Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis July 2006 - May 2009
Concluding Address by HE Dr Chris Nonis, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka to the UK, at the Defence Seminar 2014, August 18-20th 2014
Commander of the Army, Lt. Gen. Daya Ratnayake, Chiefs of the Triforces, distinguished international delegates, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentle¬men, It gives me great pleasure, indeed it’s a great privilege, to have been invited to deliver the concluding remarks, in what has been an excellent and extremely informative Defence Seminar 2014.
The proceedings of the past three days have provided all of us with a really nuanced understanding of the challenges to Sri Lanka in the post-conflict era, but more importantly it has also shown us the myriad of opportunities that exist for Sri Lanka and for our partners regionally, during our ascendance.
It is an enormous tribute to the Defence Secretary, Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, for having conceptualized this Defence Seminar, because it provides an eminently suitable platform to bring together military personnel, civilians, academicians, and researchers, all coming together, discussing the Sri Lankan model, sharing their thoughts, and having intellectual discourse and dialogue. I think this Defence Seminar in its fourth year has really defined its place in International Defence Conferences.
As you know, we in Sri Lanka have a rich 2500 year history and heritage, a spiritual and cultural aesthetic, of which we are justifiably proud. Our two greatest strengths are, firstly, our people, and secondly, our geostrategic position.
Throughout all the difficulties we have had over the past centuries, from the Colonial legacy, to the World Wars, to the 28 year conflict with the terrorists, and to the Tsunami, what has really stood us through these difficult times, has been the strength of our people. It is an enormous tribute, particularly with the 28 year terrorist conflict, to the commitment, dedication, resilience, and fortitude, of our Sri Lankan forces, who sacrificed their lives, and their families, in service to our Country. All of you in the Sri Lankan forces present here today, who have sacrificed so much for us, it is because of you that we are free; and we owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude.
We achieved that freedom in May 2009, under the leadership of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the pivotal role of the Defence Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. In achieving that peace, we exercised the greatest human right, which is the right to life, because since then we have not had a single major terrorist incident, and all the people of Sri Lanka, Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Burgher, Malay, are free of the autocracy and hegemony of terrorism. During this Defence Seminar, the Keynote speaker Dr.P.B.Jayasundera, gave a comprehensive and perspicacious analysis of the context and history of Sri Lanka from an economic and cultural perspective, and also spoke about our current macroeconomic environment, and potential for the future. That was preceded by Lt. Gen Daya Ratnayake, Commander of the Army, who in his welcome address focused on the interaction between security, development and prosperity, and also articulated the Sri Lankan model for defeating terrorism.
Several speakers during these sessions articulated the comprehensive, reconciliation, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction programme that has taken place since May 2009. 297,000 people were rescued in probably the world’s greatest hostage rescue operation, and those internally displaced people have now been found their homes. In May 2009, there were approximately 1.5 million mines and Unexploded Ordnances and the majority of the areas have been demined leaving only an area of 86sq km; 12,600 LTTE cadres have been rehabilitated; and the 594 child soldiers have been returned to their families; the A9 was reopened; and there is a multimillion dollar programme under the Northern and Eastern Revival, in terms of infrastructure development ; the trilingual policy is being implemented islandwide, and people of all ethnicities are being absorbed into the police and civil administrative services. Most importantly, we have had Northern provincial elections, and finally after three decades the people of the North have been able to exercise their suffrage.
The Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris, in his address, gave a very comprehensive overview of the very pragmatic measures taken to achieve social and economic equity. He also articulated very clearly, the imperative of not internationalizing domestic issues.
Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, the Secretary to the President, traced the nexus between Peace and Development, and the contribution of the LLRC towards building a positive peace. He also spoke from a very human perspective about building social capital and trust, which goes beyond monetary value.
The Speakers on the first day, Senior Minister Dr Amunugama and the Governor of the Central bank, Mr Nivard Cabraal both spoke about the extremely conducive macroeconomic environment that we have today. We have had over 7 percent year on year GDP Growth rate, single digit inflation, single digit interest rates, we are narrowing the fiscal deficit, and we have historically high external reserves of over 9 billion dollars. The recent sovereign bond was issued at a relatively low coupon rate for frontier markets of 5.125%, was several times oversubscribed, which is an independent and surrogate marker of confidence in the contemporary Sri Lankan narrative.
But what is of real importance is the fact that our regional growth, as articulated by many of our speakers, was over 25%, in both the previously conflict affected areas of the North and East. That demonstrates our commitment to build a truly pluralistic and inclusive society, so all communities can reap the dividends of peace and economic growth. This is very much in consonance with His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s “Mahinda Chintana” policy, of bridging the urban-rural divide, and achieving a pro-poor growth, and growth with equity.
Hon. Prof. Pieris also articulated that it was the same theme chosen for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which we were delighted to host last year. The theme was “Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development” to demonstrate that all of us in developing countries, and particularly in post-conflict developing countries, should all reap the dividends of growth.
