The Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G. L. Peiris and Mr. Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, agreed to further strengthen Sri Lanka – UK bilateral relations in a number of areas, particularly in the field of trade and business during their meeting yesterday (22) at the Ministry of External Affairs.
Minister Peiris referred to the existing strong business links between the two countries, and stated that this was an appropriate area to be further explored and developed given the current positive post-conflict environment in the country.
Minister Peiris also provided the visiting British Minister with an overview of the significant progress made with regard to resettlement, rehabilitation and development, particularly in the North of the country following the end of conflict.
Reconciliation among civilians was an important aspect of the recovery process, and he briefed Mr. Burt on the action taken by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) through the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC).
Mr. Burt agreed that the relations between the two countries were multi-dimensional, and that his visit offered an opportunity to focus on the trade and business aspects, among others. As this was his first visit to Sri Lanka, it had also provided him with an ideal opportunity to witness developments first hand. He stressed that much progress has been made, though challenges still remained.
He also stated that the UK was ready to help Sri Lanka in moving forward and informed that the UK had allocated a further £ 3 million for demining purposes in addition to the allocation of £ 13.5 million as humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka.
During his two day visit to Sri Lanka, Minister Burt also met with the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa and Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. He also met with Sri Lanka –UK Business leaders. His programme included a visit to Jaffna.
Commenting on his visit, the visiting Minister said "I welcome the fact that Sri Lanka no longer suffers from terrorism. In visiting the north I have been able to see the progress that has been made in starting to rebuild war-damaged infrastructure and to return people to their homes. In Jaffna, I visited minefields being cleared by a British demining agency, the HALO Trust, and got a sense of the scale of the remaining work to be done. I also talked to resettled communities about their efforts to recover from the war and rebuild their lives, he said.