President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expects ongoing negotiations regarding Japan’s bridge funds to conclude soon.
The President made the remarks during the 27th International Conference on the Future of Asia (Nikkei) held in Tokyo, Japan via video call today (26).
The Japanese newspaper Nikkei has organized the conference every year since 1995. The theme of this year’s two-day conference is “Redefining Asia’s Role in a Divided World.”
Speech of 27and International Conference on the Future of Asia (Nikkei)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I address you today on the occasion of the 27and International conference on “the future of Asia”, focusing on redefining Asia’s role in a divided world.
First of all, I commend Nikkei for hosting this event again this year despite the current global challenges.
I welcome the presence of the Honorable Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan, and many other world leaders participating in this conference.
I remember with great satisfaction the strong friendship between Sri Lanka and Japan nurtured over the past seven decades, and the many historical and cultural ties between our nations that span a much longer period.
These historic ties reinforce the multifaceted and strong partnership between our two nations in many areas.
We are very proud that Japan has always been and continues to be one of Sri Lanka’s major development cooperation partners, providing significant aid and financial assistance for the socio-economic development of our country over time. .
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is no secret that the past few months have been extremely difficult for Sri Lanka.
We are currently going through a severe economic crisis which has profoundly affected the lives of all Sri Lankans, leading to social unrest.
The near shutdown of the tourism industry and the sharp decline in inbound remittances from expatriate workers due to COVID19 over the past two years and the increase in inflation due to other events combined at the high level Sri Lanka’s unpaid debts have caused a serious financial crisis.
In April, Sri Lanka announced a “debt freeze” with the intention of restructuring this external public debt through negotiations with our creditors, while simultaneously approaching the International Monetary Fund for a suitable program.
Alongside these efforts, we have appointed a new Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers with representatives from several political parties, and we encourage the ongoing discussions in Parliament with a view to forming a national consensus on the way forward.
Sri Lanka is Asia’s oldest democracy. It is crucial that the solutions to our current national crisis are supported by our nation’s democratic framework.
However, as we seek to find such solutions, we urgently need the help of our friends in the international community to ensure that our immediate needs in terms of importing essential medicines, food and fuel be satisfied.
We also urgently need bridge financing to restore confidence in our external sector and stabilize our economy until the debt restructuring process is completed and an IMF program begins.
Sri Lanka is grateful for the support provided by India, our close friend and neighbour, which has responded generously in these difficult times. The support provided by our other neighbors and development partners, as well as regional and global institutions, is also deeply appreciated.
Japan remains one of Sri Lanka’s main development partners, and we hope that the negotiations currently underway regarding Japan’s transition funds will soon conclude and support Sri Lanka as we try to stabilize our economy and our nation. .
I call on the other friends of Sri Lanka present here today to also explore the possibility of extending their support and solidarity to my country at this very difficult time.
A positive aspect of recent events in Sri Lanka has been the increased engagement of our youth in national politics.
We have also seen similar activism in other countries, where loss of faith in existing systems has led to strong protests against governments.
It is important to ensure that these systems undergo the reforms necessary for their improvement so that future generations benefit from better opportunities in terms of education and employment, leading to an increase in their productivity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The severe difficulties facing Sri Lanka are an early indication of the long-term effects of the COVID19 pandemic, compounded by the ongoing conflict in Europe, which could also affect other vulnerable countries.
Supporting these vulnerable nations through these difficulties is essential for regional and global stability.
It is therefore sincerely hoped that nations capable of doing so will lend a hand to these countries as they seek to overcome the very serious threats they face.
An even more widespread problem that the world will face in the future concerns food security.
Food shortages and sharp increases in food prices likely to occur in the coming months will put considerable pressure on many countries.
It is therefore essential that we pay attention to this crucial problem and prioritize local agricultural production and improve our resilience in the face of this coming problem.
Increased cooperation between nations will also be needed to ensure that we overcome this problem.
As we look to the future, it is no secret that even more widespread challenges caused by human-induced climate change await the Asian region as well as the world.
The adverse effects of these climate changes, including loss of biodiversity, water scarcity and pollution, degradation of air quality and ecosystems, will all contribute to significant challenges for many countries, particularly in regarding food security.
It is worrying that several agreements, protocols and conventions on these issues, of which many countries are members, have not been respected.
It has also been difficult to secure widespread commitment to ambitious climate goals, which is of great concern.
I am sure you will agree that it is only through shared commitments that we can preserve the environment, which does not belong only to us but even more so to our future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Maritime security in Asia is another thorny issue that requires serious political attention.
In addition to traditional security issues related to the projection of naval power, many non-traditional issues, including piracy, human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, continue to pose challenges. problems in this region.
Sri Lanka has a strong interest in the security of the Indian Ocean region, and the protection of sea lanes has established a strong relationship between Sri Lanka and dominant regional players, including Japan.
Sri Lanka has a responsibility to protect maritime routes, maritime resources and the fight against maritime crime in an important region of the Indian Ocean, and we look forward to partnering with the Asian community as we seek to develop our capabilities in these areas in the future.
Another lingering regional concern has been civil unrest, conflict and communal violence.
Sri Lanka has also been marked by sectarian tensions throughout its history.
I believe that policy makers must come together to design regional mechanisms for collaboration on these issues.
The exchange of expertise and experience to build capacity in the areas of peacebuilding and reconciliation is essential. The same goes for the empowerment of the underprivileged, as this is one of the root causes of the unrest.
In this context, I respectfully submit to this body that the fundamental objectives and functioning of certain existing regional bodies are currently affected by the conflicts of member countries on issues relating to economic, political or strategic interests.
I hope member countries will be able to overcome these stalemates and work together in the true spirit of Asia to address the region’s priorities.
In conclusion, I once again thank Nikkei for organizing this conference, and the Government of Japan for hosting this event.
As Sri Lanka overcomes its current challenges and begins to rebuild for tomorrow, we look forward to participating constructively in future events of this type as well, for the good of Asia.