His Excellency the President, assumed the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, which brings a sense of enormous pride to all of us. I remember that a few years ago, when I commenced my tenure in London, there was a very strong and very well-funded lobby to prevent Sri Lanka from hosting CHOGM, and it was an enormously difficult task to change ingrained opinion which had been built up over decades. At the time I was Chairing the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat, which comprises over 50 of the London based Commonwealth High Commissioners. And I realised that by persistent dialogue and articulation, and separation of fact from fiction, eventually the majority of Commonwealth countries understood that we all have similar histories, we all suffer from the legacy of colonisation, and we are all at different stages of development, and it is that depth and breadth of understanding that we need from everyone, and that is something that we should all move towards. We were delighted that the CHOGM was held in Sri Lanka, and rightfully so, because many people don’t know that we were one of the 8 founder member Nations of the modern Commonwealth, if one goes back to the London Declaration of 1949; and in fact we achieved universal suffrage 17 years prior to Independence in 1931, and we had the world’s first female Prime Minister, so we can also say a few things about gender parity and democracy to the world.
Also, we have always subscribed to the twin pillars of democracy and development, and we subscribe to the principles of the Singapore Declaration 1971; the Harare Declaration of 1991; the Munyonyo Statement on Respect and Understanding, and the principles enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.
The significance of hosting the CHOGM in Sri Lanka, was that it was a great index of confidence in Sri Lanka today, and it also enabled Sri Lanka to further strengthen bilateral relationships particularly with other Commonwealth countries and enhance South-South collaboration.
The delegates who visited said they were pleasantly surprised at the peace, and the positive peace, prevalent in Sri Lanka. And also the beauty and transformation of Colombo, and many people expressed this when they were here and they continue to articulate this when I am back in London, and they all say it is so different from the very negative, anachronistic picture that is constantly being spread by those demagogues of division, who simply fan the flames of hatred. They are very well funded- this very small rump of the Diaspora- and I don’t demonise the Diaspora - the majority of over 95% are decent, educated, sensible people. It is only a very small group of people who used terrorism as a business, and it is they who are now out of a job. But they perpetuate it, because they still have access to that funding, and that funding is now being legitimised into other businesses. It is they who continue to spread this negative narrative, and continue to lobby even legislators, opinion leaders, and think-tanks, and that is quite a challenge to address.
National Security and Sri Lanka’s geostrategic location
I mentioned at the outset that our 2 greatest strengths were our people and our geostrategic location because Sri Lanka lies at the nexus of the maritime routes between the East and the West, and that is historically why Sri Lanka is such a multi-ethnic, culturally diverse and heterogeneous community.
Major. Gen. Perera outlined the concept of the land force doctrine that transforms a component of the Military from security related duties to those of development and nation building. He outlined the complex interplay and the multiplicity of actors, both domestic and international, in the post conflict environment.
Major Gen. Perera, Rear Admiral Gunawardena and Air Vice Marshal Jayampathy, in their extremely clear and focused presentations articulated the value of the geostrategic importance of Sri Lanka and the interplay between the superpowers, USA, India and China within the Indian Ocean region.
The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world, and comprises 38 littoral states, 24 ocean territories and 17 landlocked countries, and 50% of the world’s containerized cargo and two thirds of the world’s Oil shipments, traverse the Indian Ocean Region. So its Sea lines of Communication are critical globally for trade security and energy security. The Indian Ocean is home to one of the most important sea lanes in the world, and overall more than 80% of the world’s seaborne trade passes through these Indian Ocean choke points, such as the Straits of Hormuz, Straits of Malacca, and the Sunda Straits. Therefore, in a world of maritime geopolitics, Sri Lanka, having achieved peace, has assumed great strategic significance and can play a key role globally and within the Maritime Silk Route, particularly enhanced by the shift in economic power to Asia.
From a US perspective, after 9/11, and after the US invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequently Iraq, its port of Diego Garcia has enormously increased the strategic significance of the Indian Ocean Region to the US. Even after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the region will still attract the attention of the US, to ensure the flow of energy supplies across the region’s Sea Lines of Communication and through its choke points.
If one looks historically at Trincomalee, it is the third largest natural harbour in the world, and it was described by Nelson as the finest natural harbour in the world, and by Churchill as the most strategic. In fact Trincomalee housed the British 7th fleet during World War two, and was invaluable after they lost Singapore to the Japanese in 1942, and they used it to exercise some degree of control over their Empire in India. In addition, I am told, that in this age of nuclear weaponry and nuclear submarine-based missile systems, the depth of its inner harbour has assumed increased strategic significance. In fact, the oldest frigate used by Admiral Nelson still in water today, albeit in a museum in Britain, is called HMS Trincomalee, and there is even an HMS Trincomalee fan club.
If one looks at the Hambantota port today, it is located just 12 nautical miles of the world’s busiest shipping lane, with over 100 ships passing Sri Lanka daily, and has the potential to make Sri Lanka one of the pre-eminent shipping hubs, and fulfil part of our 5 Hub strategy.
