultures of both countries.

Egypt, a land mark of the world history and human civilization, and Sri Lanka, a country which possess a history which dates back to thousands of years, have many of its cultural riches to expose mutually.

Delegation of Sri Lanka for this ceremony included, H.E. Mr. Wijesiri Hettiarachchi, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Mrs. Shirani Ariyarathne, Second Secretary (Commerce) of the embassy and Mr. Wasantha Yapa Abeywardena, Private Secretary to Hon. Minister of Culture and National Heritage. Governments of Egypt and Sri Lanka entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cultural Cooperation on the 18th of January 2007 signed by the two Ministers of Culture in Cairo. Representing the government of Sri Lanka, Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, Minister of Culture and National Heritage and on behalf of the Government of Egypt, Hon Farouk Hosni, Minister of Culture signed the long cooperated MOU on Thursday the 18th.

The signed MOU on cultural cooperation directs the two countries for expanded cultural relations. The new MOU proposes cooperation between the fields of Museums, Libraries, Archaeological Protection, maintaining and restoration of cultural heritage. Exchange of Cultural troops, artists, ballet and theatre on reciprocal basis, exchange of books, traditional and folk arts, cinema and delegations to film festivals are also proposed.

The cooperation in the field of Culture, under the frame work of the initiatives of UNESCO and other International Organizations are proposed in the MOU as a new provision.

The MOU had been expanded into many fields wherein an innovative channel could be enhanced for a better practice of Cultural Diplomacy between the two countries.

Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, arrived in Cairo on the 13th Of January for a 10 day visit to Egypt. He had been visiting the archeological sites of Luxor and Cairo. Hon. Minister will be leaving Cairo on 23rd January 2007.

After the signing ceremony Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena expressed his deep appreciation to his Egyptian counterpart for the excellent hospitality afforded to him and his delegation during his stay in Cairo and extended an invitation to His Excellency Farouk Hosni, Minister of Culture of Egypt to visit Sri Lanka.

Hon. H.P. Mervyn Silva, Deputy Minister of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka meets Dr. Shawki El Enani, Assistant Minister of Manpower and Migration, of Egypt

Concluding his visit to several countries in the Middle East where a large number of Sri Lankan migrant workers are employed, Hon. H.P.Mervyn Silva, Deputy Minister of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka arrived in Cairo, on Thursday, the 9th November for a four day visit.

Hon. Deputy Minister met with Assistant Minister of Manpower and Migration of Egypt, Dr. Shawki El Enani at the office of the Ministry of Manpower and Migration on Monday the 13th. Both ministers discussed issues related to Labour and Migration. The Deputy Minister Mr. Mervyn Silva was accompanied by H.E. Wijesiri Hettiarachchi, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Egypt, Mr.L.K. Ruhunage, Deputy General Manager (Foreign Relations) Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau, Mrs. Shirani Ariyaratne, Second Secretary (Commerce) and Mrs. Mercy Lusida Silva, Private Secretary to the Hon Deputy Minister. Both Ministers agreed to co-ordinate and strengthen the bilateral relations in the fields of migrant workers and immigration.

During the discussion with the Assistant Minister, Hon. Deputy Minister said his willingness to co-operate with the Government of Egypt in the field of employment particularly in the garment industries. Responding to this proposal, the Asst. Minister suggested that we could come to an agreement to train the Egyptian garment workers by the Sri Lankan professionally qualified garment personnel preferably in Colombo in Sri Lanka. In turn, the Sri Lankans can benefit from the other expertise from Egypt to train Sri Lankan workers in Egypt. Hon. Minister was very pleased with this proposal and gave instructions to the Ambassador to follow this up and send him an appropriate proposal. Hon. Deputy Minister further said that both countries promote the recruitment of their workers abroad and suggested that the two countries can exchange their experts to benefit each other. From Sri Lanka the experts in the garment industry can be made available to Egypt.

During his stay in Cairo, Hon. Deputy Minister met with a number of Sri Lankans, skilled and semi-skilled workers attached to garment factories in particular and discussed their grievances and suggested several remedies.

He also met with some of the owners of garment factories based in Cairo and Alexandria and discussed possibilities of obtaining more job opportunities for Sri Lankans. Although the Egyptian Government policy does not encourage foreign employment into the country, it allows the Egyptian investors or companies in collaboration with other companies registered under the Investment Authority of Egypt to recruit a limited number of foreign workers. However, there is good potential to obtain job opportunities for Sri Lankans in Egypt, particularly in the field of garment industry as the Sri Lankan skilled workers and management officers in this particular field are maintaining a good reputation in Egypt.

