Issue 355 October 1, 2016
And welcome Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickramasinghe
The visit of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe to New Zealand augurs well with this country’s pronounced desire to enhance bilateral relations with the Island nation of the Indian Subcontinent.
The three-day visit from today (October 1) will provide another opportunity for Wickramasinghe and his New Zealand counterpart John Key to engage in more meaningful dialogues and strike new grounds of partnership.
Although Mr Wickramasinghe has been here before (in May 2012) to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Democratic Union, the current visit would be the first by a Sri Lankan Prime Minister. He will be accompanied by his wife, Professor Maithree Wickramasinghe, four Sri Lankan Ministers, and a Sri Lankan business and media delegation.
Mr Wickremesinghe and his delegation will be formally welcomed in a ceremony at Government House in Auckland today, followed by bilateral talks.
They will also attend a range of official, business and community events in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington.
Mr Key said that he was struck by the range of ‘exciting opportunities for New Zealand’ during his visit in February and that an increasing number of New Zealand businesses were recognising this potential.
“Under Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s leadership, Sri Lanka has entered a new phase in its post-civil war development. New Zealand is keen to support the important steps the country is making towards reconciliation and rebuilding through increased political and economic contact,” he said, in a Welcome Announcement.
New Zealand and Sri Lanka have a longstanding friendly relationship, with official contact centred around membership in the Commonwealth and United Nations.
We also enjoy strong rivalry on the cricket pitch, while forging more sporting connections through Rugby, which is growing in popularity in Sri Lanka.
There are more than 12,000 Sri Lankans living in New Zealand.
Human Capital flow
While the Sri Lankan population here is more than 12,000, about 8000 New Zealanders visit Sri Lanka every year as tourists. However, the number of Sri Lankans visiting New Zealand every year is only 2500 a year but there is scope for increase.
The two Prime Ministers would confer on the areas of economic cooperation and scope for increasing bilateral trade and said that Sri Lanka exports quality products and services, chief among which are Tea and Cinnamon.
International student arrivals from Sri Lanka, placed at 1000 last year, also has scope for improvement. Mr Key said that his government welcomed the efforts being made in various fields including Veterinary Sciences, Pilot Training and Accounting.
Mutual love for sports, especially Cricket and Rugby was also noted.
Mr Key described Sri Lanka as ‘The Glowing flame of Asia’ and commended the country’s programme of national reconciliation and constitution reforms.
New Zealand does not have a direct aid programme in Sri Lanka, but the New Zealand government provides funds to the United Nations and partner NGOs working in Sri Lanka. There are opportunities for New Zealand NGOs to apply for funding from New Zealand’s Aid Programme’s Partnerships Fund, which focuses on sustainable economic development initiatives.
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