Air Vice Marshal Jayampathi also mentioned the aviation perspective, and that we are just 4 hours away from the Far East, and MRIA, Mattala will help to create the 5 Hub concept. In fact we are just 4 hours away from Singapore, KL, Bangkok, Delhi, Doha, and Dubai. That is the value of Sri Lanka.
In view of our geostrategic location, our speakers on Day two also emphasized the importance of regional cooperation and regional integration, and having a collaborative maritime and aviation diplomacy, harnessing our shared maritime domain expertise. We were reminded that “Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia” and of the interplay between China, India and the USA, for primacy in the Indian Ocean. In this context, Sri Lanka’s geostrategic position is pivotal.
I feel it is the same geographical location, that attracted the interest of the colonisers several hundred years ago. When the Portuguese were trying to wrest control of the Spice routes from the Venetians and the Ottomans, they were the first to navigate the Cape of Good Hope, and they colonized us in 1505; they were in turn replaced by the might of the Dutch East India Company in 1656; and subsequently, when the British were fighting the French in the Napoleonic wars, they also took over the Dutch colonies and colonized us from 1815 to 1948.
I should also touch on the one of the factors that people often don’t mention that lead to ethnic conflict in several of our countries and that is the “divide and rule” policy that has always been carried out by colonisers. Many people talk about recent factors in the last century, but I think rather than being preached to from abroad, we ourselves need to let people know that it is often the “divide and rule” policy of Imperialist powers that sowed the seeds for a lot of the ethnic strife that is going on globally today. Because what they did in the “divide and rule” policy is that they heightened differences, they artificially compartmentalized people, and people actually lost their National identity, and subsequently when we moved to independence, and the transition was usually very swift, we inherited economies that were struggling post-colonization, with substantial urban-rural economic divides, and we had that perennial search for a National identity, and that was compounded by the very Nationalist assertion post-independence. And it is the combination of all these factors together, namely the “divide and rule” policy, the urban-rural economic divide post-colonisation, and the loss of an unifying National identity, that were ethnicised and politicized by successive generations, and those are some of the factors that have led to the issues that a lot of our countries suffer from today.
The imperative therefore is to understand the context of the colonial legacy; to address the urban-rural economic divide which we are addressing; and to forge a common Sri Lankan National identity which we are embarked on, to unify all our people in the post-conflict era and transcend these differences.
If I could just touch on a few of the points specifically mentioned by our International Speakers.
Our speaker from India, Mr. Suba Chandran also highlighted the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region, and he also spoke about achieving a positive peace after the end of violence, and the imperative of managing expectations.
Our speaker from Pakistan, Ambassador Arif Ayub spoke about the clear shift of power towards Asia; the imperative of furthering regional cooperation; and the need for Geo-economics to surpass geopolitical rivalries. He also spoke of Sino-Pakistan cooperation in expansion of the Karakoram highway, and the involvement therefore of the new Maritime Silk Route, by linking the ports of Gwadar to the Port of Karachi.
Dr Safi, the speaker from Afghanistan also told us of their issues of being of strategic significance as the hub of Central Asia. They have a tremendous amount of mineral wealth and they are at the midst of the oil supply pipelines in Central Asia. She too highlighted the difficulties they have faced when their domestic issues were internationalized.
During our regional discussions, Dr. Bandoro from Indonesia spoke about the potential value and rationale of engagement with ASEAN.
Poland and the EU
Dr Patryk Kugiel, from Poland, gave an EU Perspective and outlined EU concerns on human rights and the asymmetrical trade relationship, and their declining EU aid. He gave a few possible scenarios which were rather pessimistic, but Dr Kugiel also made some interesting points about a potential alternative strategy.
And I quote from what he said about the alternative strategy, which included the following:- He said: “Be Modest: European states can show more modesty and understanding in its assessment of Sri Lanka’s civil war as its own experiences of interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed to them to the many challenges of the counter-terrorism operations”.
He said “ Be Consistent: The EU should be ready to address the accusations of double standards and hypocrisy in foreign relations and reassure its policy on Sri Lanka is not very different from its assessment of other conflicts”.
He said “Be Patient”. Give us the time and the space as you have given any post-conflict country. Are we not deserving of that? Particularly in comparison to peer countries we have done substantially better than the majority of those who have suffered a conflict like this.
He said “Be open: Europe needs to continue dialogue with Sri Lankan partners at every possible level.”
He said “Be Supportive. Offer more carrots and less sticks and support Sri Lankan-led and Sri Lankan-owned reconciliation processes.”
He said “Be Partners: Because we have the same aim of having a pluralistic and inclusive society with a sustainable peace.”
And I thought that was an interesting strategy because if people adopt that approach, particularly those who seek to internationalize what is a domestic issue, and seek to abrogate our territorial integrity and our sovereignty, I think if people actually use those comments, and put it into practice, then most of their concerns would disappear.
