The President was conferred with the Honorary Citizenship of Seoul Metropolitan Government by the Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government, Park Won-soon at a special ceremony held at the Mayor’s Office in Seoul on November 30.

“I was highly impressed with the President’s untiring efforts to develop the country, the city of Colombo and further strengthen bilateral ties with the Republic of Korea. Hence, the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to confer the Honorary Citizenship to His Excellency President Sirisena as a symbol of our close friendship”, the Mayor said.

The Citation of the Honorary Citizenship stated:

“On behalf of the citizens of Seoul Metropolitan Government, am privileged to present this Certificate to, and hereby, confer Honorary Citizenship upon Maithipala Sirisena.”

Park Won-soon, Mayor, Seoul Metropolitan Government

November 30, 2017

President Sirisena received an unexpected warm welcome from Korean President Moon Jae-In today (Nov 28), a day ahead of the scheduled official meeting. When he visited the famous Buddhist place of worship, Jogyesa Temple he had a pleasant surprise as President Moon was waiting to receive him together with the Most Ven. Seol Jeong, head of the Jogye Order, the most prominent Buddhist sect in Korea.

President Moon said, although he was not scheduled to visit the temple he decided to come unannounced as he wanted to show his respect for President Sirisena. “We have so many things in common and I wanted to meet him and develop friendship and rapport before I meet him officially,” Moon said.

President Sirisena said, although he had visited many countries as President, he could not meet a single leader before the officially scheduled meetings. “This magnanimous gesture of humbleness shows the greatness of President Moon and his affection for Sri Lanka and its people,” he said.

President Moon said, he has much in common with President Sirisena as both came from rural areas and struggled for years and served the people amid difficulties to reach the current high positions. The two countries had common historical experiences as both had been under colonial domination, faced militant movements, there were authoritarian regimes and finally both have reestablished democracy and entered into the path of rapid progress, taking effective steps to combat corruption.

President Sirisena expressed joy about the opportunity to visit Jogyesa Temple in which the sacred Buddha relics gifted by Anagarika Dharmapala in 1913 have been enshrined. .

The two Heads of State strongly condemned North Korea’s test of a long-range ballistic missile, violating United Nations Security Council Resolutions. President Moon expressed appreciation for Sri Lanka’s strong condemnation of the DPRK’s continued nuclear and missile tests and its faithful implementation of sanctions under relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The two Heads of State reaffirmed their support for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and urged North Korea to comply with its obligations under the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolution. The two Heads of State agreed on active cooperation for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions and underscored the importance of resuming a meaningful dialogue for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. President Sirisena expressed firm support for the efforts of the Republic of Korea to improve inter-Korean relations and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, including the initiative of the Republic of Korea proposed in Berlin on July 6 2017.

President Sirisena’s condemnation of DPRK missile tests, the last missile fired when Sirisena was in Seoul, may be criticized by some and described as pro US policy.

Sirisena keeps foreign policy analysts guessing all the time. It was only last month that many analysts came up with their textbook prediction that he had antagonized United States and its Middle East friends like Saudi Arabia, when he paid a state visit to Qatar. Before the dust of criticism settled down, President Sirisena undertook his visit to South Korea and the so-called foreign policy experts are totally baffled as they are not sure whether the visit should be described as a pro-US gesture or not.

The two salient features of the foreign policy of the current government are, firstly it is Asia-centric middle path and secondly friendship with all. As the foreign policy of any country puts the country’s interests first, Sri Lanka too cannot be rigid in its policy towards the international community.

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was one of the founding pillars of the nonaligned movement. But, she did not hesitate to close down the North Korean Embassy in Colombo in 1971,when the intelligence sources revealed that the Mission was guilty of funding the militant group Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which was then better known by the sobriquet ‘Che Guvera Movement’ which carried out an armed rebellion to overthrow the government.

Sri Lanka as a country that is strongly dependent on both India and China for its stance on the world stage has to maintain a perfect balance. In such a background Sri Lanka will have to bush up its foreign engagement with other stakeholders of the international community. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government succeeded in establishing excellent relations with the US, Russia, Western Europe and Japan in addition to maintaining the balance between India and China.

At the same time, the country need not be subservient to any outside power. Hence, certain deviations from absolute neutrality are required at times and such steps will make Sri Lanka’s sovereignty stronger.

That explains why the invitation extended by the Emir of Qatar was accepted by President Sirisena, who paid a successful state visit two months ago. Although the visit took place at a time when Qatar’s relations with Saudi Arabia and some other West Asian countries were strained, Sri Lanka maintains excellent relations with all those countries. Sri Lanka is committed to peace in the region. Hence, the North Korean nuclear weapon developments and the tension in that region is a major concern to everybody in Asia.

On the sidelines of the visit, a highly successful business forum was held in the South Korean capital. More than 100 Korean delegates and a few local representatives on leading companies in the East Asian region took part in the Forum.

Around 20 Sri Lankan leading business personalities also attended the event which was held at Grand Ballroom of Hyatt Grand in Seoul.

Leading Korean entrepreneurs who attended the Forum included chairpersons of KBIZ, KCCI, KITA, FKI and AHPEK. KBIZ Chairman Park Sung-taek, who made the welcome remarks described his successful investment projects in Sri Lanka and urged the Korean companies to follow suit.

Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrema spoke about Sri Lanka’s investment policies and the support provided to foreign investors. He listed the tax concessions and other benefits given for FDIs. Minister Samarawickrema said, Sri Lanka is interested in investments in several sectors, including, power and energy, natural gas, roadways and ports, agriculture, fisheries and large scale industries.

Ambassador Manisha Gunasekera delivered the vote of thanks. 

Courtesy: Sunday Observer

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