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FM concludes his visit to Singapore

(June 02, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama, who is attending the 2-day Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit in Singapore, met a number of Ministers and Chiefs of Staff on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue. Minister Bogollagama met the dignitaries after he delivered his address under the theme “How Successful is Counter Terrorism in the Asia-Pacific” focusing on Sri Lanka’s Experience on 31st May, at this elite Summit, according to media statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo.
The ministry said further in its statement,

Minister Bogollagama had discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Malaysia, Mr. Abdul Razak; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Dr. Iftekhar Chowdhury; Minister for Defense of Singapore Mr. Teo Chee Hean; Minister of State for Defense of India, Mr. MM Pallam Raju; Deputy Minister of Defense of Myanmar, Maj. Gen. Aye Myint; Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of Pakistan, Gen. Tariq Majid; Deputy Chief of Staff of China, Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian; and former Deputy Secretary of State of the US, Mr. Richard Armitage during his two-day visit in Singapore. Minister Bogollagama explained the recent successful conclusion of the Provincial Council elections in the East of Sri Lanka and the manner in which the milieu was created to hold elections, general political developments in the country as well as in the region, bilateral economic and investment issues, the forthcoming SAARC Summit in Colombo and issues related to terrorism as well as cooperation in the realm of defense among others.”

In the meeting between Minister Bogollagama and Minister Chowdhury of Bangladesh, Minister Bogollagama briefed the forthcoming SAARC Summit, in detail, and expectations of it from the member countries. Minister Bogollagama also broached the propositions such as enhanced connectivity between and among the countries of the SAARC, SAARC Development Fund, SAARC University, a structured charter for observer states and legal framework with the Secretary General of the SAARC, last week, when he visited Colombo. Minister Chowdhury too was receptive of the last SAARC theme, which was ‘Connectivity’, to have a sense of continuity at this Summit as well. The two Ministers discussed issues in the region as well as issues such as food security, air connectivity and the ways to enhance the existing air service agreement between the two countries, environment and more importantly Disaster Preparedness Centre to address and respond with rapidity and alacrity to natural disasters in the region among others.

Minister Bogollagama briefed economic and political developments of Sri Lanka to the Minister of Defense of Singapore, Mr. Teo Chee Hean. The Foreign Minister impressed upon the Singaporean Defense Minister the utility of the Shangri-La Dialogue, to member countries as well as other countries, since very few forums focus on Defense and Security related issues. Minister Bogollagama stated that the Shangri-La Dialogue was a perfect platform to deliberate complex issues and forge relations with Ministers in charge of Defense and Security as well as other Policy makers and senior military personnel among others. The Foreign Minister also stated that the bilateral trade between the two countries have surpassed USD 1 billion and Singapore is one of the premier investors in Sri Lanka. The two Ministers also discussed the importance of food security and potential measures to address the food security.

Mr. MM Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Defense of India, expressed satisfaction to Minister Bogollagama of the manner in which the Eastern Province elections were conducted and the restoration of normalcy and democratic process. The Foreign Minister added that the LTTE had killed a large number of Tamil political leaders in the country and had subjugated the people of the North and East. The two Ministers also discussed the impressive rise of the bilateral trade and investments between the two countries as well as the increasing potential for tourism. Further, the Ministers agreed that once the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is operational, the commercial activity could markedly increase.

Joint Chiefs of Staff of Pakistan, Gen. Tariq Majid, expressed appreciation for the instrumental role played by Sri Lanka with regard to the re-entry of Pakistan to the Commonwealth and Sri Lanka’s contribution to Pakistan at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), during the meeting the Foreign Minister had with Gen. Majid. The Foreign Minister expounded the dynamics of SAARC and added that he called on the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense of Pakistan during the BOAO Forum held in China in April this year. The Foreign Minister also elaborated the Eastern Province elections and the manner in which the democracy was restored. Both the Ministers discussed rising oil prices and the crucial factor of addressing food security.

The Deputy Chief of Staff of China, Lt. Gen. Ma Xiotian, was conveyed the condolences on behalf of the people and the Government of Sri Lanka by Minister Bogollagama over the recent earthquake in China. Gen. Xiotian thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for the assistance and cooperation extended at the hour of need to the victims of the earthquake. Further, he added that assistance at such brief notice was a clear manifestation of the affection and friendship the two countries maintained. Minister Bogollagama did explain the political developments in general and the Eastern Province elections in particular and added that terrorism has to be dealt militarily in order to evolve a political settlement through political means. Also, the Foreign Minister conveyed the best sentiments and wishes for the forthcoming Olympics to Gen. Xiotian.

At the concluding luncheon of the Shangri-La Summit, the Minister of Defense of Singapore hosted the Ministers who attended and participated at the two day Shangri-La Dialogue. The Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia made the Opening Remarks and was followed by Minister Bogollagama. Minister Bogollagama, in his remarks, stated that having a summit or conference focused on the defense and security sphere is indispensable, at this juncture, for the countries in the Asia Pacific in particular, and the world in general. The profile of the participants at this select Summit included ministers and experts from around the world. Minister Bogollagama stressed the fact that the issue of terrorism should be extended continuing focus and maritime security needs to have enhanced visibility. The Foreign Minister also added that the Indian Ocean region needs higher security since the maritime activity is one of the highest in the world. He further added that 50% of movement of vessels and ships is on the straits of Asia and is one of the busiest, thus needing greater degree of security and safety. At this luncheon, Minister Bogollagama stated that natural disasters is also an issue which should be addressed with high degree of efficacy in formation of ways to respond to situations, where natural disasters have struck, with rapidity and speed. In the recent past several, countries have experienced unprecedented natural disasters and responding to such disasters should be a high priority. At this occasion, Minister Bogollagama emphasized the fact that almost all the ministers are holding defense and security portfolios, whereas he was one of the very few Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Minister corroborated the fact that in Sri Lanka, the Minister of Defense is the President and therefore, the invitation was extended to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Having stated this context, Minister Bogollagama added that he led the defense delegation to the Shangri-La Dialogue. The Foreign Minister impressed the fact that the Shangri-La Dialogue was a forum that Sri Lanka could share its own experience and could learn from the experience of other countries in many a defense and security related issues. The said luncheon hosted by the Defense Minister of Singapore was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Ministers of Defense of the UK, Australia, South Korea, and Cambodia; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh; Deputy Ministers of Defense of Germany, India and Myanmar; Chiefs of Staff and Permanent Secretaries of Defense of China, Thailand and New Zealand among others.

Minister Bogollagama also met the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr. Abdul Razak, who also holds the portfolio of Minister of Defense and the former Deputy Secretary of State of the US, Mr. Richard Armitage, during his two day visit to participate at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Minister Bogollagama extended interviews to media, including the Hindu and the Reuters.

At these meetings and discussions, Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona; High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Singapore, Mr. Shehan Ratnavale; Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshall Donald Perera; Director General of Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ahmed A. Jawad and other senior officials of the Ministry were present.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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