Speech on Occasion of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Diplomatic Relations between Seychelles and Sri Lanka
H.E. Mr. Conrad Mederic,
Seychelles High Commissioner to Sri Lanka,
Friday, September 21st, 2018.
Honorable Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, Mr. John Amaratunga, Ambassadors/ High Commissioners, Government Officials, Private Sector Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen:
A good evening to you all…It is both an honor and a privilege to welcome you all to this evening’s commemorations of the 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Sri Lanka and Seychelles.
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who once said that, Friendship among nations, as among individuals, calls for constructive efforts to muster the forces of humanity, in order that an atmosphere of close understanding and cooperation may be cultivated….And it was a force of humanity that first established cooperation between our nations during the Second World War, when an artillery battery of 60 Ceylonese soldiers was stationed at Signal Hill, to defend the Seychelles coastline during war times.
Decades after this initial act of cooperation, diplomatic relations were formalized in October 1988-and in 2012 and 2014 the two countries established diplomatic missions in Mahé and Colombo, respectively – paving the way for enhanced diplomatic cooperation.
In the past 30 years, our two countries have reached consensus under several bilateral agreements and strategic alliances-and given the progressive stance on developing maritime based economies, both Seychelles and Sri Lanka follow a consensus of sharing knowledge and resources that benefit our maritime ventures and areas of bilateral cooperation, including tourism.
The maritime relations of our nations extend well over 25 years, beginning with the decision by Seychelles investors to purchase fishing vessels manufactured in Sri Lanka; which is presently the top most export of Sri Lanka to the archipelago.
In 2013, Seychelles entrusted the management of the Seychelles Maritime Academy, SMA, to Colombo International Nautical and Engineering College, CINEC. Since then, the venture has become a successful partnership, which has enabled the Academy to receive international accreditation. SMA is now on par with countries such as UK, Ireland, Australia or South Africa, in terms of the standard of its seafaring courses. In addition, the pre-sea training given by SMA provides excellent preparation and knowledge to Seychellois students.
In 2015, with the assistance of CINEC, Seychelles achieved placement in the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) white list: a significant feat for the Seychelles maritime industry, as it facilitates seafarers with employment on foreign vessels, while, well-positioning Seychelles on the international maritime trade.
With common interests for developing a Blue Economy and economic dependence on tourism and fisheries, Sri Lanka and Seychelles also share vested interests in the sustainability of land and oceanic resources. It is in this regard, that we expect to form a much pertinent line of relations, where our nations can co-depend on research, technical expertise and resources as well as develop policies that protect our marine resources.
As an island nation, Tourism and Fisheries are the foremost economic strongholds of Seychelles. The archipelago of 115 islands, spread across an area of 1.4 million square kilometers, holds undisputed potential in tourism, agriculture and renewable energy. A vital economic pillar, Seychelles tourism fulfills 66% of the nation’s employment, both directly indirectly and has a total contribution of 65.3% to the country’s GDP.
The archipelago is home to exclusive retreats and star accommodation that continue to grow in numbers. Surrounded by serene white beaches and crystal clear blue waters, the three main islands Mahé, Praslin and La Digue are home to nature reserves, cultural, religious and historical landmarks and exotic gardens, that attract international tourists almost four times that of the country’s population.
Furthermore, Seychelles was ranked number one in the ‘climate and energy category’, by the 2018 Environment Performance Index. Accelerated efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by introducing renewable energy schemes, introducing clean and renewable energy in transportation have contributed towards this achievement.
Given these progresses, Seychelles offers greater potential to investors from Sri Lanka and other parts of the world, in capitalizing on our nation’s attractions and close proximity to the African continent. In the first quarter of 2018, investments in Seychelles increased by 26 percent which clearly demonstrates investor confidence in our growing economy and positive performance in tourism, fisheries and financial services. However, a few sectors are still in need of foreign investments which include fish processing, ice plants and eco hotels.
If I may once again turn your attention to the model of blue economy – the strategy carries huge potential for the country’s marine industry and its investors: with the Seychelles government’s issuance of the world’s first Blue Bonds, potential investors can now harness sustainable economic benefits from the fisheries industry and marine resources of the archipelago.
…Given this positive context in Seychelles, we hope that the two nations will be able to collaborate towards benefitting each other’s vision of developing a Blue Economy. Both Sri Lanka and Seychelles have much to offer in terms of expertise, best practices and support in maritime activities, fisheries, bio-diversity and border control, as well as in other trades such as agriculture and tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen
As at present, our two countries also share mutual benefits from healthcare services as hundreds of Seychellois continue to receive healthcare services from Sri Lanka’s leading private hospitals-Hemas, Lanka Hospitals and Nawaloka. As a result, a considerable contribution has been made to the Sri Lankan economy. Recently, Lanka Hospitals established a fully equipped medical facility in Seychelles; providing Seychellois with high quality and specialized medical treatment. Hence, it is evident that the two nations can benefit from expanding relations in the healthcare sector, by entering into strategically devised agreements for the trade of health services, while mitigating any adversities and capitalizing on strengths.
Given the prospects for long term cooperation between our nations, the timing is apt for a proper strategic framework with identification, planning, implementation and monitoring of strategic initiatives, through a joint commission. During his 2017 visit to Sri Lanka President Daniel Faure expressed the government’s need for Sri Lanka’s cooperation in trade and commerce of agricultural products, as well the sharing of best practices for agricultural trade. We are optimistic that a similar exchange will result through the upcoming tour of Seychelles, by His Excellency, President Maithripala Sirisena and that it will provide an ideal platform for exploring opportunities for enhanced collaboration between the two nations.
In conclusion, I wish to thank Honorable Minister John Amaratunga for gracing today’s event and all honored guests for your presence.
I also wish to extend heartfelt appreciation to my staff who contributed enormously towards the organization of this function. My gratitude also extends to my family and all our friends and partners who have contributed towards this event.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and I wish you all a pleasant evening.