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President Rajapaksa’s visit to Libya:

New life to Libya-Lanka relations

The Sri Lanka - Libya development cooperation commenced with the establishment of LAN LIB company exactly three decades ago to promote peace and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. The two countries can see new vistas and areas where tremendous advantages and gains can accrue to both countries.


Libyan Leader Muammar Gadaffi is served a cup of Sri Lanka tea at a special rest hall allocated to the Heads of State attending the NAM Summit at the BMICH in 1976. ANCL File Photo

Sri Lanka and Libya relations have stood the test of time and has gone to the extent of exploring the employment market in the construction, hospitality, trade and investment sectors in Libya. The relations between the two countries will be enhanced with President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official visit to Libya which begins today.

The two countries enjoyed intimate and cordial relations under the Non Aligned Movement since the establishment of Libyan mission in Colombo in 1970.

The official visit of Libyan President Col Muammar Gadaffi to Sri Lanka in 1976 took the bilateral relations into new vistas. The then Government led by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike who treaded the path of non alignment recognised Libya as a partner for development and prosperity.

The development of Libya suffered a major setback by the various sanctions imposed by the United Nations after the Lockerbie incident in 1988. UN sanctions were lifted in 2003, once the Lockerbie incident had finally been resolved with Libya agreeing to pay compensation to the victims of PanAm flight which was exploded over the Lockerbie village in Scotland.

Lifting of UN restrictions on Libya boosted the tourism with a number of resorts springing up along its Mediterranean coast. The Sri Lanka - Libya development cooperation commenced with the establishment of LAN LIB company exactly three decades ago to promote peace and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. The two countries can see new vistas and areas where tremendous advantages and gains can accrue to both countries.

Sri Lankan tea has established a very strong market in Libya and it has become a household name among the Libyans. Other Sri Lankan products are also catching up the Libyan market rapidly since the liberalisation of the Libyan economy to some extent.

The modern Libya of the Al Fatech revolution has committed to the bilateral and multilateral system of free trade for the development of the country under the leadership of Colonel Gadaffi who overthrew the then administration by a coup in 1969.

Sri Lanka is looking forward to forge more closer economic ties with Libyan following bilateral and multilateral modus operandi.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa Government took initiative to forge more closer ties with Libya after it came into power in 2005 by sending strong delegations at ministerial level.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama led a strong business delegation particularly for the purpose of expanding economic relations with Libya in August 2007. The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister stressed the need of establishing a consulate in Tripoli to boost the economic relations between the two countries.

According to the Foreign Ministry sources, the Foreign Minister has sought Libyan assistance for the construction of Trincomalee - Habarana Highway during the discussion. Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Development Minister A. H. M. Fowzie who was a member of the delegation has also requested the Libyan technical assistance in the exploration of petroleum resources in Sri Lanka.

The Cabinet of Ministers approved to a memorandum submitted by the Foreign Minister Bogollagama to set up a Sri Lanka mission in Tripoli. However the relations between the two countries was fading since 1980 and Libyan mission in Colombo functioned as an Interest Section under a Charge d’ Affaires since 2006.

Foreign Employment Promotion Minister Keheliya Rambukwella also led a delegation to Libya to explore possibility of exploiting employment opportunities for Sri Lankan professionals particularly in the health care and IT sector.

The two countries signed agreements, for the setting up of two hotel schools, in Tripoli and Bengasi to train Libyans in the hospitality trade. The proposed nursing school will train nurses and paramedics needed in Libya. Teaching and coaching in the hospitality and the health sector too are to be conducted by professors and professionals from Sri Lanka.

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