Your Excellency Dinesh Gunawardena, Foreign Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Your Excellency Tharaka Balasuriya, State Minister of Regional Cooperation of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a special honour for me to join you all this morning, albeit virtually. I felt it was important for me to be able to see you, to exchange greetings with you, and to join you to launch the commemorative stamps marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Sri Lanka.
I want to start by thanking the Sri Lanka Post and SingPost for producing these exquisite stamps, which depict the rich biodiversity that exists in both our countries, and symbolise the friendly and collaborative nature of our bilateral relationship. You will notice if you look closely, the mangrove tree and the beautiful coral reefs (on the stamps). The beautiful coral reefs represent the beauty and the fragility of nature, especially with rising sea levels, and global warming. The mangrove tree represents the resilience of nature. I think these two represent the preciousness, beauty and resilience of our two countries, and of our bilateral relations.
We celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, but in fact, the maritime, trade, and cultural links between Sri Lanka and Singapore go back several centuries. Over the years, the small but very vibrant Sri Lankan community in Singapore has made significant contributions to our development. Our very own first Foreign Minister Mr S Rajaratnam was himself of Sri Lankan heritage. Today, Sri Lanka's influence can be found all around Singapore, including in our architecture, our street names, culture, and in our social fabric itself.
Over the past decades, our relations have grown from strength to strength, underscored by the warm ties between our leaders and our people. We have close and meaningful cooperation, both bilaterally and at international fora, where we often share common interests and concerns as fellow small island states. The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which we signed in 2018, is an icon of our burgeoning economic ties.
Whilst the current COVID-19 pandemic has been a very difficult time, I am glad that our two countries have kept up our collaboration. We have helped each other through commercial initiatives, for instance, to produce reusable face masks which have been distributed in both Singapore and Sri Lanka.
I am also pleased to note that Singaporean companies have maintained, over the decades, a strong interest in Sri Lanka, including in areas of food manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, FinTech and infrastructure development. Sri Lanka remains an attractive destination for Singapore enterprises – large, medium, and small. Sri Lanka and Singapore are natural hubs in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia respectively, and I look forward to the continued deepening of our economic ties, particularly as we now work towards a post-pandemic normal, a new normal, and to the recovery that awaits us. The stronger the links we build between us, the greater the opportunities for both our respective regions.
Let me again conclude by thanking the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry for organising this very meaningful ceremony to mark a major milestone in our bilateral ties. I wish you all the very best of health and success, and look forward to meeting all of you in person in the very near future.Thank you very much.
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