Commemorating 50 years of diplomatic ties

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 31 2021
Focus Commemorating 50 years of diplomatic ties

A joint stamp release ceremony was held at the Foreign Ministry, Sri Lanka on 27 July to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties which took place on the same day in 1970. This milestone event was held with the participation of the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Dinesh Gunawardena, and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, joining virtually.

The two stamps were ceremonially unveiled at the event, were especially designed for the occasion to depict the theme “Marine Conservation”, and showcasing the restoration of Coral Eco System in Sri Lanka, and Mangroves in Singapore and reflects the shared interest and commitment of both countries in protecting the marine environment.

Speaking at the occasion, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena highlighted the long standing friendly relations between the two countries, nurtured by deep rooted linkages at community and societal levels. He recalled his meeting with Minister Balakrishnan when both were holding different portfolios and the discussions held on tackling challenges posed by climate change across the globe. The Minister said further that the unveiling of commemorative postage stamps to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, undoubtedly shows the great warmth and friendship that exist between the two countries.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore His Excellency Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, in his remarks spoke about the warm and long-standing nature of Singapore-Sri Lanka relations. He noted the close and meaningful cooperation between our two countries, including during this COVID-19 period.

The event was attended by the former Sri Lanka High Commissioners who served in Singapore, Chitranganee Wagiswara, Nimal Weerarathna, Ferial Ashraff, Hony. Consul of Singapore in Sri Lanka, Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Singaporean business community in Sri Lanka, Secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media, Officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Department of Posts.

Singapore ceremony 

Meanwhile in Singapore a ceremony was held at the Shangri La a few hours prior to the Colombo event where High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Singapore, Sashikala Premawardhane and Non-Resident High Commissioner of Singapore Chandra Das unveiled the two stamps in the presence of Mr. Gilbert Oh, Director-General of the South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore. Ms. Ruth Wong, Deputy Director, Postal & Consumer Policy, Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), and Ms. Peggy Teo, Vice President, Philately & Stamps, together with several other officials of MFA, IMDB, SingPost and the High Commission of Sri Lanka.

The Foreign Ministry extends its appreciation and congratulations to the Government of Singapore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore, SingPost, and the Department of Post of Sri Lanka and to the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Singapore for the successful issuance of the commemorative stamps marking 50 years of friendship between Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Bilateral Relations

Sri Lanka and Singapore established diplomatic relations in 1970. The last 50 years of diplomatic connectivity between Singapore and Sri Lanka has been significant. Although the relationship goes back to centuries both countries have been maintaining warm and cordial bilateral relations. The friendly ties have been enhanced through the recent exchange of high-level visits such as the visit of Hon. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore to Sri Lanka in January 2018.

Sri Lanka hopes to expand bilateral relations with Singapore in the areas of defence, development strategies and international trade, industry and commerce and law and order. The Singapore -Sri Lanka relationship is one that is built on mutual respect, trust and understanding. The relationship is underpinned by shared cultural values and strong people to people linkages. The regular exchanges that are taking at the highest- level, emphasized the importance placed by the two countries on the relationship.

During this challenging time the strength of this relationship is tested, and have clearly seen the depth of this relationship. Singapore has been one of the first countries to come forward aftermath the Easter Sunday attack, the deadliest single day violence experienced by Sri Lanka. Extensive assistance was provided through the Internal Security Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs of Singapore.

Again during the pandemic, the Government of Singapore and Temasek Foundation gave strong support to augment Sri Lanka’s response to the pandemic by donating vital health care equipment, PPE, ventilators, test kits and much more in the past year.

Historical Relations

Sri Lankans travelled to Singapore in the early 1900s and were instrumental in supporting Singapore’s nation building process, by aiding in developments in the fields of civil service, law, medicine, education, engineering, housing and sports. In fact, Jaffna Tamils in the Straits Settlements civil service are credited with laying the foundation for Singapore’s administrative and government services. According to resources, the first group of Ceylonese came to Singapore after the Straits Settlements became a Crown colony in 1867. They arrived in large numbers from the 1880s to 1890s, and this influx was due to demand for trained men to fill the lower ranks of the Straits Settlements government service.

In Singapore, Ceylonese mostly settled around Ceylon Road, Marshall Road, Haig Road and Tanjong Katong Road. Near the junction of Ceylon and East Coast roads is the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Hindu Temple. It was established in the mid-19th century by Ceylonese Tamils, who built a shrine after they discovered a statue of Lord Vinayagar washed up on the banks near a Chempaka tree in the area.

The Ceylonese Christian clergy played a founding role by establishing Methodist churches and mission schools, in Singapore, like the Methodist Girls’ School. One of the most prominent Sri Lankan Buddhist Temples of the Theravada tradition, the Sri Lankaramaya is operated by the Singapore Sinhala Buddhist Association which was established in 1920. These linkages demonstrate the close societal and community linkages that exist.

