By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
The Ministry of Foreign Relations (MFR) is dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic both within and outside Sri Lanka. Foreign Secretary, Ravinatha Aryasinha, took time off to explain how he and others have taken up the challenge to do their best.
He told Ceylon Today that the MFR has managed its affairs and not allowed any pressure to be placed on the Government on account of the present crisis. He said, "My colleagues in the MFR, the Sri Lanka Foreign Service officers and other Public Officials deployed in the Missions from Commerce, SLAS, Defence, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, etc., have performed their duties to the maximum extent possible within the limited resources and under trying circumstances."
Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena participated in a special radio discussion broadcast live on the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) “Podu Jana Charitha” Programme on 30 May 2020 from 8.00 – 9.00 am
Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has reassured that the repatriation of migrant workers from the Middle East as well as other regions will continue, in a manner sensitive to the vulnerability of these communities, particularly those who have lost legal status and/or employment in their host countries. This will be done in consultation with the COVID Task Force, in view of the considerable strain presently placed on the health sector and quarantine centres following the increased number of COVID infected persons who have recently returned from Kuwait. It was noted that it is proposed to explore the possibility of getting PCR tests done prior to boarding all flights in future.
The Minister made these observations at a meeting held this evening (29 May 2020) at the Foreign Ministry attended by Foreign Secretary RavinathaAryasinha, Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations SecretarySarathAbeygunawardana, Chairman Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBFE) Kamal Ratwatte, and relevant officials of the two ministries and the SLBFE.
Considering the many Sri Lankans residing and working in Seychelles who have registered their interest in returning to Sri Lanka, the Government is making arrangements to facilitate their return to Sri Lanka in compliance with the existing regulations and availability of quarantine facilities in the country.
The Sri Lanka High Commission in Seychelles has been continuously liaising with the Sri Lankan community members and has taken the initiative to appoint a Joint Committee under the leadership of the Mission which includes the Sri Lankan Association, Seychelles Buddhist Association, and the Lakstar Cricket Club, to render support to Sri Lankans who are in need of assistance. The Mission has also distributed food supplies to the community upon their request and has established a 24-hour hotline through which Sri Lankans can constantly reach the Mission.
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Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations in an interview held on Siyatha TV ‘Morning Show’ at 6.55 am today (25 May 2020) discussed the systematic repatriation process of Overseas Sri Lankans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seventy-sixth session (CS 76) of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was successfully conducted on a virtual platform for the first time in its history, due to the COVID 19 situation, on 21 May 2020, in Bangkok. The CS 76 deliberated on ‘Promoting economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans for sustainable development’, reiterating commitments to realize SDG 14 on ‘life below water’, as its key theme for the Session. Delegations also engaged on a discussion on ‘Regional cooperation to address the socio-economic effects of the global health crisis’, where Sri Lanka joined in cosponsoring the resolution presented by the Secretariat, emphasizing the need for collaborative action in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic to the world and particularly to the developing countries in the most populous Asia and the Pacific Region.