Our colleague from Tanzania, Dr Luoga, spoke of the problems in the African subcontinent, in the perennial post-colonial search for identity. Only two countries of the entire African subcontinent have not been colonized, Liberia and Ethiopia, and he said so many are struggling, and Tanzania itself struggles with so many issues of Identity, and he said what saw them through was their constant emphasis on unity and unifying all the different people.
It also reminded me when we had our speaker from Africa, about the struggle against apartheid, and Nelson Mandela. I remember when I was involved with the Royal Commonwealth Society, in my younger days many years ago, as a young activist campaigning for Mandela’s release from prison, there used to be a flame outside the South African High Commission in London, during the time Mandela was in prison, and all of us used to go as students and stand outside and have a vigil, and I remember joining that vigil. And when Mandela was released in 1990 and he subsequently came to London, he gave his first press conference in London at our Society. And what really struck me about Mandela, was not simply that he was successful in defeating Apartheid, but that after 27 years in captivity he forgave his captors, and I think he was really the personification of equanimity.
And from the South African trauma came the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we have a very comprehensive Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which was based on the TRC of South Africa. Our LLRC, which many people criticized before it was launched, I know I used to get constant criticism, people said “High Commissioner this is going to be edited; it will be biased; it won’t be critical; it will be a whitewash,” but when it was published, and I remember it was presented to Sri Lankan Parliament on Friday 16th December, and I remember presenting it in British Parliament the following Tuesday, people were quite impressed by it. It was not only released, but released in full and unedited. And it was a very comprehensive, impartial, critical, report of over 380 pages. It was set within the principle of International Humanitarian Law, incorporating the Principle of Distinction and the Principle of Proportionality. It had over 1000 oral submissions and over 5000 written submissions. And a substantial part of the LLRC is currently being implemented. I know there is more to be implemented, but if you compare our reconciliation process and the LLRC process to many other countries which have had similar processes, we have actually done substantially better.
And I think it is so important when people seek to criticize, that they actually compare us to themselves and their processes, and also to peer countries. And when people ask for accountability, the LLRC was based on the principle of restorative justice not punitive justice, where people have forgiveness, and that encourages them to discuss the trauma of conflict, and it actually helps to heal the wounds of conflict. And we have the National Plan of Action for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.
There was another excellent exposition of the challenges that many of the western countries are facing with the diaspora, by His Excellency Ravinath Ariyasinghe, who very clearly articulated that even though terrorism may have finished, and the physical war has finished here, the International war still continues.
And I think it is so important that we address it with the same focus, and the same strategy, that you all have done for the physical war. That is very important because the war that is being fought, and I’ve said it previously in an interview, I’ve said “proxy propaganda war”- but I chose my words very carefully. It is a war. I don’t think it can be laughed off in terms of “lack of communication” or “lack of marketing”. It is literally a war, because the funds used by the rump of the LTTE to procure arms are now being diverted to fight this propaganda war, and I think it’s important that we understand the seriousness and gravity of that, and the resources therefore and strategy that needs to be put in to combat it, because it uses social media and other media, and an enormous network of international money laundering and financial transactions. It is used, as I said earlier, to prey on opinion leaders and it influences people, particularly where there is a very narrow margin in terms of votes, so it appeals to the domestic electoral compulsions of certain countries. It is essentially down to votes and funds, which we need to be aware of, when we are unduly criticised from certain sectors.
His Excellency Prasad Kariyawasam, whilst Chairing the session on regional challenges, also articulated that many of the issues of ethnic conflict arose following colonisation.
Our speaker from Malaysia, Dr Tang, spoke about their challenges in defining the State of Malaysia and their challenges of Nation building. He also mentioned the previous Prime Minister Dr Mahathir’s “Look East” policy, which took Malaysia from a per capita income of 450 USD to over 9000 USD at the end of his tenure. When he came to Sri Lanka during the conflict, he was pessimistic about the potential for Sri Lanka, saying that Sri Lanka had neither peace nor political stability. Therefore, after the end of the conflict we invited him to visit Sri Lanka in 2010 via the Sri Lanka Malaysia Business Council, and at that point he was extremely positive, saying that Sri Lanka now had the two essential ingredients that were necessary for its ascendance, - Peace and Political Stability.
I had the challenging task of chairing that session with Dr Mahathir and over 400 Corporates, and there were some searching questions. Many asked what his political ideology was, to which he replied that “I am neither Capitalist nor Socialist, but a Pragmatist” “I take what’s best from Capitalism that is appropriate for my country at that stage in its development, and reject the rest. I take what’s best from Socialism that is appropriate for my country at that stage in its development, and I reject the rest. I’m a Pragmatist, and if there’s something else useful and appropriate at a later stage in my country’s development, I’ll take that too.” So he was very practical and didn’t hold himself to any particular ideology.
