Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris held discussions with his counterpart from Sierra Leone Samura Kamara and also Minister of Foreign Affairs of Botswana Phandu Skeleman, at two separate meetings on the margins of the UNGA sessions in New York. Professor G.L Peiris said that in the spirit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) practice, discussions at CHOGM 2013 would be on issues related to the Commonwealth as a whole.
Minister Peiris outlined the progress made in the country following the end of the conflict, and observed that the constant and disproportionate focus on Sri Lanka by a small section of the international community, particularly through multilateral fora is unfair and unwarranted. The Minister pointed out that no other country, which had undergone a conflict situation has been subjected to such heavy pressure in addressing all the challenges within a short time span of four years. The Minister observed there were political motives behind this agenda and regretted that it has largely been driven by diaspora influence, rather than by any principled position. He added that an overwhelming majority of countries did not endorse this selective attitude towards Sri Lanka.
Referring to the ongoing preparations for CHOGM 2013 in November, Minister Peiris added that the Commonwealth, which is a voluntary association of sovereign countries, should not be transformed into a judgmental mechanism. He further stated that in the spirit of CHOGM practice, discussions would be on issues related to the Commonwealth as a whole. The Minister said that Sri Lanka looked forward to the participation of Sierra Leone and Botswana at CHOGM in Colombo.
During his interaction with Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone, Minister Peiris appreciated Sierra Leone’s understanding of the challenges Sri Lanka is facing. Minister Peiris informed his counterpart that Sri Lanka has initiated the process of expanding relations with the African continent and towards this end has established two new diplomatic missions in that region this year. The two Ministers concurred that the two countries should continue to work in close cooperation to exploit the untapped potential, particularly in the trade and economic spheres.
At his meeting with his colleague from Botswana, Minister Peiris agreed with the observation by Minister Skeleman that technical assistance from external sources to a country should not be imposed, but provided at the request of the recipient. The two Ministers also noted that there is no yardstick to measure the speed of social and economic integration in post conflict societies and that the related principles must be applied uniformly irrespective of the country. In this context, it was also noted that in order to be constructive, each situation must be assessed based on facts in an objective and fair manner. With reference to the bilateral relations between the two countries, the two Ministers noted the sizeable Sri Lankan expatriate community in Botswana and the service they were rendering especially in the legal, banking and educational sectors, and further agreed to enhance the existing trade links.