The High Commission of Sri Lanka in Pretoria celebrated its 76th Independence Day on 4th February 2024 in Pretoria.

Acting High Commissioner Mr Suminda Mendis warmly welcomed guests, including friends of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan nationals.

The program commenced with the singing of the two National Anthems, followed by blessings from four different religious faiths, namely Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic.

The children eagerly participated in the traditional lighting of the oil lamp.

President Ranil Wickramasinghe’s speech was read out to the guests.

The focus of the speech was on the contributions of all Sri Lankans, both at home and abroad, who are encouraged to continue their support in rebuilding the country. President Wickramasinghe stated that despite numerous challenges faced by the government in maintaining economic stability, the ongoing support of the country’s citizens is driving the comprehensive, long-term national rebuilding program forward.

For the period of two years, 2023 to 2025, Sri Lanka will hold the Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, with India as Vice-Chair. Taking over from its predecessor Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry of Sri Lanka stated that the country will work to boost free trade among member nations.

Since its inception with 14 member states in 1997, the membership of IORA has expanded to 23 countries, including South Africa, and 11 dialogue partners, with headquarters in Mauritius.

The Council of Ministers meeting held in Colombo on 11th October

2023 saw the participation of 16 Ministers who deliberated on ways to cooperate on six priority areas identified by the IORA, including Trade and Investment, Maritime Safety and Security, Blue Economy, and Disaster Risk Management.

The meeting was held under the theme “Strengthening Regional Architecture: Reinforcing Indian Ocean Identity” and took stock of IORA’s progress since the last meeting in Bangladesh.

The event in Pretoria concluded with traditional Sri Lankan cuisine for everyone to enjoy.

by Marion Kate