“Sri Lanka and its place in the world” – Address by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe: 3rd October 2016: Wellington, New Zealand


“Sri Lanka and its place in the world”

 Address by Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

3rd October 2016: Wellington, New Zealand

First let me express my sincere appreciation to the organizers  of this event for the invitation extended to me.  I am concluding my visit to New Zealand with this talk.  I have noted the objective of the Institute is to promote discussion and understanding of international issues and emerging trends.

A new Global order is still emerging.   It has been marked by the collapse of both the post-cold war order as well as the political dominance of the West.  The emergence of strong regional powers is challenging the hegemony of the still predominant global actor, USA. The western world is in the process of re-examining its basic tenets.  All of us have to focus on how we reposition ourselves.    In that context, I am happy to be here today to address you on the theme of “Sri Lanka and its place in the world.”

Sri Lanka’s location in the heart of the Indian Ocean straddling Western and Eastern Asia has made us beneficiaries of inter-regional trade for centuries.  The strategic importance of Sri Lanka as a regional hub in the realm of global commercial activity has been widely acknowledged.

Historical records show that Sri Lanka was called by more than sixty-eight names is a clear testimony of themany nations and peoples that communicated with this Island State through the centuries and its importance as a port of call.

In the ancient world, as far as global and navigational contexts were concerned, Sri Lanka possessed three strategic geographical advantages.

-It was the vital southern-most point of mainland Asia;

-It was almost on the Equator where navigational winds and monsoon effects changed directions;

-It was the half waypoint between the two great empires of Rome and China.

Even though navigational winds are no longer of relevance in the modern world, the geographical positioning of Sri Lanka still remains of consequence especially with the construction of the Suez Canal which provided a free passage between Europe and Asia.

Even as an internal self-governing colony under the British, Sri Lankan leaders had a clear focus on Asia and was well aware of the choices facing the international community.   In January 1942, when the Allies stood at their most vulnerable moment, Sri Lanka re-affirmed its commitment to the Allies and extended all support to the United Nations.   After gaining independence from the British in 1948, Sri Lanka advocated and acted on the need for an Asian focus.   The Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Colombo, in 1950, which gave rise to the Colombo Plan was one such occasion.

Read more: http://www.mfa.gov.lk/index.php/en/media/statements/6617-pm-addressnz