With the end of terrorism a new era of peace and development had dawn upon our nation and as Sri Lanka continuing on the path of development, we have requested our friends in the international community to be partners in this process, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.
"Strengthened by the basic structures in place for a robust economic partnership, Singapore is in a unique position to harness the many opportunities for investment presented in my country," President Rajapaksa said at the state banquet hosted in his honour by the Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday.
The edifice of the relationship between our nations is reinforced by interactions and exchanges between our peoples. Hence it is important to foster people to people exchanges including through academic cooperation, President Rajapaksa added.
President said Singapore's clear demonstration of the strength of unity in diversity has become a source of great inspiration to us in Sri Lanka, having watched Singapore's transformation from a city state to a modern metropolis and its rapid pace of development.
Full text of the speech:
Your Excellency President Tony Tan Keng Yam
Mrs Mary Tan
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be with all of you this evening in your beautiful island nation. It is indeed an honour for my wife Shiranthi and myself to undertake this State Visit to Singapore.
I thank my gracious host for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to me and my delegation and the meticulous arrangements to make our visit most fruitful. Your Excellency's appointment to the highest office in September last year demonstrates the confidence placed in you by the polity of Singapore. I am confident that the relations between Sri Lanka and Singapore would flourish during your term of office and the current visit has laid an unshakable foundation to this end. I have been particularly touched by the expressions of goodwill and friendship extended by Your Excellency, the government, and the people of Singapore.
Sri Lanka and Singapore share a long tradition of close and cordial relations. Successive generations of our leaders have nurtured this friendship based on mutual respect and shared values. His Excellency Lee Kuan Yew being a visionary leader has on his many visits to my country, amply commented on the diverse possibilities held by Sri Lanka to become a growth model in Asia. Similarly, to Sri Lanka, Singapore has been a hub for economic interaction and development in Asia. Also, Singapore has a special place in the hearts of the Sri Lankan people. Your country clearly demonstrates the strength of unity in diversity which has become a source of great inspiration to us in Sri Lanka, having watched Singapore's transformation from a city state to a modern metropolis and its rapid pace of development.
Our bilateral relations marked an important milestone in 1979 when Sri Lanka established a resident High Commission in Singapore. Building on these historic foundations ties between our two countries have grown and expanded rapidly over the years. While our cooperation now extends to several spheres from defence, trade and investments to education, health, sports and culture, we also share many common platforms in a number of regional and international fora. Such interactions have paved the way to jointly face emerging challenges and also exploit new opportunities.
With the end of three painful decades of conflict, terrorism has firmly been consigned to the past in Sri Lanka. As we heel these wounds, a new era of peace and development had dawn upon our nation. With Sri Lanka continuing on the path of development, we have requested our friends in the international community to be partners in this process. I am gratified that in recent years, our bilateral relationship has acquired a new dynamism, particularly in the economic and commercial sectors. The total bilateral trade between our two countries is expanding and accounts for approximately USD 2 billion. There are over hundred Singaporean companies in Sri Lanka at present with many technical and business collaborations. Strengthened by the basic structures in place for a robust economic partnership, Singapore is in a unique position to harness the many opportunities for investment presented in my country.
The edifice of the relationship between our nations is reinforced by interactions and exchanges between our peoples. Hence it is important to foster people to people exchanges including through academic cooperation. I am happy to note that in this respect certain initiatives have already been launched under the existing technical co-operation programmes. Your assistance in refurbishing the children's section of the Jaffna Public Library and training extended to its librarians are most appreciated. While this initiative has provided an impetus to linking our two peoples, it is also acted as a catalyst in serving our goal in promoting education for all.
As inbound tourist numbers to Sri Lanka have grown at a rapid pace, there is great potential for further expansion of infrastructure in this sector. Several high end brands have already invested in Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict, and I invite Singaporean companies to do the same. We must also broaden our mind-set, to facilitate and promote third country tourism in extending visits to each other's destinations. Such concepts could benefit from ASEAN experiences such as "trail of civilization".
Our economic partnership opens vistas for our two countries, to cooperate and shares experiences, while collectively benefiting from our respective strategic locations. I wish to draw your attention in particular to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT), bio and nano technologies and pharmaceutical sectors that I believe have tremendous potential for collaboration. In addition, infrastructure development in the ports and aviation sectors has also opened up many opportunities for Foreign Direct Investments. Sri Lanka and Singapore could also endeavour to cooperate in water resource management, urban development and housing among other areas.
One other sector that our two countries could benefit enormously is enhancement of labour opportunities. I note with satisfaction that many Sri Lankans are productively contributing to the economies of several ASEAN including Singapore and North East ASEAN countries. A regularized mechanism by which skilled and semi-skilled labour from Sri Lanka is allowed access into the Singapore labour market would enrich both our economies.
I am confident that we are now at the beginning of a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between Sri Lanka and Singapore. Your kind words, gracious hospitality and warm interactions with the government and people of Sri Lanka will leave endearing and fond memories of this visit for me, my wife and my delegation.
It is my honour to propose a toast:
• To the health and well-being of Your Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam, the President of the Republic of Singapore, Mrs. Mary Tan and the people of Singapore;
• to the close friendship, cooperation and partnership between Singapore and Sri Lanka;
• to the continued prosperity and success of Singapore
May the noble Triple Gem Bless You all.