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Earth Summit boosts Sri Lanka’s image
Regional links with South America and Africa:
Chandrapala Liyanage -Additional Director General of Government Information
Translated by D. P. Wickramasinghe

Promotion of Sri Lanka's diplomatic relations to a wider scale by establishing diplomatic links with a large number of countries in the African continent and the Latin American region is considered by political analysts as another step forward of the President's vision on diplomacy.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa who addressed the Rio+20 Earth Summit made a wide approach towards developing Sri Lanka's diplomatic relations network in the South American region by delivering an important and meaningful message to a large number of heads of state and representatives of the world (nearly 193 countries) including the Latin American region.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil. Picture by Sudath Silva
Latin American and African countries which were under British, French and other European colonial rule are today marching towards targets of sustainable growth and development as sovereign states.

Apart from Brazil, Peru and Mexico developing countries achieving successful growth targets are emerging in the South African region too. These countries with a tropical climate and rich in agricultural and mineral resources including gold lay claim to a multi-economic and production process.

Another important job done concurrent to the Earth Summit was the creation of a wide approach towards promoting diplomatic relations within the South American region. As regards Sri Lanka, further extension of the direct links established with the South African region is an essential need.

The President put forward special views and suggestions on this matter and emphasized the need to counter false propaganda carried out by LTTE supporters and transform the African region into a Sri Lanka friendly region. Sri Lanka is still at a primary stage when considering the links established and investments made in this region by Japan, China and India.

Extension of the foreign diplomatic operations conducted by Sri Lanka with nearly 60 countries in the European continent and countries like America, UK and Japan and those in the Asian region to South African and Latin American region will bring immense economic and political benefits to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has a longstanding diplomatic relationship with Cuba extending back to 53 years and further extending and cementing of this friendship will provide a valuable avenue for Sri Lanka to enter the South American region. We can reap many benefits from this region including Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina.

It is the considered view of many that this tour will provide an important opportunity for Sri Lanka to obtain co-operation in the spheres of agriculture including the coconut industry, education and sports and implement student exchange and scholarship programmes.

When you consider the economic transactions made with countries such as Brazil, as well as, Cuba we could obtain many bilateral benefits from countries in the South American region.

Relations with South African Region
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister of Montenegro Lgor Luksic held talks in Brazil to establish economic relations between Sri Lanka and Montenegro. These talks portray the friendship and relations built up by Sri Lanka.

The memorandums of understanding and agreements reached with Chile and Cuba enhanced the friendly relations built up by Sri Lanka in the region.

President Rajapaksa who made it a point to discuss the tea, gems and jewellery sectors which bring in valuable foreign exchange to Sri Lanka pointed out that priority could be given to these sectors in forging bilateral trade links between these countries.

Countries in the South African region and Latin America do not depend on the super countries of the Northern hemisphere any more. They are now following independent economic and political policies.

Sri Lanka's President has now established an international relations network in this region. Out of the 62 countries in the African region 54 are sovereign states. Sri Lankan missions have been established in South Africa, Kenya and Libya. As another step forward the Cabinet of Ministers approved a policy decision to establish diplomatic relations with another 15 countries in the African Continent.

They include the Islamic Republic of Moritiania, Republic of Togo, Republic of Chad, Central African Republic, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Niger, Republic of Gabon, Republic of Gambia, Republic of Burkina, Republic of Malavi, Republic of Sierra Leone, Republic of Cameroons, Republic of Cape Verde, Republic of Djibouti and the Republic of Ivory Coast.

Accordingly Sri Lanka will earn prestige as a country maintaining diplomatic relations with nearly 100 countries of the world. But the responsibility of conducting these relations in a manner profitable and beneficial to Sri Lanka depended on the entire foreign service.

Rio+20 and the President
In his address to the Earth Summit the President set a good example to the world by highlighting the efforts made by Sri Lanka to attain development goals by equal management of the environment. He said the developed countries which largely contribute to the environmental crisis cannot and should not leave the responsibility of saving the environment to developing countries at the cost of their economic development. But today Sri Lanka is conducting its economic developmental projects in line with an environmental protection programme. Thereby setting an example to the whole world.

The President said that we have witnessed an unprecedented level of environmental degradation, which is proving to be irreversible, due to unsustainable production and consumption patterns of a handful of developed countries. The over-riding principle which must be recognized in full measure by all nations is that of preventing abuse of the environment. The developed countries which are still contributing towards the environmental crisis should not shirk the responsibility of protecting the environment in the developing countries.

The President said the agrarian economy shaped by the ancient kingdoms in Sri Lanka was very much connected with management of the environment, disciplined society and economic development.

In the first sermon of the Arahat Mahinda, a disciple of the Buddha, King Devanampiyatissa was told that the latter was only a trustee of the land and environment and had no right to destroy these assets which rightfully belong to the future generations.

The President said after ending a three decade long terrorist conflict, Sri Lanka is on its way to full economic development. We have been able to weather the international economic shocks caused by the recent financial crisis because of the domestic policies contained in the Mahinda Chinthana.

Environment friendly development
Addressing the Earth Summit President Mahinda Rajapaksa further stated transition to a green economy must not generate negative externalities to slowdown the growth of social and economic development of a country. All people desire a prosperous and peaceful life.

They also wish to see that the concept of sustainable development becomes a practical reality. These aspirations present an opportunity for us to make earnest efforts to strike a balance between the interest of maintaining harmony between 'man and nature' with that of the environment and development.

He said Sri Lanka's development model is home-grown and one which respects the environment. His desire and the government's endeavour is to continue the concept of sustainable development which obtained 2000 years ago with proper management. Sri Lanka believes that Rio +20 is an excellent opportunity to determine our future goals and establish a road map for sustainable development based on the Rio principles, in particular, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

This year's earth summit can be described as a milestone which introduced our economic development programme to the world as an environment friendly process. It is a normal feature to see many international conferences being subjected to criticism through media. This year's Rio + Summit made a similar allegation against the BBC World Service and other international media and it seems to be justifiable.

A small nation like Sri Lanka had much to gain from this summit. We were able to deliver a good message to the international world build up a relationship with several Latin American countries and open up avenues for building political and economic links with that region. Ability to create an awareness about Sri Lanka among delegates as a beautiful country following the path to development was a major victory achieved by the President.

The bilateral talks held and agreements reached with South American countries showed an extension of diplomatic relations beyond the Asian region. A counselling discussion on the manner in which this diplomatic process should be strengthened and utilized began at Diyatalawa recently. At this discussion the President said the government is following a non aligned foreign policy and striving to give priority to Sri Lanka's fundamental needs and aspirations.

In this effort Sri Lanka has endeavoured to maintain friendly relation with all countries and continue principled and close bilateral relations with neighbouring countries.

President's message to diplomats
President Mahinda Rajapaksa pointed out that a special dedicated effort on the part of Sri Lanka's diplomats is essential if Sri Lanka is to achieve a per capita income of 4,000 US dollars by 2016. He said it was their duty to facilitate tourism development, foreign investment and widen international relations and counter adverse propaganda carried out by LTTE sympathisers without resorting to petty divisions or sectarianism.

Sri Lankan Embassies and missions should pay special attention towards working the country's progress, economic development and investment promotion as well as countering adverse propaganda, the President said. He added that the Northern Province had recorded a 22 percent growth rate with progress in resettlement, rehabilitation, restoration of normalcy and political stability and this message should be taken to the international world.

Sri Lanka has created a glittering image in the world map by building international relations in the economic and social spheres. It can be further boosted by giving a proper message to the world as a nation, the President pointed out to the Sri Lankan diplomats.
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