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    Minister Peiris underlines Sri Lanka’s leadership role in Blue Economy

    July 01, 2014

    The defeat of terrorism and the advent of peace and stability have brought about significant benefits not only for the people of Sri Lanka but for the whole South Asian region, and it is only right and proper that the magnitude of these benefits should receive recognition, Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, said in Colombo today (30th June 2014).

    He was delivering the keynote address at a symposium on establishing a Centre of Excellence on Ocean Sciences and Environment for the Indian Ocean Rim countries. Sri Lanka’s contribution to the development of the economy in the region far exceeds its size and material resources, the Minister commented.  Pointing out that terrorism is one of the main issues which continue to challenge the economy and wellbeing of many of the countries in the region, he said that Sri Lanka’s success in eradicating terrorism from its shores has had a crucial impact on weakening the forces of destabilization in the entire region and, in particular, on reducing the opportunities for collaboration among terrorist groups active in the area.


    Priorities reflected in the country’s economic policy reflect a timely focus on conservation and management of ocean resources, the use of these resources in a systematic way over a continuing time frame, with special emphasis on the environment, and having recourse to the blue economy as a fillip to leisure activities important for the development of tourism.  He referred to Sri Lanka’s role of increasing significance in recent times, in ensuring the security of sea lanes by helping to control people smuggling and a wide range of connected illegal activity involving drugs and narcotics, money laundering and the proliferation of small arms.  The use of technology in the prevention of natural disasters has also received proper attention, he added.


    The Minister cited the success of the Joint Working Group between Sri Lanka and Australia as an outstanding achievement.


    In the overall context of developments relating to the blue economy, facilities for study and research assume heightened relevance, Prof. Peiris observed.  He said that support for a centre of excellence in ocean studies, located in the deep south of Sri Lanka, is a matter of high priority.


    He was greatly heartened by the strong endorsement which Sri Lanka’s proposal in this regard received in international fora in recent months, including the meeting of IORA in Perth, Western Australia, in November last year and at the symposium on the Blue Economy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, earlier this year.


    He commended the present initiative by the Institute of Policy Studies and pledged the government’s strong support for carrying this forward.


    The Indian Ocean Rim region is home to nearly one-third of the world’s population and is of high economic significance due to its strategic location.  Half of the world’s trade travels through this region. The region possesses a variety of natural resources which are vital for the wellbeing of its inhabitants, trade and environmental stability. The region faces numerous negative impacts of globalization, coupled with global environmental threats such as climate change. In this context the proposed Centre envisions building scientific and technological capacity in research in ocean sciences and environment for sustainable collaborative utilization of ocean resources.


    IORA, which was earlier known as the Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) is a group of twenty countries that border the Indian Ocean rim spanning three continents-Africa, Asia and Australia. Eighteen out of the twenty IORA member countries are represented at the Workshop in Colombo signifying the importance placed by the Member States on the Sri Lankan initiative. At the conclusion of the event the delegates will present a road map on the establishment of the Centre of Excellence which would be an important milestone in the endeavour to transform Sri Lanka into a regional knowledge hub as envisioned in the Mahinda Chinthana policy framework.  


    The Workshop is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs as the national focal point to the IORA in conjunction with the Institute of Policy Studies which is the Sri Lanka focal point to the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group – a sub grouping within the IORA. The Secretary General of IORA, Ambassador K.V Bhagirath, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies Dr. Saman Kelegama, and Acting Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs Ms. Chitranganee Wagiswara were among the gathering which also included many Sri Lankan policy makers, national stakeholders and academics, as well as heads of mission of IORA member states in Colombo.(KH/SI)


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