- Chairman, University Grants Commission Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga
During his visit to Japan, President Ranil Wickremesinghe effectively presented his foreign and economic policy, garnering significant support for Sri Lanka’s ongoing efforts to overcome its economic crisis. Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of the University Grants Commission, expressed his admiration for the President’s diplomatic approach and commended his intervention in discussions with the Japanese Prime Minister regarding the revival of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project and the expansion of Japan’s support for development initiatives in Sri Lanka.
In addition, the Senior Professor highlighted the positive impact of President Wickremesinghe’s candid remarks during discussions with influential foreign diplomats and chambers of commerce, which served to enhance the country’s image and promote both domestic and foreign investments in Sri Lanka.
These statements were made by Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga during his participation in the ‘101 Katha’ program produced by the Presidential Media Division (PMD). Reflecting on President Wickremesinghe’s speech at the 28th Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia, which was held in Japan, the Senior Professor praised the President’s emphasis on Asia’s significance in shaping the future of the world. Furthermore, he noted that President Wickremesinghe’s calls for an independent Asia in global politics were well-received by regional powers, including Japan.
Chairman of the UGC Prof. Sampath Amaratunga further said,
“President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s diplomatic prowess and balanced approach have enabled him to engage with various global entities in a mature and thoughtful manner. Recognizing the need to rectify past short-sighted decisions, President Wickremesinghe has taken proactive steps to address the strain in Sri Lanka’s relationship with Japan, particularly concerning the abandonment of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. This project was perceived by Japan as neglect or underestimation, leading to some estrangement between the two nations. However, I firmly believe that the light rail project holds immense potential for our country’s development.
Efficient urban infrastructure is crucial for rapid progress in any nation. The proper preparation of Thailand’s road system, for instance, has propelled its swift development. Had Japan proceeded with the light rail project in the past, it would have undoubtedly been highly beneficial for Sri Lanka. Regrettably, a misguided decision resulted in the loss of that opportunity. Nevertheless, President Wickremesinghe expressed remorse and sought to mend any misunderstandings with Japan.
Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund provided substantial debt restructuring assistance of nearly three billion US dollars, while Japan’s anticipated investment of around two billion dollars in the light rail project, though a loan, could be considered as a grant due to its low interest rate. Japanese aid tends to draw global attention to recipient countries, often leading to a cascade of investments and development projects. Moreover, President Wickremesinghe’s visit to Japan has paved the way for an additional two billion dollars in investment aid, presenting a significant opportunity for our country’s economic revival.
Looking ahead, the President intends to introduce legislation in Parliament, ensuring that foreign projects cannot be halted without mutual agreement. Such legislation is crucial to reap the benefits of investments, particularly when dealing with developed countries. The light rail project was initially conceived as a solution to suburban traffic congestion, underscoring the importance of transportation infrastructure development in overall infrastructure growth.
During the conference, we had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with our regional counterparts, providing a favourable platform for our country. The President delivered an invaluable speech at the conference, emphasizing that Asia represents the future of the world. A leader must effectively present their foreign policy on the global stage to ensure both domestic and international awareness. President Wickremesinghe’s unequivocal articulation of Sri Lanka’s policy, emphasizing impartiality, garnered substantial appreciation from Japan and regional nations. This achievement reflects our country’s pride and triumph, offering an opportunity to rebuild our international image after the crisis. The President’s adept utilization of such opportunities for the benefit of the nation serves as a commendable approach.
Sri Lanka, having experienced partial colonization for five centuries, holds intrinsic value on the international stage. Our significance goes beyond mere trade and extends to our role as a crucial contributor to Asian security. The rise of Asian countries to the top five and top ten globally signifies that Sri Lanka is an indispensable model that cannot be ignored or overlooked. Our digital economy, transportation systems, and investments like the Port City are of utmost importance. Embracing the digital economy is essential for our country’s progress.
Japan is eager to collaborate and move forward with us, and we can observe an overall improvement in our bilateral relations compared to two years ago. In the future, our country will benefit from institutional restructuring, prioritizing the viability of economically unviable entities. Japan’s meticulous approach to providing loans and aid, coupled with their effective technology transfer, has earned them worldwide acclaim. The President engaged in discussions with Japan’s Ministers of Technology, Finance, and Foreign Affairs, demonstrating their willingness to assist Sri Lanka. This paves the way for closer collaboration with Japan in the future, as we strive to become a country akin to their success. Utilizing long-term plans rather than seeking shortcuts is essential for our journey forward.”
You can access the video of the ‘101 Katha’ program, hosted by the President’s Media Division and featuring Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of the University Grants Commission, through the following link: https://youtu.be/Rm0N4MXSgHs
To stay updated with the latest information shared through the ‘101 Katha’ program, you can join the 101 Katha WhatsApp group using this link: https://tinyurl.com/101Katha