Sri Lanka - South Africa Relations
Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations with the newly formed post Apartheid Government of South Africa on 12th September 1994, following the end of Apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as the President of the Republic of South Africa. The relations between Sri Lanka and South Africa were further strengthened with the exchange of High Commissioners between the two countries, and the establishment of a resident diplomatic Mission in Pretoria on 1st October 1997. The Government of South Africa established its resident diplomatic Mission in Colombo in September 2007.

Sri Lanka has been in the forefront of the Anti-Apartheid struggle launched by the South African people. Sri Lanka’s position was clearly manifested during the regime of Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike in the 1970’s. It has been widely acknowledged that the 5th Non-Aligned Summit held in August 1976; under the Chairpersonship of Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike saw one of the collective positions taken by the Movement against the policy of Apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) attended this Conference as observers on the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka. The ANC delegation was headed by the then Secretary General of ANC Mr. Alfred Nzo.

There were number of bilateral visits to each other’s country since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The leaders of the two countries have had a number of opportunities to meet each other in the wings of international gatherings. Coming from the South, both Sri Lanka and South Africa which are members of the United Nations, NAM, Commonwealth and IOR-ARC, have common positions on most of the international issues, be it human rights, eradication of poverty, UN reforms, ramification of globalization on trade or international terrorism.

The two countries in December 2003 established a Sri Lanka South Africa Partnership Forum, with a view to advance and strengthen the close cooperation in political, trade, economic, cultural, scientific and technological fields. Of the more recent interactions between Sri Lanka and South Africa, the bilateral meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Thabo Mbeki in Cuba in September 2006 on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Summit.

On the invitation of the Government of South Africa, two moderate Tamil political party leaders Hon. Douglas Devananda, the Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare and Secretary General, EPDP and Hon. V Anandasangaree, the Leader of TULF, for the first time, visited South Africa in April 2007 and engaged in a dialogue with the South African Tamils, while briefing the South African leadership on the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka demands unity and territorial integrity of South Africa at the NAM Conference in Lima, 1975
Sri Lanka represented Conference of Foreign Ministers on Non-Aligned Countries LIMA, 25-30 August 1975. As one of the representatives to the above Conference Sri Lanka demanded that South Africa strictly respected the unity and territorial integrity of the territory reiterating that continuation of Apartheid constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security. It also condemned the policy of Apartheid and denounced the creation of the so called “homelands” which are calculated to entrench the oppressive and repressive rule of Apartheid Regime (P 144 Non-Aligned Conferences basic documents 1961-1975).
Extract from the speech made by Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the 5th Non-Aligned Summit held in Colombo, 1976
Referring to South Africa in her inaugural address at this conference Madam Bandaranaike was to observe:
“Racism in Southern Africa is a residue of old colonialism elaborately entrenched on the myth that some people are born superior to others on grounds of colour. With a macabre inventiveness all their own, racist regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia have instituted policies directed towards the systematic erosion, not only of the democratic rights of the majorities in these countries but also of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

With their monumental patience, African nations have so far devoted their attention to peaceful methods of convincing these racists of the folly of their policies. The Dar-Es-Salaam Declaration of April 1975 marks a turning point in the history of racism in Southern Africa. The violence that has erupted in the recent weeks and what it portends for peace on that continent and in the rest of the world has to be taken into any reckoning of the ultimate solution to this problem. We stand resolutely behind the peoples of Africa in this struggle, the outcome of which will determine whether humanity can progress in peace and brotherhood.”
Extract from political declaration of the 5th NAM Summit in August 1976
The Conference welcomed the historic and far-reaching changes that have taken place in Southern Africa since the Algiers Summit. The decisive victories of the liberation movements in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe over Portuguese colonialism and the crashing defeat of the South African aggression against Angola have provided new horizons for the liberation struggle in Southern Africa. The Conference took note with satisfaction that the liberation of Mozambique and Angola in particular have provided for the freedom fighters invaluable additional rare bases.

