From Puttalam to Pretoria: Afro-Lankans Fascinate in South Africa
An eleven person musical dance troupe of Puttalam’s Afro- Sri Lankan community thrilled a large audience consisting of Ambassadors, Foreign Ministry Officials, South Africa’s Business Community and South Africa’s Sri Lankan Expatriate Community at the Sri Lankan High Commission Independence Day celebration held at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria.  Specialist chefs from Perera & Sons were also flown in for the event and the Sri Lankan food festival held over the week at the Sheratons main restaurant.
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H.E. Shehan Ratnavale Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Pretoria began his address by quoting from Arthur. C. Clark who stated that:
            “The Island of Sri Lanka is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery and climate as some countries a dozen times it size.”

After expanding on the developing political and commercial relations with South Africa, the High Commissioner highlighted Sri Lanka’s rich climatic, scenic and cultural diversity, and then detailed the symbolic nature of the Sri Lankan flag with reference to virtues and the main ethnic groups.  He explained that the yellow border of the flag represents other minor communities in Sri Lanka and said that on this the 65th Independence Day celebrations in Pretoria it was appropriate to make a visit to the border. 

The High Commissioner noted that the year 2011 was designated as the UN International year for people of African descent and that the 2012 Global African Diaspora Summit was held in South Africa.  He said he was delighted to observe that even in the context of the global African diaspora Sri Lanka has a small but interesting contribution, and went on to explain the impact of the Afro-Lankan community on the roots of Sri Lankan Baila music.
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This lively performance at the Sri Lankan Independence Day celebration was the first International performance by this community.  It was appropriate that it took place in Africa 
Sri Lanka to promote trade in Africa : Visit of Sri Lankan Business Delegation to South Africa
The visit of Sri Lankan Business delegation to South Africa is a joint initiative of the Sri Lanka High Commission in Pretoria and the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) for participation of Sri Lankan exporters at the SAITEX 2012 International Trade fair held in Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand from 15-17 July, 2012.

Nine companies representing various sectors, such as Porcelain Tableware, Ceylon Black Tea, Green Tea, Organic Tea, Spices, Desiccated Coconut, Rubber based value added products such as Rubber Tyres, Floor Covering, Electrical Cables, Electrical Switches & Sockets, Enclosures, Automobile Component such as Airbag Sensor Switches, Seat Belt Sensor Switches etc. at the Sri Lanka pavilion.

The participation at SAITEX international trade fair helps companies to strengthen their business relations with the existing buyers and also to find newbuyers. The High Commission in Pretoria arranged individual business meetings at the High Commission as well as facilitated business meetings with visiting buyers in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

A Business matchmaking programme was organised by the High Commission and the EDB in collaboration with the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce with the participation of members of the Cape Chamber and the ANC Progressive Business Forum. (ANC-PBF). The session was chaired by the Co-Convenor of the ANC -PBF Mr. Renier Schoeman and Chairman of the International Trade and Tourism Portfolio of the Cape Chamber of Commerce Mr. Jonathan Jacobs and the Commercial Secretary of the High Commission. The presentation made by the Commercial Secretary focused on strengthening confidence in business opportunities in Sri Lanka. Mr. Renier Schoeman in his remarks mentioned that he was highly impressed with the Sri Lankan companies and the products that they were promoting in South Africa. Also he announced that ANC-PBF is making arrangements to take a business delegation to Sri Lanka during 5th - 9th September 2012.

The Sri Lankan business delegation was also hosted by the World Trade Centre of South Africa based in Cape Town. Mr. Dirk Kotze the President of the World Trade Centre explained the business match-making portal developed by the WTC to promote products in the portal to enhance business opportunities in South Africa and in Africa as a whole.