Singapore has had several distinguished leaders in education, in medicine and politics who are of Sri Lankan origin. Among the most notable is Singapore’s first Foreign Minister His Excellency S Rajaratnam, former Deputy Prime Minister and current Senior Minister of Singapore, Hon Tharman Shanmugaratnam, top-ranking civil servant and diplomat J Y Pillay, Raffles Institution’s former Headmaster Mr Eugene Wijeysingha, and medical pioneer and leader in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Dr Shan S Ratnam to name but a few. Even today, Sri Lankans and Singaporeans of Sri Lankan origin continue to contribute richly to the multicultural fabric of Singapore1.

Economic relations

Trade and investment are important aspects that bind two countries. Singapore today is the 5th largest investor in Sri Lanka. Around 100 Singaporean businesses operate in Sri Lanka involved in various sectors such as manufacturing, real estate, and infrastructure development. In 2019 the total value of the investments from Singapore was US$

97.175 million. Even with the constraints of the pandemic, during the period of January to September 2020 investments from Singapore stood at US $ 43.36 million. Singapore has invested a total of US$ 786 million during the period of 2005 -2019.

As an important milestone in Trade connectivity between the two countries, Sri Lanka and Singapore signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2018. Singapore is Sri Lanka’s sixth largest source of imports with around 4% of Sri Lanka’s total imports. In the new normal era, opportunities have emerged in the e- commerce, innovations and Agri -business sectors.

The Stamp

The stamp is launched to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Singapore - Sri Lanka Diplomatic Relations and the theme of the postage stamp is “Marine Biodiversity Conservation”.

This joint issue consists of two stamps depicting “Restoration of Coral Eco System in Sri Lanka” and “Mangroves in Singapore”. The Department of Posts, Sri Lanka and Singapore Post will issue the same approved design.

Philately is, an amazing symbol of how cultures can build the accomplishments, common values to transform into policies that are important to the world. The meaningful theme of the postage stamp “Marine Biodiversity Conservation” indicates the commitment of both countries towards the current issues that we are facing with the marine ecosystems. The marine ecosystems provide services including food security, feed for livestock, raw materials for medicines, and natural defences against hazards such as coastal erosion and inundation. It also contributes to the two friendly nations by sending out an important message to many people in our two countries giving space to think good about each other which in turn contributes to the soft diplomacy and public diplomacy.

Importance of philately in international relations

Philately is an important area of international understanding and cooperation and a meeting point between social dynamics and relations between nations by putting their co-existence at harmony. Hence this ceremony is of great importance to the longstanding relations of the two countries.

Marine Biodiversity

Marine ecosystems are immensely varied both in type and geographical extent, encompassing oceans, salt marshes and intertidal zones, bays and lagoons, mangroves and coral reefs, the deep sea and the sea floor deriving important and crucial role for human welfare, providing social, economic and environmental benefits to the earth’s growing population.

Marine Biodiversity in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka enjoys a remarkable biological diversity and is considered to be the richest country in the asian region in terms of species concentration. With 1,620 Km of coastline, the country exhibits a wide array of ecosystems, ranging from forest to agriculture, aquatic and marine environments. Sri Lanka’s rich marine and coastal biodiversity includes 208 species of hard coral and 756 species of marine mollusks.

The mangrove forest area of Sri Lanka is around 15,669 hectares2, which is around 0.2 per cent of the total land area, as per the Forest Department s estimation. Mangrove forests are important feeding grounds for thousands of species and support a diverse food web3. Acting as hunting grounds, they also contribute to eco-tourism. Sri Lanka’s national policy on conservation and sustainable utilization of Mangrove Ecosystems focuses on ensuring protection through minimising negative impacts that can occur during development activities, drive forward the synergistic effects of the socio- economic and environmental parameters and overcoming overgrown mangrove forests

that creates hindrance to communities. Sri Lanka has become the first nation in the world to comprehensively protect all of its mangrove forests4.

Marine Biodiversity in Singapore

Rapid and sustained coastal development, land reclamation, and intense use of surrounding waters by shipping, have made concomitant intertidal and sub tidal habitats across most of the southern shoreline of Singapore mainland as well as other offshore islands5. However, the present extent and diversity of marine life that can be observed in Singapore today is still impressive. Much remains to be discovered and deciphered in terms of their biology and ecology. New records and species new to science continue to be described, even as new coastlines are built, and organisms continually adapt to a changing environment characterized by chronic disturbance.

Mangrove Biodiversity in Singapore

The largest patch of mangrove area in mainland Singapore, found in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, only covers an estimated total land area of 100 hectares. This marshland is under legal protection and is also recognized as a site of international importance for migratory birds.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 31 2021

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