This changed geopolitical situation has given a new impetus to the struggle for freedom, justice and human dignity in Africa as evidenced by the escalation of the armed struggle in both Zimbabwe and Namibia. It has also further inspired and steeled the determination and resistance of the oppressed black masses of South Africa against the inhuman and criminal system of Apartheid and racial discrimination. The degree of resistance by the oppressed black people has escalated to the new level of a national uprising.

The Conference considered the struggles in Zimbabwe and Namibia as well as the uprising in South Africa as being developments of great significance. They constitute the final and decisive phase in the liquidation of the tyrannical racist minority regimes.

Taking into account these developments, the Conference expressed its deep concern that the situation in Southern Africa continues to constitute a serious threat to international peace and security notwithstanding the favourable conditions that now exist for the complete elimination of colonialism, racial discrimination and Apartheid in the region. The Conference vehemently condemned the repeated wantonly criminal acts of aggression committed by the illegal minority regime of Southern Rhodesia against Mozambique and by the racist regime of South Africa against Zambia and Angola. It drew the attention of the international community and in particular the United Nations Security Council to the urgent need to take effective measures to put an end to these constant acts of provocation of aggression, recalling in this regard Security Council Resolution 387 (1976) condemning South Africa’s aggression against Angola and the recalling Resolution 393 (1976) condemning South Africa’s aggression against Zambia.

The Conference declared its firm commitment to the complete elimination of colonialism, Apartheid and racial discrimination in Southern Africa. The Conference noting that the racist minority regimes have rejected the offer for peaceful change contained in the Lusaka Manifesto on Southern Africa reaffirmed its support for an intensification of the armed struggle against the forces of colonialism, Apartheid and racial discrimination in Southern Africa, in order to obtain early compliance with the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Southern Africa, adopted by the Council of Ministers of the Organisation of African Unity in April 1975, and the relevant United Nations resolutions on the liberation of Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.”
Extract from the speech made by Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the 31st Session of the United Nations General Assembly as the Chairperson of the NAM
Attending the 31st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 1976 as Chairperson of the Non-Aligned Movement, Madam Bandaranaike reiterated her support and that of all Non-Aligned member states, for the African people’s struggle.

“In the nuances of presentation, some of the terminology of the Non-Aligned is certainly emotive, but I do not believe that this calls for any apology. It should not be difficult for this Assembly and the world in general to understand the emotions of a man whose humanity is denied, as under the racist regimes in Southern Africa, or of a people deprived of their birthright by decisions imposed on them as in the case of the Palestinians.

I might add that the nations which have tended to recent what they consider intemperate phraseology in Non-Aligned declarations, are the very nations that themselves indulge in the strongest appeals to the human emotions in their own recent histories. The fight against injustice cannot but be emotional and it will help mutual understanding if this simple truth is remembered.

Southern Africa is one area where the circumstances fully justify resentment and impatience. The peoples of Africa have many hard-won victories against imperialism and colonialism to their credit. Yet, they have to contend today not only with the outmoded, inhuman and abhorrent practices of Apartheid and racism, but with threats to their newly won independence and their territorial integrity in the form of aggression from the same sources which now challenge their dignity and their self-respect.

Resistance movements by the oppressed black peoples in South Africa and Rhodesia have now reached the stage of national uprisings. What the Colombo Documents seek to convey, is that the river of history cannot flow backward and that the longer the racist regimes take to realised this, the more serious would be the consequences for peace on that continent and elsewhere. The message from Colombo, as far as it concerns Southern Africa, is also directed to the nations which are continuing to collaborate with these regimes, hereby giving them a false sense of security and a resemblance of respectability to which they are not entitled.

In the particular case of Namibia, vital principles of Non-Alignment are involved. It is not only the independence of a country long denied its rights by a usurpation of power, and illegal occupation, that is at stake there. The rights of a people to self-determination and to the integrity of their territory are also at issue.

All initiatives towards a just solution of these problems are naturally welcome as long as they care genuinely designed to expedite the transition from obduracy to reason. At the same time, I should make it clear from this forum that if reason were to fail and the peoples of Africa were forced to resort to the ultimate solution through armed struggle, every Non-Aligned nation will stand solidly behind them.”
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