Amidst COVID-19 President envisions a robust new economy

16 April 2020

 

  • Returning to normalcy without compromising safety
  • Ministries entrusted to create a new economic vision
  • Recommencing stalled development projects 


Meeting with the secretaries to ministries yesterday (15) at the Presidential Secretariat, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa discussed rebuilding the economy in the face of the current challenges.


Returning to normalcy without compromising safety

A focal point of the discussion was on returning to normalcy. To do so, the President emphasized the need for the public and private sectors to recommence its business activities. Thus curfew needs to be eased to allow these functionalities to proceed without undue obstruction. The responsibility of ensuring the public adhering to safety regulations and preventing large gatherings was entrusted on the secretaries to the ministries as well as heads of institutes.


Creating a New Economic Trend

Rebuilding a policy-driven economy is the responsibility of all, noted President. Whilst protecting people and the local economy, the responsibility of creating a new economic trend lies with the ministries. It is important to establish new businesses and industries. Experienced entrepreneurs must have fresh opportunities. The relevant ministries must at the same time extend the required foundation and support needed for agrarian and fisheries sectors as well as other businesses to recover.

Taking the global crisis into consideration, the need to pay special attention to the local agrarian economy was underlined. Facilities needed to maximize production of export agricultural crops from available land must also be provided, President instructed the officials. Thus it is very important that even the farmer at the village level has easy access to the State machinery.


Recommencing stalled development projects

The discussions also centered on restarting the development projects that were halted due to the prevailing crisis. One of these projects was the initiation to add 100,000 km to the existing road network. It was decided to prioritize this project as a starting point.

Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundara, Principal Advisor to President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senarath and Cabinet Secretary S. Amarasekera also joined the discussion.



Mohan Karunaratne

Deputy Director

President’s Media Division



16.04.2020

Foreign Ministry and Foreign Employment Bureau team up to step up efforts to assist Sri Lankans in the Middle East

16 April 2020

Sri Lanka Missions in the Middle East have reported that the welfare measures for migrant workers in the Middle East have received an added boost this week, following the decision by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) to make available resources from the Workers’ Welfare Fund, originally confined to those registered with the Bureau, to all migrant workers irrespective of their registration status, through units within Sri Lanka Missions abroad in 16 stations. This is in addition to funds already allocated by the Foreign Ministry and services provided by Missions in collaboration with local Sri Lankan associations and religious establishments across the world in 67 cities. The Foreign Ministry has also sought an additional allocation from the Treasury to meet the increasing needs of all Overseas Sri Lankans, presently amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, to increase the efforts of distribution of dry rations. This is to help overcome immediate difficulties experienced by the migrants who are unable to return to Sri Lanka, in view of the present closure of the airports in Sri Lanka for arrival, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These measures were the focus of a video conference held on Wednesday (15 April) chaired by Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha and attended by senior officials overseeing the region and with the Ambassadors of Sri Lanka Missions and Consulates in the Middle East. Generic issues and other aspects of the present crisis were also discussed during the meeting. Heads of Mission and SLBFE Heads of Unit in Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Iran and Israel participated in the discussion. Earlier last Friday (10 April), Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, Dinesh Gunawardena met with the respective Secretaries and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, as well as senior officials of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, where policy changes were discussed to address issues relating to migrant workers, particularly in the context of the ramifications emanating from the present Coronavirus pandemic. This was followed by a meeting of the SLBFE Board of Members, where the proposed changes were formally endorsed.

Special emphasis was placed to address the consequences resulting from the increasing cases of unemployment, loss of contracts, non-extension of work permits, and halting of temporary freelance work, which have left sections of these workers in need of urgent assistance to maintain their basic living conditions and also to ensure that their families back home are assisted where possible. Taking note of the need to diplomatically and politically engage countries which have already declared Amnesty, permitting the workers to leave, the Ministry instructed the Sri Lanka Missions to commence negotiations with local authorities and respective Labour Ministries to reach possible settlements in legalizing the status of unregistered workers and also to find amicable solutions to various disputes that have arisen due to violation of contract agreements, loss of employment and legal status.

The Missions also reported to the Ministry that in the case of those Sri Lankans who reach out for medical assistance on account of being suspected or having contracted the COVID-19, immediate measures are being taken to direct them to the local hospitals providing medical facilities and thereafter to be constantly monitored by the Embassy officials.