He was also asked why he had a constant battle with the USA and whether he was anti-American. He said “I was not against the USA, it was US foreign policy that was against me, but I created a conducive macroeconomic environment, and attracted US Business leaders, and when US Business leaders tasted the fruits of that business environment, they changed US foreign policy on my behalf.”
We had an interesting talk on the four pillars of Governance from our speaker, Dr Yeo, from Singapore, who also spoke about how impressed she was with Sri Lanka’s progress in the post-conflict era.
Our colleague from China, Dr. Wong, highlighted the longstanding Sino-Sri Lankan relationship from the visit of the monk and scholar Fa Hsien, and Zeng He, so many centuries ago. He mentioned the value to China of the historic rubber-rice pact of 1952, a bold initiative taken by Sri Lanka in signing that barter agreement. He said that this relationship and cooperation has strengthened significantly under His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa since 2005, and China increased it to a strategic partnership level in 2013, and the forthcoming China-Sri Lanka FTA, and China’s Maritime Silk Route, will strengthen it further.
In our final discussions on regional issues, we had an articulation of India’s current policy by Dr Subramaniam Swamy. He stated that this was a distinctive new Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that he was committed to improving India’s relations with Sri Lanka, and his intention was to harmonize national progress with spiritual advancement.
I remember the time a few years ago, prior to my becoming High Commissioner, I had the enormous privilege of meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at the time Chief Minister of Gujarat, and I was part of a Commonwealth delegation to Gujarat, and I had an interesting discussion with Prime Minister Modi, and learning of his vision and razor-sharp focus on building a strong and resurgent India, I had no doubt that one day he would be the leader of India, and I had no doubt that he would maximize the true potential of the world’s largest democracy.
Dr Swamy also articulated that their foreign policy would be based entirely on national interests and not on narrow regional or local considerations. He stated that the UN enforcement and pressure on Sri Lanka was unbalanced and intrusive and that they would not accept it. He also said that the new pole and the centre of the world was Asia, and that they would not accept any group placing international interests above national interests.
Dr Asanga Abeygoonesekera, speaking about regional security, highlighted the many challenges of combating terrorism and security, and the opportunities thereof for collaboration.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I return to the first point I made. I said initially that the strength of Sri Lanka is our people and our geostrategic location. The final point I’d like to make about our people, and also for the countries who are present here today, is that most of us have a tremendous diversity of our people, of ethnic backgrounds and religions, and rather than fearing them, I think we should all realise that this is the true wealth of our countries. The wealth of our countries is the diversity of our people, and it is up to all of us, domestically and regionally, to leverage on that diversity. But in order to do that, we have to respect each other with our differences, because I believe that it is when we respect each other’s diversity, that we give each other dignity, and it is when we give each other dignity that we will ensure a durable and long lasting peace globally.
And it is in that spirit of respect and understanding that we are moving forward in Sri Lanka’s ascendance, with an emphasis on forging a common national identity. I don’t call myself Sinhalese or Tamil or Muslim or Burgher, I am Sri Lankan, and I am proud to be Sri Lankan, and that is my identity.
And I think that this Defence Seminar, in addition to sharing expertise and experiences , has also certainly opened my eyes , and I’m sure it has given all of you an idea of the tremendous opportunities we have, to collaborate and to be partners together. What is obvious is that we all share similar experiences and I think this Defence Seminar has been enormously enriching and also given us ideas as to how we can collaborate, both domestically and regionally.
Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that this is Asia’s century, and we invite you all to join us in our endeavour of achieving Sri Lanka’s renaissance.
I thank you.
DR CHRIS NONIS WITH NOBEL LAUREATE AMARTYA SEN
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work in welfare economics and has made contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indices of the measure of well-being of citizens of developing countries. Dr Chris Nonis and Professor Amartya Sen also both sit on the International Advisory Council of Asia House, a leading centre for expertise on Asia in London.
Sri Lanka High Commission London
07th August 2014
HE Dr Chris Nonis meets HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Chris Nonis, met HRH Prince El Hassan of Jordan during his visit to London. In Jordan, HRH Prince El Hassan established the Royal Scientific Society, the Arab Thought Forum, the Higher Council for Science and Technology, and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies. He is also Chair of one of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Boards, and President of the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD). A pluralist, believing in consensus and respect for the other, HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, articulated his ideals of societies in which all peoples can live, work and function in freedom and with dignity, and emphasized opportunities for global partnership towards these aims.
Sri Lanka High Commission London
16 July 2014
Lanka has established macro economic fundamentals - Chris Nonis
The panellists, Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Chris Nonis, Chairman (SEC) Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Chairman (CSE) Krishan Balendra and CEO (CSE) Rajeeva Bandaranaike addressing various aspects of the economy, liquidity,Governance and future outlook on the capital market of Sri Lanka at the forum.
In order to showcase the opportunities available in the capital market of Sri Lanka the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC) held an Investor Forum at the Savoy Hotel London last Friday and a panel discussion too was followed.
