During an interaction with External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris on the margins of the UNGA sessions in New York, Foreign Minister of Barbados Maxine McClean confirmed that the Prime Minister of Barbados will participate at CHOGM 2013 in Sri Lanka.
Welcoming the Barbados delegation, Minister G.L. Peiris noted that the programme for CHOGM has been arranged in a manner to enable participants to experience other parts of the country. In this context he explained that the Commonwealth Youth Forum and the meeting between Business leaders and Heads of Government are being held in Hambantota in a bid to take the Commonwealth to the people. Explaining the Government’s vision towards creating an aviation, shipping and knowledge hub in Sri Lanka, Minister Peiris added that Hambantota presented much potential in this regard given the newly opened international airport and deep water port.
Minister McClean said that she looked forward to the Summit hosted by Sri Lanka, which will be her first visit to the region, and was keen to attend the Business Forum. She also expressed the interest of Barbados in participating in the Commonwealth Film Festival being arranged on the margins of the CHOGM. She welcomed this as an excellent initiative to showcase the cultural diversity within the Commonwealth. Minister McClean further noting that English is being commonly spoken within the Commonwealth encouraged greater interaction among member countries. In her view, enhanced collaboration among the peoples of the Commonwealth could revitalize the Organization. In this context Minister McClean reiterated that she looked forward to experiencing the people and culture of Sri Lanka as well as the Conference.
Endorsing the sentiments expressed by the Barbados Foreign Minister, Prof. Peiris observed that in order to make Commonwealth relevant, it was important to have a sharper focus within the Organization on economic priorities. He noted that much remained to be done with regard to socio economic aspects including trade, investment, tourism, capital inflow, social mobility and migration, modernizing education and vocational training, youth empowerment, enhancing social and economic conditions, health, climate change and early warning for natural disasters, which warranted greater attention. He cautioned against a disproportionate focus on political issues, or any kind of policing by the Organization which would transform it into being intrusive. On the other hand, he said greater attention to economic aspects would enrich the lives of the people in member countries. The Minister explained that this was the basis for Sri Lanka to have proposed a theme with an economic focus for CHOGM.
Minister McClean endorsed the theme as an excellent choice, and noted the importance of issues such as job creation, economic employment and market access, which she said did not receive sufficient focus within the Commonwealth in a structured manner. She expressed the hope of coming away from the Colombo CHOGM with enhanced economic engagement among the member countries. Noting that technology provided faster communication and greater interaction, she proposed establishing a partnership with the Sri Lankan apparel sector for young designers in Barbados who could interact electronically to market their designs. Minister Peiris welcomed the proposal and further pointed out that the discussions on international trade at CHOGM will contribute to the WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled to be held in Bali in December 2013.
Conveying Sri Lanka’s interest in enhancing relations with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, Minister Peiris emphasized the importance attached by Sri Lanka to enhance relations with Barbados. The two Ministers agreed to identify suitable candidates to serve as Honorary Consuls in their respective capitals. Minister Peiris also briefed on the preparations for hosting the World Youth Conference in Sri Lanka in 2014.