Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena engaged in productive interaction with a cross-section of overseas Sri Lankans representing community and business associations as well as the Maha Sangha and other religious leaders in Singapore and Brunei Darussalam in a virtual meeting held on 1 July 2021. Foreign Minister Gunawardena was joined by State Minister for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya and Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage at this interactive session.
The newly established Overseas Sri Lankans Division, under the guidance of Foreign Minister Gunawardena, has taken this new initiative to hold a series of discussions for regular interaction with overseas Sri Lankans to reconnect them with the motherland and play their crucial role in promoting transnational ties between Sri Lanka and their host countries.
In his address, Foreign Minister Gunawardena at the outset, thanked the Sri Lankan community in Singapore and in Brunei Darussalam for their substantial contribution in numerous ways for Sri Lanka’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and in particular, for their continued support with urgent medical supplies to the country at this challenging period.
While highlighting the fact that the Sri Lankan community, including the Maha Sangha in Singapore has been a very effective bridge in building a strong relationship between the two countries, Foreign Minister Gunawardena urged them to continue on that path even more vigorously in the current context to seize opportunities presented in every sphere, be it economic, social or cultural and thus to contribute to the progress and prosperity of Sri Lanka. He also reminded of Singapore’s vibrant Sri Lankan community, who has contributed significantly for the country’s remarkable development since its formative years and expressed hope that these great linkages still offer opportunities to form mutually beneficial relationships between the two countries involving the Sri Lanka community in Singapore.
Stressing the immense opportunities exist for economic integration with the ASEAN countries, State Minister for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya in his speech sought continued support of overseas Sri Lankans in Singapore and Brunei Darussalam with all their capabilities and influence to ensure that Sri Lanka fully benefits from its engagement with these two key ASEAN countries.
Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, who also moderated this inaugural discussion, in his opening remarks, stressed the need for wider support from overseas Sri Lankans more than ever before for Sri Lanka’s development efforts, and urged them to come forward in a big way to play their part with increased economic contributions as well as in their invaluable roles in society.
High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Singapore Sashikala Premawardhane in her brief speech expressed sincere thanks to the Sri Lankan community in Singapore for their invaluable support and contribution to overcome many challenges the High Commission faced, while looking after the welfare of stranded Sri Lankans in Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, and in its repatriation efforts during this pandemic period. She also emphasized the need for better coordination in channeling the donations and contributions being received for their efficient use.
The Maha Sangha and other religious leaders as well as representatives from more than (15) community and business associations in Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, who participated at this interactive session expressed their strong support, and pledged many forms of donations and contributions for Sri Lanka’s efforts in fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They also reaffirmed to work closely with the Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lanka High Commission in Singapore extending their fullest cooperation in every possible way for the betterment of the motherland.
Additional Secretary of Economic Affairs P. M. Amza, Director General of Consular Affairs & Overseas Sri Lankans Division Wishwanath Aponsu and several other senior officials of the Foreign Ministry also participated at this inaugural session of engaging with overseas Sri Lankans.
The event was concluded following the chanting of Pirith by the Maha Sangha, who participated in this occasion.
Singapore has a vibrant community of Sri Lankans and persons of Sri Lankan origin presently numbered around 10000, and there are nearly 500 overseas Sri Lankans engaged in a range of professions in Brunei Darussalam.