This was organized in association with the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Bloomberg received an unprecedented response. Over 150 fund managers attended the forum. .
The panelists for this interactive event were, Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Dr. Chris Nonis, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa who is the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Krishan Balendra the Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange. .
Opening remarks were made by Rajeeva Bandaranaike (RB), CEO of the Colombo Stock Exchange. .
Explaining some of the measures that Sri Lanka has taken in recent times to address the issue of liquidity Dr. Godahewa (NG) said that the liquidity issue is primarily to do with how the market has grown over the past few years. .
For a very long period till the end of the war, the market was stagnant and there were very few companies in the market and it is only now that the real prospect has started. As far as the Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned, and the Colombo Stock Exchange, we have looked at several areas to address this issue. .
In 2013 we brought in a new regulation, where all listed companies are expected to raise their minimum public float to 20 per-cents within the next two years that will make a significant impact. .
Secondly we have taken measures to bring more companies to the market; we currently have 293 companies, which have grown very slowly through the past 20 years. But now we see more and more companies are considering IPOs and right now my understanding is that about 45 new companies, some of them are pretty large companies, are in the pipeline to list in the next three years, that will again make a difference.
Sri Lanka on Friday livened up the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as the country was symbolically partnered for the market opening at 8 a.m. The move by the LSE was to mark the highly-successful Investor Forum in London, in which it was also involved. LSE’s ties with Sri Lanka got a big boost when it acquired MillenniumIT, the capital markets software specialist.
The LSE is powered by solutions developed by MIT as well. SEC Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in UK Dr. Chris Nonis, LSE CEO Alexander Justham, CSE Chairman Krishan Belandra, Director and incoming Chairman Vajira Kulatilaka, CEO Rajeeva Bandaranaike, SEC Commissioners Zuraish Hashim and Lolitha Abeysinghe and MIT Sri Lankan executives and Sri Lanka High Commission officials were among others present at the market opening of the LSE, which was followed by logos of the CSE and SEC flashed across the main trading screen of the LSE – Pix by Nisthar Cassim in London
COMMONWEALTH CRICKET UNIFIES THE PEOPLE – DR CHRIS NONIS
Cricket is a strong unifier amongst all communities, Dr Chris Nonis said, as he warmly welcomed the Sri Lankan Cricket team to a Commonwealth Cricket Reception at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London. He congratulated the team for their perseverance and dedication and that it was a great tribute to Sri Lanka in the post-conflict era.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, H.E. Kamalesh Sharma and High Commissioners from Commonwealth Countries; Rt Hon Lord Naseby, Damian Collins M.P., David Campbell-Bannerman M.E.P., David Morris, M.P., joined other Members of Parliament, Commonwealth Institutions, and cricket enthusiasts to felicitate the team. Captain of the team, Angelo Matthews, and Manager of the team, Michael de Zoysa also addressed the gathering.
Dr Nonis stated that the Sri Lankan cricket team is a microcosm of Sri Lanka, reflecting the diversity and heterogeneity of the country, and the spirit and aspirations of the Commonwealth.
It was particularly appropriate that a Commonwealth Cricket Reception was held in London to felicitate our Cricket Team, as Sri Lanka successfully hosted CHOGM 2013 and H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the current Chair-in-office of the Commonwealth.
Sri Lanka High Commission London
12th June 2014
Vesak Celebration and Almsgiving at the Sri Lanka High Commission in the UK
Written by Administrator
The High Commission of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom organized an almsgiving for twenty Venerable members of the Maha Sanga representing the Buddhist temples in the UK, on Wednesday 14th May, with the participation of the Sri Lankan community, as part of its Vesak Celebrations, and also to invoke blessings on H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Government and the people of Sri Lanka. The High Commission premises were colourfully adorned with Vesak lanterns, Buddhist flags and decorations.
Chief Sanganayaka of Great Britain & Head of the London Buddhist Vihara Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero; Chief Incumbent of the Kingsbury Saddhatissa International Buddhist Vihara, Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Nayaka Thero; Chief Incumbent of the Birmingham Jetavana Buddhist Temple Ven. Keppetiyagoda Gunawansa Nayaka Thero; and Ven. Maha Sanga from the following Buddhist Viharas also participated at the Almsgiving:- Athula Dassana International Buddhist Temple, Hounslow; East London Buddhist Cultural Centre, Plaistow; Upton Temple, Plaistow; Thames Buddhist Vihara, Croydon; Mahamevnawa Asapuwa, Billericay; Scotland Buddhist Vihara, Scotland; and Redbridge Buddhist Cultural Centre, Ilford.
Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero, Ven Dr Handupalpola Mahinda Nayaka Thero, and Ven Dedunupitiye Upananda Thero, in their Anusasanas outlined the meaning of the Triple Festival of Vesak commemorating the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana of the Buddha; the universality of Buddhism; and the imperative of unity of all Sri Lankans.
