COLOMBO – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak describes his official visit to Sri Lanka as very successful in opening investment opportunities to Malaysia as that country is now on the eve of economic recovery.
He said that during his meeting with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday, several consensus had been reached including the efforts to realise the International Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
“I see Sri Lanka as a nation that has many similarities with us and they are now on the eve of economic recovery (after the civil war), this is the right time for us to grab the opportunity, when a nation is about to take off, this is the time we can gain opportunities,” he told Malaysian journalists when commenting on his three-day official visit to this country, today.
Najib is scheduled to leave for the Maldives for an official visit to that country this evening.
The Prime Minister said the FTA between Malaysia and Sri Lanka is expected to be finalised at the end of next year or in early 2019 at the latest.
He said the latest development was achieved during his meeting with his counterpart, Ranil Wickremesinghe today.
“Consequent to my discussion with Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena earlier, the meeting (with Wickremesinghe) today focused on several follow-up actions and in detail on what we can do.
“These include the continued commitment to take follow-up actions to finalise the FTA. Hopefully, at the end of 2018 or early 2019 it can be finalised. Sri Lanka must resolve the FTA with Singapore first before focusing on Malaysia,” he said.
He said Sri Lanka perceived Malaysia to be a very suitable trading partner because Malaysia was not a large nation but was also not a small nation and did not threaten (the economy of) that country.
The Prime Minister said, as an example, the Malaysian telecommunication company that is successful in Sri Lanka, Dialog Axiata not only succeeded in making lucrative profits and creating employment opportunities to more than 350,000 people of that country, but it also implemented its corporate social responsibility programmes including assisting smart schools, providing technical information data for farmers and so on.
Najib said he had also received a courtesy call from the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Region, C.V.Wigneswaran who provided the latest information on the situation in the region which is under pressure after the civil war.
He said, Jaffna was under pressure after being affected by the civil war and 45,000 women had become single mothers without any source of income while 11,000 former soldiers were now without any job.
He said Malaysia would try to help the region with the cooperation of non-governmental organisations to send a special mission and to see what aid could be given based on he country’s capability.
The Prime Minister said Malaysia had more than 200,000 people of Sri Lankan descent and many of them were successful and could possibly cooperate with the government to send an aid mission.
Replying to another question on the suggestion by certain quarters that all Muslim countries open up their respective embassy in Palestine, Najib said the matter must be studied and discussed at the Cabinet level before hand.
“We also need the opinion from Palestine and so far, we have not received any opinion from the Palestinian authorities.
Malaysia has so far set up the Egyptian and Palestinian embassy in Egypt.
Najib said Malaysia remained committed to champion the rights of the Palestinians and opposed the move by the United States in recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“This means that our stand is firm on this matter,” he added.