Sri Lanka and Norway in fresh relationship

September 23, 2010 at 8:10 am

The foundation was laid for a fresh relationship between Sri Lanka and Norway when President Mahinda Rajapaksa met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenburg at bi-lateral discussions at the United Nations yesterday (21).

The Norwegian Prime Minister observed it was very important that President Rajapaksa was engaging in both rebuilding the country and reconciliation among communities, and said that Norway was eager to play a supporting role in the emerging situation in Sri Lanka.

When asked what role Norway could play in strengthening the peace that has now been established, and also assist in reconciliation, President Rajapaksa said the best role for Norway today would be to assist in development.

The President recalled how Norway had taken the initiative through NORAD to help the people of Hambantota many decades ago, when there was no help for such rural areas, said there was ample scope for Norway to be associated in such development work in all parts of the country.

In discussing the situation regarding the Tamil people and the possibility of being engaged in the developing political process among them, President Rajapaksa was of the view that the problems of the Tamil people should be resolved through their leaders within the country.

He explained that there was no purpose in those who claimed to support the Tamil people, campaigning for them from abroad, rather than come to Sri Lanka and work with the Tamil people here.

Mr. Eric Solheim, Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development expressed an interest in visiting Sri Lanka to identify areas in which the two countries could cooperate in development activity. He suggested areas such as the protection of the environment, fisheries and the hospitality industry.

President Rajapaksa informed the Norwegian delegates that Tourism in Sri Lanka had risen by 196 per cent in the last year, and there was ample scope for development and investment in that sector.

Mr. Solheim also said that the leaders of the expatriate Tamil community in the West should take a proper view of the changes now taking place in Sri Lanka, and how best these developments could be used to benefit by the Tamil people and the country.

Prime Minster Stoltenburg looked forward to continued co-operation between Sri Lanka and Norway in areas of social and economic development, investment in the new economic environment following the end of the conflict, and the emergence of a fresh and mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

Associated with President Rajapaksa in the discussions were External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary, External Affairs Romesh Jayasinghe, Mr. Namal Rajapaksa MP, Mr. Sri Ranga MP and Dr. Palitha Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka in the UN.