In his concluding remarks, Ven Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero commended the service rendered by the High Commissioner and staff and for their active participation in many Temple events throughout the UK, and that this was reflected in the participation of the Ven Maha Sanga from so many Temples in the UK in the High Commission’s Vesak celebration and almsgiving today.
The High Commission of Sri Lanka
14th May 2014
Hon Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa visits Sri Lanka High Commission in London
The Hon Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa was in the UK to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The Hon Speaker is the immediate Past President of the CPA.
The Hon Speaker was welcomed by High Commissioner Dr. Chris Nonis, to the Sri Lanka High Commission, during his stay in London. The Hon Speaker commended the work carried out by the staff of the Mission for the Sri Lankan community, as well as the several Commonwealth related events held at the High Commission in recognition of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa assuming the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth.
High Commission of Sri Lanka London
08 May 2014
Dr Chris Nonis, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka to the UK, meets Prime Minister of Pakistan, HE Nawaz Sharif, in London
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Chris Nonis, met the Prime Minister of Pakistan, HE Nawaz Sharif, during his visit to London. Dr Nonis articulated the strong and longstanding friendship and cooperation that exists between the two countries, and the value of the comprehensive bilateral Free Trade Agreement. HE Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reaffirming his strong bond of friendship, spoke about his meeting with HE President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2013, chaired by President Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka High Commission London
08th May 2014
Hon Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa meets Parliamentarians in the UK
L to R: Rt Hon Lord Sheikh, Sri Lankan High Commissioner Dr Chris Nonis, Ian Paisley M.P., Hon Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Worshipful Mayor Frances Stainton, James Wharton MP, David Morris, MP.
Dr Chris Nonis , Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, hosted a gathering in London in honour of Hon Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa. The Hon Speaker, who is the immediate Past President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association(CPA), was in the UK to attend the meeting of the Executive Committee of the CPA.
Sri Lanka High Commission London
01 May 2014
Unity is strength
In his address on Sri Lanka's Independence Day, High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Chris Nonis emphasised that the wealth of the country was in the diversity of its people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities and religions.
He said it was imperative to make optimum use of that diversity and build a strong and unified Sri Lanka which would then be able to resist those external forces that seek to divide rather than unify Sri Lanka.
Dr Nonis was speaking to a large gathering of the British polity including parliamentarians from the House of Lords and the House of Commons, heads of diplomatic missions, members of the Commonwealth Secretariat including its Secretary-General, members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the business community, think tanks, international organisations and representatives from HRH Prince Charles' office and Buckingham Palace, at a reception held at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London to celebrate the 66th Independence Day of Sri Lanka.
The High Commissioner thanked the 53 London-based Commonwealth high commissioners who, in their capacity as members of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat, played a pivotal role in ensuring that Sri Lanka hosted CHOGM 2013 so successfully. He thanked them for their friendship, cooperation and solidarity with Sri Lanka, especially in not succumbing to the strong pressures from lobby groups in the years leading up to the CHOGM.
He referred to the value that had accrued to Sri Lanka in hosting CHOGM for it provided an opportunity to a large cross-section of the global community such as governments, business leaders, youth and media to visit Sri Lanka and form their own views of contemporary Sri Lanka without depending on hearsay and jaundiced opinions.
Dr Nonis invited those present to view the special exhibition at the High Commission premises on CHOGM 2013 and its three parallel fora, the numerous heads of state and government of the Commonwealth with whom President Mahinda Rajapaksa had fruitful bilateral meetings. The exhibition also portrayed the visit of HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who had endeared themselves so graciously to the Sri Lankan people.
The exhibition also depicted the comprehensive rehabilitation, reconciliation and reconstruction programmes undertaken in post-conflict Sri Lanka.
The exhibition was also viewed by a substantial number of the Sri Lankan diaspora who gathered earlier in the day to participate in the traditional ceremonies associated with Independence Day and listen to the prayers of Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christian religious dignitaries who bestowed blessings on Sri Lanka and its leaders.
Reminding his different audiences of Sri Lanka's history, Dr Nonis said that universal franchise was granted to both men and women in 1931, 17 years before independence. Exercising the right of the ballot even before independence helped Sri Lanka build the vibrant democracy that it is today.
BBC World News - Global - interview with H.E. Dr. Chris Nonis , Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
CNN interview with H.E. Dr. Chris Nonis , Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
PRINCE CHARLES HOSTS ST JAMES’ PALACE RECEPTION PRIOR TO CHOGM 2013 VISIT
HRH Prince Charles with HE Dr Chris Nonis at St James’ Palace
Prince Charles hosted a reception at St James's Palace for members of Britain's Sri Lankan and Indian communities to mark the royal couple's tour of India and Sri Lanka.
H.E. Dr Chris Nonis, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK, was joined by India’s Acting High Commissioner to the UK, Virendra Paul, at the Palace to extend a ceremonial welcome to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Dr Chris Nonis said “The President and people of Sri Lanka extend a warm welcome to Their Royal Highnesses, and look forward very much to their visit. We also take this opportunity to congratulate Prince Charles on the birth of his first grandchild, HRH the Prince George.”