During the above interactions, the delegation was able to gain knowledge on business opportunities and to explore new ventures. The delegation has indicated that they are highly satisfied with what they were able to achieve in South Africa, and are keen to further business relations for the mutual benefit of their companies and both countries. 
Sri Lanka offers its expertise to Seychelles
Prof. G. L. Peiris briefs the media as his Seychelles counterpart Jean Paul Adam looks on

Sri Lanka will offer its expertise to Seychelles in countering piracy, boat building, fisheries, education, tourism, health and power generation following the bilateral talks held yesterday between External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris and his Seychelles counterpart Jean Paul Adam. An official State visit is being planned for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to visit Seychelles where further bilateral talks will be held with Seychelles President James Mitchell later this year. Dates will be finalised soon.

Sri Lanka would be offering expertise to Seychelles, also an island nation, particularly in boat building - fisheries boats/trawlers and luxury yachts, External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris told a joint news conference with his visiting Seychelles counterpart Jean Paul Adam at the Ministry’s main conference hall in Fort last evening. There would also be opportunities for the provision of expertise in healthcare and employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in the area of education - English, Science and Mathematics in that country too, he said.

One of the major sectors that Sri Lanka will be sharing information and expertise with Seychelles will be controlling of piracy in high seas, which was a growing concern and which was a sensitive area especially in the wake of the culmination of terrorism in Sri Lanka.

"In the bilateral talks that we had, we focused and concentrated on specific areas and we decided that a visit of this nature should not be ceremonial or symbolic. It must be definitely substantial and make a definite contribution to the strengthening of the relationship of our countries", Prof. Peiris said. The External Affairs Minister also said that he was personally touched by a remark that his Seychelles counterpart made in that small countries should not necessarily think small to which he had responded that it was exactly the same vision of the two Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and James Mitchell. There were the many aspects that Sri Lanka and Seychelles shared in common, which shaped the destinies of the two island nations. A lot had to do with the sea and the blue economy as the resources of the ocean were called and they could enhance the economies of the two nations, he said.

"It is not only in the areas of fisheries that Sri Lanka could offer its expertise but also in the arena of boat building in the leisure sector which will have an accentuated emphasis of the development of our two economies", Prof. Peiris told the local and the Colombo based international media. Visiting Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adam said that he was delighted to work with Sri Lanka and share expertise for the mutual interest of the two countries and said that he was touched by the hospitality of the Sri Lankans, o what was his maiden visit to the country.

He said that his country was looking forward to enhancing on the aspects of the blue economy and also hydro power generation as well. His country needed cost effective strategies as well and added that Sri Lanka fited the bill in that regard. He and his delegation were to have meetings with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as well.
Shared experience has resulted in strong bonds
prof. Peiris in discussion with foreign minister of south africa.
A wide range of experiences with regard to challenges in respect of nation building, shared by Sri Lanka and South Africa, serves as a strong foundation for informed dialogue on these issues. The insights deriving from this common experience make close collaboration between the two countries all the more valuable, Professor G.L.Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, said in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday. He was participating in bilateral discussions with Ms.Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Co-operation of the Republic of South Africa. Among the officials present were Mr. Shehan Ratnavale, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in South Africa and Mr. Geoffrey Quinton Doidge, High Commissioner of South Africa in Sri Lanka.

Referring to the inspiring leadership of former President Nelson Mandela, Prof. Peiris said that a salient feature of the structures he had put in place was their home-grown quality, in many fundamental respects. Although not hesitating to draw on positive experiences from other cultures, as Mandela has explained in his fascinating autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he considered it vital to adapt these experiences to suit the unique context of the South African situation. The result was a model containing features which hardly bear comparison with any other set of constitutional or political arrangements, the Minister said.

