Visiting First Assistant Secretary, North and South Asia Divisions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, Gary Cowan, held discussions with the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by the Secretary, Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Friday, 29 April 2022, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The meeting, which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations, covered the whole gamut of bilateral engagements between Colombo and Canberra and the future course of action on pending issues of mutual and strategic interest.
The Australian delegation expressed deep satisfaction over the economic, trade, investment and cultural ties that have existed over the past 75 years, which, in the recent years, are being transformed into a strategic and cooperative partnership.
Foreign Secretary offered the delegation a comprehensive briefing on the current situation in Sri Lanka with emphasis on the economic situation and Colombo’s engagement with her friends to overcome what is termed as an unprecedented economic downturn precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophe that followed.
Foreign Secretary also briefed the delegation on the ongoing dissension by a section of the Sri Lankan society with various demands. He clarified that the Government and the President are open to any solution in line with the provisions of the Constitution. On a few sporadic incidents and claims of disproportionate reaction by the law enforcement authorities against the protestors, the Foreign Secretary stated that the law of the land will take its own course in dealing with the perpetrators and the investigations are underway.
The visiting envoy, who was appreciative of the briefing, expressed that Sri Lanka, given its reputation to preserve and protect democratic values, deals with the dissenters through democratic means and tools. He assured that the Government of Australia currently is exploring alternatives to assist Sri Lanka in whatever manner possible in this hour of need.
Both delegations acknowledged the significant progress and cooperation in the fields of border risk assessment, vessel monitoring, counter people smuggling and other transnational crimes and resolved to intensify engagements with the authorities concerned towards full implementation of decisions agreed upon.
Both parties took stock of the progress made thus far on the vital initiative of “Maritime Disaster Preparedness Mechanism” and agreed to expedite the process of the initiative. The visiting Assistant Secretary Cowan, the High Commissioner David Holly and his team were updated on the latest developments on the human rights front by the Foreign Secretary.
Sri Lanka and Australia established formal diplomatic relations on 29 April, 1947, well before the independence of Sri Lanka.
The Australian High Commissioner, officials of the High Commission and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry took part in the discussions.