French National Day 2020 : Message from the ambassador [fr]
Like every year we are celebrating today, on the 14th of July, the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which initiated the French Revolution. It is an event that has had universal repercussions and has undoubtedly changed many things politically, socially and culturally in the world.
However today, I would like to recall the months that we have spent in exceptional circumstances here in Sri Lanka as we had to face a pandemic that nobody expected and which stopped the whole world in a few weeks!
As you may know, France has been hit hard, as other European Union countries, and today we deplore nearly 30,000 deaths and still many serious cases in hospitals, even though we are gradually emerging from this acute crisis.
First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the families and loved ones of the COVID-19 victims. Sri Lanka has also been hit by the epidemic, but the very courageous measures taken by the authorities (in particular the strict curfew) have enabled to curtail the spread of the disease in the island. I am pleased for all Sri Lankans and also to all the authorities, especially to the health authorities, for their commitment in controlling this epidemic. I take this occasion to renew my warmest congratulations that I have already expressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the last meeting held with the European Union Ambassadors. The recent developments confirm the quality of the Sri Lankan health system.
Relations between France and Sri Lanka are traditionally excellent, and we had at the beginning of the year a visit from the senior official in charge of Asia at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, which enabled us to carry out a detailed review of our bilateral relationship and prepare new developments in our exchanges, just before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Given the current situation, we were unable to organize our annual French Spring Festival. We are obviously very sad because we believe that relations between countries depend very often on cultural exchanges. We will of course resume the festival next year and we hope to have the opportunity to organize cultural events in near future with all our Sri Lankan partners and the four Alliances Françaises of Sri Lanka dedicated to promote the French language and francophone culture.
Likewise, as soon as the re-opening of universities, we intend to enhance education cooperation between academic institutions of our two countries and also to introduce more opportunities for Sri Lankan students to study in France. In this field, it is important to note that we have launched a joint research program between the French Institute of Pondicherry and five Sri Lankan universities on the socio-ecological resilience of Sri Lanka’s coastal areas.
Finally, I would like to highlight our cooperation in the field of development with the action of the French Development Agency (AFD), whose work is going further in the fields of drinking water supply (in Colombo with the National Water and Sanitation and Drainage Board), improving energy infrastructures (with the Ceylon Electricity Board) and urban development (in Anuradhapura). The AFD is also preparing two major projects, one for water treatment for the city of Jaffna and the other for the construction of two irrigation dams in the Batticaloa region. Other projects are still under consideration (fisheries in the south, urban transport in Colombo). On its side, the French Ministry of Finance contributes to this cooperation with a loan to finance the equipment of 6 small scale dairies which will provide quality milk to children in rural schools and a grant to finance the feasibility studies of the Pettah Multimodal Hub project.
I will conclude by recalling the months that we have spent here, in a very unusual situation, have allowed everyone to share moments of solidarity in the face of the disease. We are pleased to have been able, with our Sri Lankan friends, to understand better each other and to see the exceptional ability of the population to resist adversity.
On the occasion of our national day, I would like to thank all the Sri Lankans who have helped and assisted us during this period. Moreover, I can say with great certainty and absolute confidence that our two countries will emerge stronger from this ordeal. In future, we are hoping to see again many French tourists returning to Sri Lanka, who will be able to embrace the warmth and hospitality of the Sri Lankan people.
Ambassador of France to Sri Lanka and the Maldives