The voice of Sri Lanka against terrorism was unanimously endorsed by all SAARC countries who proposed that terrorism should be condemned in all its forms and manifestations, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said yesterday.
Addressing the media on Sri Lanka`s role at the 14th SAARC summit, Bogollagama said the Lankan delegation emphasised that there can be no social and economic progress without peace and security.
`Sri Lanka urged the SAARC leaders to conclude a comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Sri Lanka`s proposal to suppress financing of terrorist acts by criminalising the provision, acquisition and collection of funds for such acts, including through front organisations and also to counter illicit trafficking of drugs, arms smuggling and human trafficking was agreed upon,` Bogollagama said.
In addition Sri Lanka strongly urged to implement SAFTA which will integrate trade and services in the region.
This should be facilitated by the removal of tariffs and other restrictions and the agreement should be implemented in letter and spirit.
According to the Minister, it has also been agreed to expand the existing Visa scheme and also to provide 50 visas from each country to the South Asian Free Media Association members to ensure free mobility to journalists within the region. SAARC Immigration officials will meet and give effect to the above decision.
An agreement to establish a South Asian University too is in the pipeline with the headquarters in India and sub branches in all other countries. There will also be a SAARC Food Bank, Minister added.
Sri Lanka is to host a SAARC trade fair in 2008 and also a SAARC Development Fund was mooted with external funding to implement projects in poverty alleviation and infrastructure development in the region.
The Minister also said that Afghanistan was formally inducted as the eighth member of SAARC. China, USA, Republic of Korea, Japan and EU were granted observer status. In addition, an application for observer status from Iran was welcomed.
The Minister emphasised that the 14th SAARC summit was an overwhelming success because it was decided to move from declaratory phase into the implementation of the agreed proposals to fulfil the SAARC vision for its third decade.
AI `no-balled` by ICC, Rasika Somarathna
COLOMBO: Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said yesterday that the ICC had assured Sri Lanka it had taken all steps to prevent any mischief at venues where the Sri Lankan Cricket team is tipped to play in the ongoing World Cup in the West Indies.
The ICC`s acting CEO Faizal Haznain had given this assurance when the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the UAE, M.M. Junaid met ICC officials in Dubai on Sunday.
The Minister was speaking at a press briefing at the Foreign Ministry yesterday. Bogollagama while vehemently condemning Amnesty International`s decision to launch a protest campaign titled `Sri Lanka Play By the Rules` during the ICC Cricket World Cup against the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka said international organisations should act with more responsibility.
`It is just not cricket, because cricket is considered as the gentlemen`s game. Attempts to politicise it should be condemned.
This could be a campaign to demoralise the Sri Lankan team when they are doing very well at the World Cup,` the Minister said.
The Minister added the Ministry has adopted a multi-pronged approach to counter the AI campaign, which is to prevail on the ICC that AI action was in the wrong place at the wrong time and to prevent any action at the playing grounds.
To apprise all ICC member countries about AI`s unsporting act and to put pressure through foreign embassies who have set up offices in the West Indies and to protest to the AI office in London through the Sri Lankan Ambassador in England are the other steps.
The Minister quipped the Sri Lankan team would overcome all odds in winning the World Cup portraying the true Sri Lankan spirit to the whole world.