Statement by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the IORA Ministerial Meeting: 27th October 2016
Statement by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the IORA Ministerial Meeting, in Bali, Indonesia on 27th October 2016
I wish to first express my deepest condolences to Her Excellency Madam Retno Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, on the passing away of her beloved father. Our thoughts are with Her Excellency and the family at this time of grief.
It gives me great pleasure to be amidst a distinguished gathering of the 16th Ministerial Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in this idyllic island of Bali.
I convey our deep gratitude to the Government of Indonesia for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements.
We are confident that the meetings will be fruitful and would take us closer to our common objectives and collective vision for IORA under the effective and able leadership of Indonesia. The contribution made by the previous Chairs is much appreciated while the Secretary General and his staff also deserve our appreciation for their efforts.
I am pleased to have just signed the IORA MoU on Coordination in Search and Rescue Services in the Indian Ocean Region.
Notable progress has been made during the past year, in the areas of the blue economy, women’s economic empowerment and institutional strengthening of the IORA.
On this occasion, I wish to share a few thoughts on some matters which are of interest to the IORA member states.
Naturally, in a direct line from the south of Sri Lanka, where I come from, to the Antarctic, there is little land but a vast ocean. The Blue Economy has emerged as a sector of seminal importance to IORA members including Sri Lanka. The ocean based resources in the Indian Ocean are amongst the greatest assets we possess and Blue economy-related initiatives have the potential to tremendously uplift the economic conditions of our peoples.
Therefore, the establishment of the Centre of Excellence on Ocean Sciences and the Environment in Sri Lanka, is timely. Although not fully functional, this Centre would, inter-alia, build capacities of the associated institutions and specialists/experts in the region and serve as a knowledge hub.
The IORA Whale and Dolphin Watching Workshop held in Colombo this year facilitated networking among IORA member States and partners and helped to expand our expertise in sustainable whale and dolphin watching tourism.
We also look forward to the participation of all IORA members at the Second Water Working Group meeting and Ocean Forecasting Workshop to Build Capacity for Indian Ocean Operational System, in Colombo, on 15-16 and 17-18 November respectively.
Vast changes have taken place across the political spectrum in Sri Lanka with the establishment of the National Unity Government following the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2015. The consensus based governance forms the basis of our pursuance of an open, transparent agenda to strengthen democracy and its structures, and economic progress.
Outreach and engagement remain the hallmark of our new foreign policy and in this context Sri Lanka has sought to share our expertise in sectors such as education, human resource development and health – areas in which we have achieved a level of particular excellence.