German-Sri Lanka Relations
Dinner Hosted by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany
March 13, 2001
Let me begin by expressing my sincere gratitude for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to me and the members of my delegation. I am also immensely grateful for this splendid dinner organised in our honour with the participation of a number of dignitaries from out country. I am deeply touched by the warm sentiments and the kind words expressed by Your Excellency on Sri Lanka, its people and myself.
Having had the opportunity of visiting Germany on many previous occasions, I should like to think that I am not entirely a stranger to this country. I have been, as many other foreign visitors, fascinated by the beauty of your country and its rich heritage.
Endowed with an abundance of natural resources and astonishing variety of scenic beauty, throughout its rich history. Germany has also been home to great thinkers, philosophers, scientists, artists and composers. It is widely acknowledged that your country has made a distinctive contribution to the progress of human civilisation.
I should like to recall on this occasion that my late mother, then Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was the last Sri Lankan Head of Government to undertake an official visit to Germany. That visit took place in 1974, more than a quarter century ago. During the ensuring years, there had naturally, been many changes in political leadership in both our countries. Destiny has bestowed upon me the task of renewing and strengthening the political consultations and interactions with the leadership of your country through bilateral visits of this nature. It is therefore with a sense of privilege mixed with emotion that I embark on this present visit to your country, Germany.
It may be noted that the last official visit to Sri Lanka by a German Head of Government was as far back as 1967, thirty-four years ago. The far-reaching developments in both our countries and the emerging challenges and opportunities of the new millennium make it imperative that we intensify our exchanges and interactions at all levels. I have great pleasure in extending an invitation to your Excellency and Madame Johannes Rau to visit our country on a mutually convenient date. May I assure Your Excellency and Madame Rau that a warm welcome awaits you in Sri Lanka.
It is more than a decade since the Cold War divisions ended and Germany and her people were reunited. The city of Berlin has regained its historic role as the capital of a united nation. We in Sri Lanka saluted and applauded the historic German reunification, as a significant achievement in modern history.
Proverbial industriousness of the German people together with the courage and vision of their leaders contributed immensely to success in rebuilding a prosperous and democratic nation from the destruction and tragedy of the last World war. I am confident that these same qualities will enable your government and people in their continuing efforts to meet and overcome the formidable challenges of reunification.
Sri Lanka has been with the problem of terrorism for nearly two decades. In recent times, terrorism has begun to cross countries and territories with considerable ease. Indeed, the reach of terrorism is vast. Therefore, today more than ever we need to cooperate internationally to combat this plague. We are encouraged to note that the international community through the UN conventions on terrorist bombing and financing has reaffirmed their resolve to take effective action at the global level with appropriate national legislation.
As Your Excellency is aware, my Government is committed to finding a lasting solution to the ethnic problem, which has continued for the past two decades. We are presently working with the Norwegian Government, acting as the facilitator, to commence negotiations with a view of finding a durable solution. I am optimistic, that the day is not too far away when we can begin negotiations. We appreciate the continued support of the International community, in particular Germany, for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1953, Sri Lanka and Germany have continued to foster and strengthen close and cordial relations in a wide variety of fields.
Your Excellency, over the years, Germany has been a significant partner in our development efforts. Your country’s consistent support for Sri Lanka’s development has been deeply appreciated by our people. Among the major projects implemented with German assistance are the hydroelectric complexes at Randenigala and Rantambe. In addition to the long-standing assistance in the fields of education, and the upgrading of technology, Germany currently supports the rehabilitation work in the North and the East. I look forward very much to continued bilateral cooperation in these and other agreed areas.
Germany is Sri Lanka’s third largest trading partner and ranks fourth as a source of foreign investment. The Economic Round Table, which I addressed early today, was an excellent opportunity for our business communities to explore new ways and means to deepen and diversify trade relations. I look forward to working closely with your Government and the business communities in pursuing these objectives.
Sri Lanka remains an attractive tourist destination to many Germans who constitute the second largest group of visitors to our country. This tourist traffic creates opportunities for people to people contacts and cultural interaction enhance the existing bilateral ties between our two countries. I look forward to a further expansion tourist traffic in the future.
Let me take this opportunity to pay many German nationals who have contributed immensely to greater understanding and mutual appreciation of the two countries’ cultures. Foremost among them is Wilhelm Geiger whose abiding interest in languages has earned him a place as one of the most eminent scholars in the field of Pali and Sinhala and an authority on the history and culture of Sri Lanka. The two monks, Reverends Nyanatiloka and his disciple Nyanaponika were of German origin. They made Sri Lanka their adopted homeland and lived, studied and practised Buddhism. Dr. Karl Sidenstucker founded a German branch of the Mahabodhi Society of India and Ceylon in 1911, under the patronage of Ven. Anagarika Dharmapala. We owe a debt of gratitude to Marie Musaeus Higgins, a German Buddhist educationist who founded Musaeus College, which continues to render invaluable service even today.
May I request all the distinguished guests gathered here today to join me in toasting the continued health and well-being of His excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Germany and to the further strengthening of the friendship and cooperation between our two countries and people.