Sri Lanka and Maldives hold bilateral talks in Colombo
By Janaka Alahapperuma
Jan 23, 2014
The newly elected Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom who is in Sri Lanka on a three-day official visit, met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo this morning on January 22. The Maldivian President visited Sri Lanka for the first time after his election victory as the president on an invitation made by President Rajapaksa. Young Sri Lankan children welcomed Maldivian President on arrival for bilateral talks with President Rajapaksa. Sri Lankan President accorded a warm welcome to his Maldivian counterpart and the First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim at the Presidential Secretariat. A special Military Guard of Honour was held in honour of President Yameen. First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa also joined in the welcoming ceremony.

After a cordial discussion between the two leaders, the delegations of the two countries commenced bilateral discussions covering several spheres. President Rajapaksa expressed his appreciation over the victory achieved by the Maldivian leader in the Presidential elections held in November last year and the peaceful political transformation that took place in the neighboring country.

"I am confident that under your able guidance, the Maldivian people would prosper and the country would reach its full economic potential," President Rajapaksa said. "As the only two island nations in South Asia, we share many values and cultural traditions." The President further added that visits between officials at the highest political levels serve to further strengthen the "bonds of friendship between our two countries."

Speaking about the historical ties between Sri Lanka and Maldives, President Yameen pointed out that almost every Maldivian feels, Sri Lanka is often like a second home. Currently, there are more than 9,000 Maldivians living in Sri Lanka. "Sri Lanka has always been a brother and ally," President Yameen said. "We are very grateful for the invaluable friendship." President Rajapaksa thanked Maldives for its continuous support to Sri Lanka at international fora to which President Yameen quickly replied, "What are neighbors for, if we can't support each other in times of need. We will support you."

Citing economic development, and the peace and stability currently prevailing in Sri Lanka, Maldivian President noted, "We marvel the remarkable achievement the Sri Lankan people are enjoying. What is good in Maldives will transfer to Sri Lanka. Peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka will benefit Maldives." The two leaders discussed at length in several fields including the fisheries industry, higher education, health, immigration, air services, sports, food security, defence, tourism and trade relations.

Three agreements were signed after the bilateral talks. Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development, Dullas Alahapperuma and the Maldivian Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Vocational Training and Youth Development. The MoU on Bilateral Corporation in the Field of Sports was signed by Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and the Minister of the Maldivian Presidentís Office Mohamed Hussein Shariff. Inspector General of Police N.K. Ilangakoon and the Maldivian Police Commissioner Husaid Waheed signed the MoU on Combating Transnational Crime. After the talks and the signing of the agreements, the Maldivian President signed the guest book at the Presidential Secretariat.

Senior Minister Urban Affairs A.H.M. Fowzie, Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Health Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development Dullas Alahapperuma, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Development Dr. Rajitha Senarathne, Minister of Education Bandula Gunawardena, Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Many Parliamentarians were present on the occasion.

High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the Maldives Sarathchandra Dela, Maldivian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka Hussain Shihab, Chief of Staff of the President Gamini Senarath, newly appointed Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs, Mrs Kshenuka Seneviratne and a number of other secretaries of ministries and government officials were also present at the bilateral talks.

The Maldivian High Commission said that many important meetings with the Sri Lankan government officials and other sectors have also been arranged for the Maldivian President to participate including the Sri Lanka Maldivian Business Council meeting which businessmen from both countries will attend. The Maldivian President and his entourage arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday (21 Jan).

Photos by: Sudath Silva

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