The Hon. Deputy Minister during his visit to Alexandria where more than 400 Sri Lankans are employed in the Alexandria Free Zone took the opportunity to meet with the Sri Lankan workers and to discuss their well being. He assured to them that the Government of Sri Lanka will render all necessary assistance to them as the present Government under the leadership of H.E. the President through his ‘Mahinda Chintanaya’ is fully committed to oversee the welfare of Sri Lankan workers abroad.

At a reception organized by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Cairo, Hon. Minister met with the Sri Lankan business community, professionals and employees of skilled and semi-skilled sectors in the garment factories, domestic aides and discussed the issues pertaining to their work and welfare. Most of the Sri Lankans raised the issue of difficulties they encounter in sending their hard earned foreign currency back to Sri Lanka. In this regard, Hon. Deputy Minister assured them that he will take this issue with the authorities in Colombo and early arrangements will be made to overcome this difficulty in sending the remittances to Sri Lanka from Egypt.

Hon. H.P. Mervyn Silva concluded his visit to Egypt on 13th Monday, November 2006.

September 2006

Sri Lanka Cricket Festival – first time in Egypt

Sri Lanka Embassy together with the Sri Lankan community in Cairo organized a Cricket Festival played on 15th September in Maadi Youth Club in Cairo. The Cricket Tournament which was played in a knockout basis was participated by fourteen teams representing skilled workers, students, members of the business community and professionals representing all parts of Egypt, such as Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Ismalia.

Text Box: Opening ceremonyAt the opening ceremony, which included the lighting of the traditional oil lamp and singing of the National Anthem, Ambassador Wijesiri Hettiarachchi, who made the welcome speech requested all the players and the spectators who were gathered at the grounds to observe two minutes silence to honour the brave Sri Lankan soldiers who gave their lives to protect our country and maintain peace and security. He further said the Cricket Festival is organized in order to appreciate the contributions the Sri Lankan community in Egypt is making to the Sri Lanka’s economy in sending their hard earned foreign exchange to Sri Lanka while working far away from home in harsh conditions.

Text Box: Teams in action

When the matches started, the echoes of drums, singing and cheering roared the Maadi Grounds giving an atmosphere of a big match back in Colombo. Thrilled crowds were treated by sixes and boundaries and diving catches by the teams who had been practicing months to win the trophies.

After the rounds of first, Second and semi finals, the Al Azhar University Students Club and the Lions Sports Club were selected to play the last match and Al Azhar Students Club won with a thrilling final. Trophies were presented for the Best Batsman, the Best Bowler, Man of the Series, Man of the Match, the runner-up and the Champions. Special trophy called the Super Six was awarded to the player who played the highest number of sixes.

Finally, the Embassy organized a Musical show by a musical group from Lontex Garments, a factory which is based in Cairo. The crowd danced to the beautiful Sinhala hit songs of 80’s and 90′ performed by the group till late night.

The Sri Lankan community thanked the Sri Lankan Embassy and the organizers for this colorful event at the end of the summer which brought joy and smiles to their hard lives in Egypt and requested to make it an annual event.

The cricket festival was funded by the Sri Lankan business community and professionals in Cairo.

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Champions

Amid the ban on the LTTE by the EU, the Government of Sri Lanka to press ahead for a political solution based on democracy and human rights

The Government of Sri Lanka has noted the announcement by the European Union (EU) concerning the listing of the LTTE under EU Regulations. As has been often stated, this action by the EU is the latest in a series of deterrent measures by the international community concerning acts of violence perpetrated against innocent civilians, ceasefire monitors and security forces undermining the Government’s peace effort to engage the LTTE in a credible and sustainable process of negotiations.
The Government hopes that this clear and firm message would provide a fresh impetus and encouragement to the LTTE to think afresh and resume Talks with the assistance of the Norwegian facilitators.

The Government for its part reiterates its commitment to the continuation of Talks with the LTTE, on both the ceasefire and substantive issues relevant to the peace process. The Sri Lankan Government has taken action to implement what has been agreed at Geneva talks in April this year and is prepared to discuss at the future Talks any remaining problems and build mutual confidence necessary to make progress. It is the fervent hope of the Government that the LTTE will take cognizance of the clearly expressed view of the international community and desist from further acts of violence and engage constructively in the peace process.