Similarly, it is Sri Lanka’s earnest effort, after the defeat of terrorism, to develop in an inclusive spirit structures fulfilling the special needs of our society, he explained. The Minister continued that, while collaboration on the basis of equality and mutual respect is always welcome, Sri Lanka does not consider helpful patronizing attitudes leading to attempts at external intervention. Prof. Peiris drew attention to yet another prominent characteristic of the South African experience, with special value to Sri Lanka: namely, the deliberate decision to dispense with external mediation or facilitation in any form, and to rely instead on local creativity and resourcefulness. He recalled the observation made to him many years ago by Mr.Roelf Meyer, the chief negotiator with the African National Congress and the Minister of Defence in the Government of former South African President Klerk, that this decision was based on the conviction --strongly held by both sides-- that no external actor could possibly have the intensity of commitment of the South African people collectively, to find a solution which is equitable and would stand the test of time. This belief is amply vindicated by Sri Lanka’s own experience, the Minister observed. Minister Peiris warmly welcomed the dynamic role now being played by South Africa, as a rising economic power, not only in African affairs but also in the global arena. South Africa’s expanded role in international diplomacy significantly facilitates giving effect to the value systems which both Sri Lanka and South Africa hold to be sacred, he commented. He recalled that these values had been articulated with deep conviction by the representatives of both countries most recently at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Western Australia, which was attended by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Jacob Zuma.

Prof. Peiris, in his discussions with his South African counterpart, made reference to his intimate connection with South African academic and political life, going back several decades. After the completion of his doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford on avenues of development of the Roman-Dutch Law in Sri Lanka and South Africa, he had accepted with pleasure the invitation extended to him by leading South African Universities including the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town to deliver a series of lectures. He recalled, as well, his association with the late Mr.Dulla Omar, Minister of Justice in the Mandela administration, and with Mr. Valli Moosa, at that time Minister of Constitutional Affairs.

The Minister of International Relations and Co-operation of South Africa hosted a lunch in honour of the visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister. Prof. Peiris also had bilateral discussions with Mr. Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, with special responsibility for the subject in the African National Congress. During a recent visit by Mr. Ebrahim to Sri Lanka, Prof. Peiris had a bilateral meeting with him in the Ministry of External Affairs and also arranged a roundtable discussion in which a number of political personalities, academics, professionals and members of civil society took part.

The bilateral discussions in Pretoria between the two Foreign Ministers also touched on a variety of topics including expansion of the tea trade, investment promotion, co-operation in science and technology, environmental protection and enhancement, projects in the sphere of education and the possibility of direct flights between Colombo and Johannesburg.

First Sri Lankan Film Screened in South Africa:
The first Sri Lankan film screening in South Africa took place on 19th November 2011 when The Sri Lankan High Commission in Pretoria screened the film “The God King” at the Ster Kinekor Prime Movie Park in Sandton Johannesburg. The event was attended by approximately 100 people from South Africa’s expatriate Sri Lankan Community as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Government Departments.

The High Commissioner, H.E. Shehan Ratnavale initiated proceedings with a brief overview of both the artistic and architectural wonders of the Sigiriya civilization, and underlined its importance and tourism appeal as one of 8 UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka.

Despite its age, the film was received with much appreciation. Many members of the Sri Lankan community said that they had never scene the film and were delighted at the opportunity of seeing this dramatized version of events of the king Kashshappa story. The South Africans who attended said they found the film both entertaining and educational in terms of the history of the island, its people and impressive irrigation system that had been initiated such a long time ago. Many stressed the importance of preserving this film for posterity. 

A networking event was also hosted by the High Commission during the inte rval.
The High Commission of Sri Lanka in Pretoria initiated a presentation and networking event to members of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry to promote Sri Lanka EXPO 2012.

The event was attended by around 45 companies from diverse product and service sectors. Mr. Keith Brebnor CEO of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce in his welcome remarks stated similarities of the two countries in history and also Sri Lanka as a fascinating tourist destination. His Excellency Shehan Ratnavale, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka delivered a presentation on “Doing Business with Sri Lanka: Trade & Investment Opportunities in Sri Lanka”.

H.E. the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in his presentation highlighted Sri Lanka’s strategic strengths as a business destination and products and services strengths and the investment opportunities. Further he emphasized that “Sri Lanka Expo 2012” upcoming business networking event organized by Export Development Board provides with an opportunity to engage with Sri Lanka at an event which showcases Sri Lanka’s premier export products, services and investment opportunities and offer B2B business meetings under one roof.            

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