Foreign Minister Marapana on assuming duties says:
‘Human rights ingrained in our culture’:
‘Friendly relations with all countries’:
Human rights and foreign investments were the key focus as newly appointed Foreign Minister and Minister of Development Assignments, Tilak Marapana took office yesterday.
“If we want investments and tourism to flourish we need to project an image that we take our human rights obligations seriously. We want friendly relations with all countries,” he said addressing the media at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“I have received this position most unexpectedly under unfortunate circumstances but I will do my best to fulfil my responsibilities”, added the Minister as he took office at 10.05 am.
The Foreign Ministry’s greatest challenge during the past two years has been dealing with the Human Rights Resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC but the new Foreign Minister believed that they had successfully convinced the international community that they meant business.
“My predecessors, Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Harsha de Silva have convinced the international community that we are not irresponsible and we are mindful that we must address human rights issues not to placate foreign countries but for our own benefit. Also as a Buddhist country human rights is ingrained in our culture,” he explained.
Marapana was also confident that the government had ample time to fulfil the obligations cited in the Resolution and that they could ask for more time if they failed to complete all responsibilities.
“You cannot do these things overnight. These are serious issues, reconciliation, takes time. Even countries like Bosnia and Sudan are still struggling”, he said.
He further explained that the Resolution was in no way harmful to the country and that the international community has allowed Sri Lanka to decide on its own judicial mechanism to deal with war crimes.
“I am there to implement the policy of the government. I will always be acting under the direction of the President and Prime Minister, I only play only a role in executing their policies”, added Minister Marapana.
Marapana had previously resigned as Minister of Law and Order in 2015 and is the third Minister of Foreign Affairs in the past two years to take office.
Ven. Thiniyawala Palitha Thera who was present on the occasion to invoke blessings on the minister asked that he take steps to improve the Foreign Service which has fallen into disrepute over the past few years,
“Though only Sri Lankan citizens are supposed to hold diplomatic office, there are 37 people with dual citizenships working in the Foreign Service. A country’s embassy is supposed to come forward to help its citizens abroad but our embassies, I know through personal experience will never come to the aid of any Sri Lankan abroad. Finally most countries send their best to represent their countries abroad but all we send are retired ministers, cricketers and businessmen”, Ven.Palitha Thera said.
“I am not sure if you would be here for long but please take action,” he added.
The Minister responded that he would look into all the issues raised by the Thera.
“Even if I remain here for a short period of time, during that period I will make every endeavour to make the ministry and our embassies more productive and conducive towards the development of our country,” he added.