The Government is of the firm conviction that solutions to the issues at hand have to be sought only through political means and not through military means. It therefore rejects any suggestions that these measures by the international community would or should encourage any military options by anyone.

As articulated by President Rajapaksa the Government will press ahead with its search for a political solution based on democracy and human rights, that meets the aspirations of all communities in Sri Lanka and will preserve the territorial integrity of the country. To this end, work at expert level has already commenced within the All Party Conference framework to define President Rajapaksa’s vision of a maximum devolution of power in an undivided Sri Lanka.

The Government appreciates the continued and constructive engagement of the EU in its efforts towards bringing the LTTE into the democratic main stream, especially their role as a member of the Co-Chairs in the peace process facilitated by Norway.

The President and the Government are resolved to continue the consensus building process with the participation of all political parties as mandated by the All Party Conference seeking the participation of all communities in the governance of the country to fulfill their aspirations and to ensure human rights, democracy and pluralism.

Familiarization Tour of Egyptian Tour Operators to Sri Lanka- from 15th to 21st May 2006

A familiarization tour of 11 Egyptian Tour operators, one journalist, Etihad airways-marketing Manager and a local staff member in the Sri Lanka mission in Cairo visited Sri Lanka from 15th to 21st May.

This project was realized in collaboration of Etihad Airways in Cairo and the Jetwing Tours (Pvt.) Ltd. Sri Lanka.

The tour involved some of the famous tourist cities in Sri Lanka namely, Kandy, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Nuwara Eliya, Negombo and Colombo. This program was specially designed to cater the Egyptian tourist market.

During their visit, the Jetwing staff held one to one meetings with the tour operators on the future planning of tourist promotion from Egypt to Sri Lanka.

At a discussion held at my residence after their return, the tour group expressed that there is lot of potential for attracting tourist from Egypt to Sri Lanka. Members of the group also said that Sri Lanka would be a destination that they will market among the large expatriate community living in Cairo.

Highly impressed by the greenery, mountains and the warm hospitality of Sri Lankans, the group claimed that Sri Lanka can be promoted as an excellent honeymoon destination and relaxation place for retired senior citizens in Egypt.

Since the Egyptians are heavy shoppers by nature, the group also said that Sri Lanka could be promoted as a shopping destination among the Egyptians.

According to Marketing Manager, Etihad Airways, lot of Egyptians travel to Bangkok mainly to shop. She said that this crowd could be directed to Sri Lanka, if the mission launches a publicity campaign to make aware of the Sri Lankan specialties among the Egyptians travelers.

It was also commented by the journalist who traveled to Sri Lanka, on the religious harmony that prevails in the country where Buddhist temples, Hindu Kovils, Mosques and Churches stand together. He further mentioned that he will be publishing articles on various aspect of Sri Lanka, particularly, the trade between Sri Lanka and Egypt as well as Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.

Sri Lanka: EU Declaration of 26 September 2005

The European Union hereby declares its condemnation of the continuing use of violence and terrorism by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The pursuit of political goals by such totally unacceptable methods only serves to damage the LTTE’s standing and credibility as a negotiating partner and gravely endangers the Peace Process so much desired by the people of Sri Lanka.

The European Union repeats its condemnation of the shocking murder of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and of so many others in Sri Lanka in recent weeks.
The European Union is actively considering the formal Listing of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. In the meantime, the European Union has agreed that with immediate effect, delegations from the LTTE will no longer be received in any of the EU Member States until further notice.

The European Union has also agreed that each Member State will, where necessary, take additional national measures to check and curb illegal or undesirable activities (including issues of funding and propaganda) of the LTTE, its related organisations and known individual supporters.

The European Union furthermore repeats its serious concern at the continuing recruitment and retention of child soldier cadres by the LTTE and reminds them that there can be no excuse whatsoever for this abhorrent practice to continue.
The European Union takes this opportunity to underline the Statement of 19 September by the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference calling on the LTTE not least to take immediate public steps to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process and their willingness to change.

The European Union calls upon all parties in Sri Lanka to show commitment and responsibility towards the peace process during the coming period of elections and to refrain from actions that could endanger a peaceful resolution and political settlement of the conflict.