The video conference also discussed the support extended by multilateral organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Red Crescent Society, in some countries in the distribution of food rations to needy Sri Lankans, and assistance for the provision of medical advice and consultation extended to Sri Lankans through community volunteers specialized in this field. Appreciating this support and the need for continued assistance, the Ministry has made representations seeking additional support to all Sri Lanka Missions to the IOM and International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) Headquarters in Geneva through the Sri Lanka Permanent Mission in Geneva and their Heads of Agency in Sri Lanka.

The establishment of databases to gather information on the Sri Lankans in each country set up by the Missions has facilitated the compilation of data on/about the Sri Lankan workforce, which is presently shared with the Ministry. In addition, the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ online portal launched by the Foreign Ministry and widely circulated among the communities overseas, presently serves as an ideal platform for information sharing and engagement with the Ministry and the Missions particularly at this time of crisis. As of 15 April, 21,575 of the 59,419 who have registered on the portal are resident in the Middle East region.

The Foreign Ministry has instructed all Missions to continue maintaining the 24-hour emergency hotlines and to deploy Embassy staff on a continuous duty roster to attend to the daily needs and queries of the Sri Lankan communities in these respective stations.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

 

15 April 2020

Sinhala and Tamil New Year message of His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka

13 April 2020

New Year Message

 

I wish the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festival, which is the most splendid cultural extravaganza of the nation, to be a peaceful, a joyful, a prosperous as well as a healthy period for every citizen of our country.

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year that dawns with the transition of the Sun can be considered as a period of cheerfulness, harmony and development of mutual relationships. Nevertheless, a virus that has spread across the world has entered our Motherland, and as a result, presently we are facing the most devastating situation since the era of our ancestors.    

Hence, this time we are not able to celebrate festivals collectively as the health specialists have emphasized the importance of maintaining social distance. I appeal to all of you who voluntarily rallied around to conquer any challenge faced by our country and nation, to commit yourselves now as well, to prevent the spread of this deadly virus by maintaining the social distance during this festival time.

The New Year period, nourished with the beauty of nature, is a festival that human beings pay their tribute to the environment and nature. We have now entered an era where the need to integrate with the environment is much felt.

Rituals of New Year that we practiced with utmost honour and commitment since a very long time, especially rituals like the lighting of the hearth, boiling a pot of milk, partaking the first meal of the New Year and the traditional transacting can still be conducted at the auspicious times but restricted to family members.

Children are the true beneficiaries of the happiness of New Year. Even though, there are certain limitations to celebrate New Year festivals this time, we, as adults, must create an environment for the children to experience the cheerfulness of this festive season. Therefore, I remind you affectionately to perform New Year rituals confined to your homes while ensuring that children feel and enjoy the spirit of the New Year. Amidst our New Year resolutions, let us join hands with strong determination to defeat this menace threatening our people and country.  

May this be a peaceful and a prosperous New Year to all of you.

 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

 

April 11, 2020

Easter Message of His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka

12 April 2020

 

The Christian community of Sri Lanka, together with their brethren all over the world celebrates Easter, the commemoration day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with utmost devotion.

The intend of the devoted commemoration is to purify the mind and soul. The Christian devotees spend the lent period indulging in religious activities recalling the crucifixion, suffering, sacrifice, the death, and resurrection of Jesus. I believe that peace and harmony attained in the mind due to these pious activities help the Christian community to spread the message of love, peace, and harmony among the brethren in the country.

The devotees are shocked and saddened by the corona pandemic faced by the world community today. Their desire is to provide relief to the suffering people with the blessings of the divine Father and Son.

The Easter festivities in the past were full of joy and delight. However, last year it left a sorrowful memory of pain and loss. Even today the shock has not been fully erased. The commitment of the government is to ensure justice for the people who suffered. Furthermore, the government is determined to ensure complete eradication of such tragedies from the Motherland.

At this moment when the country is faced with a grave challenge to the health of the people, the government expects the Christian community to stay at homes in accordance with the advice of the Government and health officials and pay obeisance to Jesus Christ.

I wish you, your family and the entire society would be able to absolve yourselves from sins by faithfully recalling the message of Jesus.

 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

April 9, 2020

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