The guests at the event included prominent British Asians from a variety of sectors. Amongst the Sri Lankan guests were Niranjan Deva-Aditya, MEP, Member of the European Parliament; Professor Sir Arulkumaran Sabaratnam, FRCS,FRCOG, President of the British Medical Association; Professor Ravi Silva, Professor of Engineering, Surrey University; Harendra De Silva, Q.C. President, Sri Lankan Lawyers Association; Councillor Nizam Ismail; Sir Desmond De Silva QC, PC; Suran Goonetileke, OBE.
HRH Prince Charles last visited India to represent Her Majesty the Queen at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, and he has visited Sri Lanka on two previous occasions, in 1998 at the celebration of Sri Lanka’s Independence, and in 2005, a few months following the Tsunami. On this occasion, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 14th November, on Prince Charles’ 65th Birthday. The Heir to the throne will represent Her Majesty the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2013), which commences on the 15th November. Dr Chris Nonis added, “HRH has a strong interest in charitable work, and two of his charities are already working in Sri Lanka on youth entrepreneurship and sustainable development projects, and the CHOGM theme “Growth with Equity; Inclusive Development” has a particular relevance”.
Sri Lanka High Commission London
06th Nov 2013
Navi Pillay's Sri Lanka report not the product of an open mind- Prof. G.L. Peiris tells media and think tanks in UK
Hon. Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs with H.E. Dr. Chris Nonis , Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom at the news briefing
External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris made a measured and point-by-point rebuttal of the major assertions and conjectures in UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navy Pillay's departing report on Sri Lanka, at a news briefing at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London yesterday ( 02 September 2013).
Prof. Peiris who was briefly in London to deliver the keynote address at a Cambridge symposium on economic crime, convincingly debunked the assertions including the claim that Sri Lanka was moving towards authoritarianism.
The minister said that the UN High Commissioner was invited by the Sri Lanka Government 2 1/2 years ago to come and see for herself the developments in Sri Lanka. This was because Sri Lanka had nothing to hide.
Yet the report she has just produced is indicative of a prejudiced mind and in no way shows the fairness and open-mindedness of an official undertaking such a mission, the longest she has spent in any one country.
Prof. Peiris said that even where Navi Pillay acknowledges progress and positive developments it is given so grudgingly and belatedly.
"What we find disturbing is the tone and substance of her report, the lack of fairness and balance."
The government and people of Sri Lanka has had just four years since the end of the war to meet the challenges posed by nearly three decades of conflict.
Enumerating the steps taken by the government to settle 296,000 persons, provide them with infrastructure on which the government has spent a record $ 3billion, provide them with new lives in such a short time is an achievement that few countries have emulated.
But to dismiss these achievement as just physical reconstruction as Navi Pillay has done, is simply not the case.
"No discerning observer could say this," the minister said adding that her continuous assertions were prejudicial judged by any fair standard.
Prof. Peiris was particularly hard on the Human Rights Commissioner for claiming that Sri Lanka was moving towards authoritarianism.
He said that was no empirical evidence to support this claim. On the contrary after 25 years the people of the north who lived under the LTTE had no suffrage. But now President's Rajapaksa's government has provided them with the opportunity of expressing themselves later this month.
During those 25 years the people of the rest of the country had elected four governments and had four presidents. Almost every six months some election is being held in the country allowing the people to express themselves.
Moreover at every election in recent years President Rajapaksa's government has been increasingly endorsed by the public showing their confidence in the government.
He said it was the essence of democracy to allow the people to freely express their views.
But strangely enough the Human Rights Commissioner has ignored all this evidence before her and touted the claim that Sri Lanka was moving towards authoritarianism.
This rejection of empirical evidence was further proof of her bias and prejudice.
The prejudice and lack of fair-minded is further shown by her talk of numerous war crimes committed by the government. Previously Pillay mentioned allegations of war crimes. But now it is no longer allegations, but proven fact, according to her.
Navi Pillay refers to the intimidating presence of the military in the north and the fear of the people and women there.
Rejecting this out of hand, he said it is pity that the High Commissioner had not read the reports produced by UN officials in Colombo who belie this claim having themselves interviewed nearly 200 people, chosen by the UN itself, 90% of who said they were comfortable with living there.
"Why does she ignore this evidence produced by the UN itself. What is the justification for ignoring this? This is again a classic example of pre-judgment." he said.
Answering other media questions, the minister said that he expected countries to be objective when viewing Sri Lanka and was critical of the voting patterns in the UN Human Rights Council which did not seem to be based on the merits of the case.
The minister said that he was not criticising the Human Rights Commissioner out of rancour but of deep sadness as he found that her report lacked the fairness, open-mindedness and balance that was expected of her.
Several journalists from the print and electronic media, news agencies and think tanks in the UK attended the briefing which was moderated by Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom H.E. Dr Chris Nonis.