“We were and we are resilient” – Foreign Secretary
Secretary to the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Ravinatha Aryasinha says despite the challenges faced in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks Sri Lanka has bounced back strongly.
Delivering the valedictory address yesterday (30 Aug) at the Colombo Defence Seminar held at the BMICH, Aryasinha said that there are lessons to be drawn by other countries about dealing with terrorism from the lessons Sri Lanka learned by facing challenges in the past four months after the suicide attacks.
He also said that post 9/11 many states were thrust into immediate complex challenges of countering terrorism.
Aryasinha said that despite understanding that in this the fast-developing field, terrorism continues to elude a comprehensive and readily agreed definition under international law, “terrorists choice of target, methods of financing and inspiration for attacks have been constantly evolving,” he added.
He also said that he strongly believes that human rights must be protected while fighting terrorism and not sacrifice one on the altar of the other.
He said that the security response and community engagement after Easter attacks witnessed the reconfirmation of the strength of law enforcement and security apparatus of Sri Lanka to secure and prevent further attacks.
He also pointed out that the cooperation between civil society and the security services that communities moved to assist law enforcement for the betterment of the nation was vital and “needs to be protected and nurtured.”
He added that the swift imposition of the state of emergency, temporally suspension of social media and re-operationalization of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) were the main tools deployed by the government in the course of swiftly restoring normalcy after 21/4.
Full access to the individuals who were detained and arrested after the Easter attacks were guaranteed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and any complaint regarding detention or mistreatment were directed to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) who have already launched investigations.
He said that as a priority of the MFA together with the Attorney General’s Department and other relevant agencies are working on legislative measures to deal with foreign terrorist financing.
Issuing Clarification of the use of types of religious clothing upon the request of communities after the ban of face-covering in dresses, demonstrates the self-reflective, self-critical and constructive engagement of the government even in the conduct of security measures.
“International and regional organizations including the European Union (EU) Counter-terrorism (CT) Directorate and EU CT Coordinator is working closely with the country to assist in the development of capacity and knowledge,” he added
Further, he added that the relevant local agencies of the National Border Management Committee are garnering the required international support in the need to implement the Sri Lanka Integrated Border Management Strategy 2018-2021which received Cabinet approval in July 2018.
The Travel advisories imposed on Sri Lanka by some countries created a negative impact which caused a clear drawback of the economy but after four months the economy is re-bouncing with Russia agreeing to relax its travel advisory while all the other significant tourist sourcing countries have enabled their citizen to visit Sri Lanka.
Foreign Secretary Aryasinha said that according to the Tourism Development Board the number of tourist arrivals in the first 7 months of 2019 recorded a drop of 18.7 per cent which is 1.17 million when compared to 1.38 million in the same period in 2018.
After the Easter attacks, a loss of Rs 1.5 billion was estimated which projected a 30 per cent drop arrivals but the revised estimated on the volume and earnings shows a declaim of approximately 10 per cent from the original estimation of 30 per cent and decline in earnings only by 20 per cent for 2019.
He also said that the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka only after six weeks since the attacks showed the world that Sri Lanka is back on track and a safe place to visit.
Travel guides such as Lonely Planet, Travel + and Leisure magazine re-ranked Sri Lanka as the most desirable destination and the no. 1 island to visit in 2019 even after the Easter attacks helps with government promotions to raise tourism.
Board of Investments (BOI) have received 33 applications for new projects amounting a value of USD 184 million out of which USD 63.14 million is foreign capital.
Exports have also increased by 0.6 per cent in April, 5.2 per cent in May and 6.7 per cent in June when compared to the same three months in 2018.
Since the Easter attacks the government has managed to sign 31 agreements for new investments and expansions, out of the 31, eleven are signed for manufacturing and four in tourism.
“All these figures show one thing that Sri Lanka took a hit but we were and we are resilient,” Aryasinha added.