Ambassador and Mrs. Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka hosted a reception at the Grand Ballroom of the Millennium Seoul Hilton on Feb. 6, 2014 to celebrate the 66th anniversary of Independence of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
There were many distinguished guests attending the reception from all walks of life and the international community as well as from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps.
Among the guests in attendance from the Korean side were Vice Minister of Education Na Seung-il; Reps. Shin Sung-bum and Lee Han-sung of the ruling Saenuri Party, Directors General Jae-Bol Chung of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Suh Jeong-In of Soouth Asia and Pacific Affairs Bureau of MOFA; Korean Honorary Consul Shin Jung-Taek of Sri Lanka for Busan; Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post; Managing Editor Chang Ik-kyung of Korean Business Daily TV; and Chief Abbot Rev. Park Sung-Uk of the Cheonman-sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan.
From the SDC came many mission chiefs who included Ambassadors Konstantin V. Vnukov of Russia, Ngovi Kitau of Kenya, Kaman Singh Lama of Nepal, Enamul Kabir of Bangladesh, Dato Haji Harun Ismal of Brunei Darussalam, Shri Vishnu Prakash of India, Grecia Fiordalicia Pichardo Polanco of Dominican Republic, Antonio Quintero Nobre of Portugal, Serigio Mercuri of Italy and Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia, Hocine Sahraoui of Algeria, Md. Enamul Kabir of Bangladesh, Natallia Jhylevich of Belarus, Guadalupe Palomeque de Taboada of Bolivia, Dato Haji Harun Ismail of Brunei Darussalam, Petar Andonov of Bulgaria, Manuel Lopez Trigo of Costa Rica, Grecia Fiodalicia Pichardo of Dominican Republic, Sergio Mercuri of Italy, Dulat Bakisher of Kazakhstan, Ceferino Adrian Valdez Peralta of Paraguay, Krzysztof Majka of Poland, Antonio Quintero Nobre of Portugal and Dusan Bella of Slovak Republic.
Speaking to the guests, Ambassador Wijeratne said in part: “Since the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka’s economy has grown at over 8% annually while bringing inflation, unemployment and poverty levels down drastically. The sustained high growth rate has, as a result, placed it among the world’s middle income economies.”
Sixty-six years ago, on the 4th of February, 1948, Sri Lanka attained its freedom from colonial rule. We are here today, to celebrate the anniversary of this independence.
As we enjoy today’s celebrations, let us first think about Sri Lanka’s journey over the past years. As a country, we are proud of the significant progress that has been made since the defeat of terrorism four years ago.
It was indeed a very difficult path to come through but now our people are enjoying peace in a united Sri Lanka and the nation has been experiencing an extraordinary development drive as clearly indicated in the “Mahinda Chintana” policy and vision of the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Numerous mega development programmes are underway including construction of harbours, airports and roads, and economic development of rural areas. Furthermore, since the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka’s economy has grown at over 8% annually while bringing inflation, unemployment and poverty levels down drastically. The sustained high growth rate has, as a result, placed it among the world’s middle income economies.
Additionally, the tourism sector has played a major role in Sri Lanka’s economic growth. The country is a preferred destination for foreign investors and tourists, alike. In fact, the number of tourist arrivals reached the highest recorded number in 2013 at more than one million, representing a 40% growth rate.
Guided by principles of non-alignment and friendship with all, Sri Lanka also continues to have a strong vibrant foreign policy and healthy relations in the global arena.
A few months ago, in November, Sri Lanka hosted the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and will serve as the Chair in Office of the Commonwealth for the next two years. This event provided a unique opportunity for world leaders to learn about the tremendous progress and unprecedented post-conflict developments taking place in Sri Lanka.
The Republic of Korea has further been a critical partner for Sri Lanka since we initiated our ties in 1968. Our relations have expanded, strengthened and gained vitality over the years. And as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Korea for the last two and half years, I have watched with great admiration the phenomenal strides that Korea has made to realize “the Miracle on the river Han”. The hard-work, determination and the spirit of entrepreneurship of the people here in Korea has made this country a model for us in the developing world.
Sri Lanka remains grateful to the Korean Government, especially in the sphere of development assistance. I wish to specially mention the commendable work carried out by young Koreans in Sri Lanka under the KOICA volunteers’ programme.
These enthusiastic individuals have worked hard to increase awareness of the Korean culture and the Korean language in rural Sri Lanka. I am also pleased to learn that Sri Lanka has been selected to establish the Saemaul Undong communities.
Many Sri Lankans are also finding employment opportunities in the Republic of Korea. Presently, there are about 28,000 Sri Lankans workers here and they are making significant contributions to the economic development of both countries.
Our bilateral relations were further strengthened last year when Korean Air launched their direct flight service from Seoul to Colombo, improving the tourism connection.
In April 2012, the His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka made a historic visit to Korea and also in August of last year, Hon. Jung Hong-won, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea visited Sri Lanka. These among other delegation visits, including the Sri Lanka parliamentary delegation and the Korean National Assembly, have consolidated our relations. We have planned a few more high-level visits in the coming months and signing of a number of new agreements.
The future offers many opportunities for our two countries to collaborate and develop deeper and broader based bilateral cooperation in politics, economics, trade, culture, agriculture and education. Sri Lanka looks forward to closely working with Her Excellency President Park Geun-Hye’s Administration and to further strengthening Sri Lanka’s longstanding relations with the Republic of Korea and the warm friendship between the people.
Thus, I am glad to be here on this 66th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence to celebrate the great strides Sri Lanka has made as a country, and with the help of other nations like the Republic of Korea. It is great to once again unite in peace and recognize how far we have come over the years.
I am extremely grateful to all of you for joining today to celebrate this with us. I hope you enjoy the festivities arranged for today.
Particularly, I am very pleased to inform you of our Sri Lankan Food Festival which will be open until the end of this month at this beautiful Hilton Hotel. This food festival showcases Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture through the exotic and unique flavors of its cuisine. I am sure that you will enjoy good food and drinks that have been skillfully prepared by Chefs from the Hilton Hotel in Colombo.