FOREIGN SECRETARY ARYASINHA OUTLINES ROLE AND PREPARATIONS OF THE MINISTRY AND ITS MISSIONS IN TACKLING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has outlined the role and preparations of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and its missions across the world, in helping Sri Lanka tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing concerns of Sri Lankan nationals overseas. Referring to Sri Lankan citizens abroad, he said “parents here in Sri Lanka, should rest a little bit more comfortably about their children, knowing that the Embassy is a phone call away and if there are issues on the ground, that our Missions abroad will deal with it” and that “if there is a real calamity, the Government of Sri Lanka will step in”. He said while dealing with the immediate concerns at hand, the Ministry and Missions are working hard “to anticipate and prepare for any difficulties ahead, and to further map out what we do the day after this problem is solved, particularly on the economic front”.

The Foreign Secretary made these observations, in a wide-ranging interview with Indeewari Amuwatte, on the ‘Hyde Park’ programme of Ada Derana 24, on 4 April 2020.

Full interview is at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY1eD5c__h4

Below is the transcript of Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha’s interview with Indeewari Amuwatte on ‘Hyde Park’ on Ada Derana 24 on 4th April 2020 (Pl. note that some comments have been re-clustered under relevant headings)

INITIAL CHALLENGE IN HANDLING COVIND-19 OUTBREAK IN CHINA

IA: As Sri Lanka combats to eliminate the health crisis of the COVID 19 pandemic along with the rest of the countries across the globe, we thought of speaking to Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka whose Missions across the countries of the world have been in the forefront of dealing with expatriate issues. A warm welcome to you Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary who was formerly Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Foreign Secretary, let’s start off talking about the work of the Sri Lankan Missions overseas since the start of this crisis. The Foreign Ministry had to be at the epicenter of where the virus began -Wuhan, and the influx of concerns of Sri Lankans citizens there.  Since then we have come a long way from evacuation of 30 students to setting up ‘Contact Sri Lanka’.  What is the latest update that you can share with us? 

SFR:    There have been many phases of the Foreign Ministry’s involvement in this issue. Our three Missions in China, had to deal with something which we did not know the length and breadth of and how it manifested itself.  We were all dealing with a problem which we didn’t even understand. In fact, I last week asked my colleagues in China –  the Actg. Ambassador in Beijing and Consul Generals in Shanghai and Guangzhou to write a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ – what you tell people when they come to you, how you give hope, how you help – and I circulated it to all our Missions and to all my staff, because I think that those three guys and their staff behind them, were true heroes of dealing with overseas Sri Lankans. That’s part of the Foreign Mission’s routine mandate, but I think that the magnitude and the scale of this operation has pushed us to points which we have never experienced before. Certain aspects we have experienced in regions, but this we are experiencing simultaneously across the globe today.

So from getting students from Wuhan by a Charter Flight – and that is the only Charter Flight which has been flown especially to do this so far, to facilitating others from China to return, to repatriating a large number of pilgrims who were in India through Commercial Flights – no charter Flights were used in India – to then dealing with each pocket of development in the various countries, our Missions have been in the forefront.

Our Missions have had to do two set of things, one has primarily been dealing with an immediate problem, two to anticipate where this could go.  Because I don’t think any of us quite know.

Read more: https://www.mfa.gov.lk/foreign-secretary-outlines-role-missions-tackling-covid-19-pandemic/