President’s visit to Japan boosts Sri Lanka’s image - Dr. Samarakoon | Daily News

President’s visit to Japan boosts Sri Lanka’s image - Dr. Samarakoon

G7 Group leaders were also there for discussions
 Senior Lecturer Dr. Athulasiri Samarakoon
Senior Lecturer Dr. Athulasiri Samarakoon

Senior Lecturer on Social Studies, Politics and International Relations of the Sri Lanka Open University Dr. Athulasiri Samarakoon said that the tour of Japan by President Ranil Wickremesinghe was a moment when a sheaf of treasured values was added to us. “One fact is that this is a moment when our country has fallen into an economic pit. We have to overcome that. Receiving assistance from Japan is a huge strength for us”.


•It is no secret that there is a long history regarding the friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka. Can you tell us some facts on this briefly?

There is a long historical link between Japan and Sri Lanka. It must be said that this relationship has been influenced by Buddhism, culture, core value systems that exist in our two countries and human norms. Two nationalities which are deeply bound together and our two countries can be identified as two such countries. There is a special significance here.

• What is that?

When relations were built between Japan and Sri Lanka during the initial era, we were a country which had an economic capability which was somewhat equal to theirs. But today, we have gone for discussions with them as a country which is facing a depression and has a collapsed economy. Here, we have facts that create immense respect regarding Japan.

• Why has Japan come forward to make such donations to Sri Lanka?

Japan, helps not only Sri Lanka but every country in the world. They are the second largest country which makes donations worldwide. Of the donations made by Japan over a period of 30 years the most donations have been presented to countries similar to ours. Japan has a special consideration for us. It is not apparent that they expect assistance from Sri Lanka politics wise, by giving these donations.

• Geo-politically does not any country help another country in the world expecting something in return?

It could be possible. However, it has to be said that Japan provides assistance to us, not based on obtaining geo-political advantages or by trying to influence. They are specially friendly, and although the country is located far away, they are close to us in our culture and religion and are very close friends.

• Are there any past activities of Sri Lankan politicians that had an impact on this? Can you explain with an example?

Yes, I can. In the year 1951, during the month of September, the World Peace Conference was held in San Francisco, USA. Objecting to the manner in which Japan acted during World War II, the entire world requested that they be punished. However, J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka, addressing the conference spoke of ‘Nahi Werenawerani’ in the Dhammapada mentioned in Buddhism which meant ‘hate does not quench hate,’ and said that it is great to be able to forgive in order to build peace. With this statement, Japan became close to Sri Lanka in a most amazing manner.

We began to bond more and more as two countries that represent strong, friendly, religious and cultural values within a wide range of the Far East region.

• Because of this, the economic, investment, trade and social benefits we received from Japan increased tremendously, didn’t they?

As I said before, by providing benefits to Sri Lanka, Japan does not intend to maintain their friendship with us. Japan is a country which likes peace and maintains a democratic administration and is an open, independent country that appreciates co-existence. Because of this they stayed close to us. Although we had a small economy, the reason why we became closer, shoulder to shoulder, to the very powerful Japanese economy was because of the very high level of understanding that existed in both our countries.

• There is a rumour that Sri Lanka which maintained this friendship with Japan uninterruptedly experienced a collapse in relations recently? Is that true?

It is true that there is a story within society that there was somewhat of a collapse in friendly relations between Japan and Sri Lanka as mentioned earlier, after the year 2019. There has been some sort of damage to relations. It has to be said that the reason was due to the fact that it happened because Governments in existence worked with them without proper understanding. It is very important for small countries such as us to maintain friendly relations with Japan as a country which has a leading economic capability in the world. Japan is a powerful country which could provide us with the strength, and encouragement required for us to overcome this massive economic downfall we are facing. It has to be appreciated that receiving assistance from countries such as Japan at this moment when Sri Lanka is attempting to tackle the economic depression the country is in.

• How does the recent tour President Ranil Wickremesinghe engaged in, in Japan, of value to us?

The tour of Japan by President Ranil Wickremesinghe was a moment when a sheaf of treasured values was added to us. One fact is that this is a moment when our country has fallen into an economic pit. We have to overcome that. Receiving assistance from Japan is a huge strength for us. The other fact is that during the period that the President’s tour took place, world leaders of the G7 group were in Japan for discussions. The Sri Lankan President’s tour during a period when such leaders were present was extremely important. However, as mentioned earlier, unlike when President J. R. Jayewardene visited Japan, President Ranil Wickremesinghe went there within two contexts.

• What are those two contexts?

Putting it simply, when President J. R. Jayewardene went to Japan, Sri Lanka was not a bankrupt country. It was a country which had an economy close to that of Japan. However, when President Ranil Wickremesinghe visited Japan, Sri Lanka had become a bankrupt country. As a result, the current President would have to explain facts much more than what President J. R. Jayewardene did in order to obtain assistance from Japan to rescue this country from the economic pit it is in.

• Can you explain briefly, regarding the leading investments and infrastructure facilities as well as development projects we received from Japan?

The contributions we received from Japan are the Hilton Hotel, the Tokyo Cement Company, and various constructions. In addition, from 1979 we have received project loans from Japan in large amounts. The number of projects received by Sri Lanka from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is extensive. They are our leading development partners. It is Japan which has given us the most grants from 2003 to 2017. Quantitatively, it is 1017 million. During that period, they had given US$5348 million in loan facilities. Among the other contributions made by Japan are the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital. There are many other things. I see other more significant events of cooperation extended to us by Japan.

• Within the current world geo-political competition, what is the importance of close relations between us and Japan?

Currently, there is a difference of opinion between the leading parties in the world, China and America. China, which is a country close to us in Asia, is opposing America with differences of opinions. Next, India has some conflicts with China. However, Asia has become the most rapidly developing region in the world. Because of this happening it is very important for Japan to be with us, while protecting harmony in Asia and dealing with the world.

• The President addressed the Asian Conference held in Japan during his visit there. How do you see the facts he presented?

Asia is becoming the most powerful economic region of the world. In the future, the most powerful economic zone in the world will be created in Asia. Within the region of Asia, are countries such as China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and a group of various other countries that provide cooperation either more or less to different political systems.

The President said in his speech that the unity of all these countries is to live with one consensus and work without division. The President of Sri Lanka explained the value of moving forward in harmony by making the Asian region an undivided and unseparated region.

• What do you see as the most valuable lending a hand by Japan to Sri Lanka in recent times?

That is when Sri Lanka was getting ready to restructure foreign debt, Japan agreed to it. On this occasion, they said that China and India should also explain the measures taken to restructure the debt. It was said that Japan will also act accordingly.It can be said that it is a big helping hand for our country.

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