The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) is making a contribution of distinct value in preserving peace and tranquility in the seas around the ASEAN area, External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris said.
The Minister was Chief Guest at the 45th Anniversary of ASEAN, celebrated at Hotel Taj Samudra.
Minister Peiris said that people smuggling is an activity which has the potential to inflict grave damage on the economy of ASEAN countries and to disrupt their social structures. In recent years there has been a steady increase in incidents of sophisticated organizations resorting to the lucrative enterprise of using vessels which are hardly seaworthy to transport illegal immigrants across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The substantial resources generated by these activities have been used in some cases to sustain terrorist activity, while some of the illicit migrants themselves are tainted by complicity in terrorist initiatives. This is apart from the many humanitarian disasters which have occurred, causing the loss of human lives. The Sri Lanka Navy, committing considerable resources and energy, has achieved a great deal of success in aborting these activities, especially in recent months. This is a role from which benefits in a wide variety of sectors have accrued far beyond the shores of Sri Lanka to the ASEAN region as a whole, Prof. Peiris observed.
Similarly, he added, the Sri Lanka Navy has acted to protect the integrity of transnational commerce by striving to control acts of piracy and preventing the proliferation of small arms. This has been helpful in ensuring law and order in the region, he commented.
The Minister said that, with the advent of peace and stability to the country, there is a unique opportunity to strengthen economic ties with the SAARC region, He referred to the recent visits of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
Minister Peiris expressed his opinion that the key to the remarkable economic success of these countries is their pursuit of policies, not mechanically copied from other models, but constructed in keeping with local aspirations and priorities. It is this strong sense of identity which accounts in large measure for the solidarity which these countries have shown to Sri Lanka and led them to extend principled support to our country in international fora, he continued.