The Ambassador of Sri Lanka Dr. A. Saj U. Mendis, met with Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa at the Gudaibiya Palace of the Prime Minister, in order to discuss and broach issues of substance and significance vis-à-vis bilateral relations between the two countries with particular focus on creation of skilled and highly skilled employment for Sri Lankans and tourism from the Kingdom of Bahrain to Sri Lanka, among others.
Shaikh Abdulla Al Khalifa is one of the senior most political leaders in the Kingdom of Bahrain having been appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister in 2010. In the past, he has held key and politically seminal office of Minister of Housing as well Ministers of Agriculture, Municipalities and Environment. He was the first ever Minister of Housing since the Independence and served in this capacity from 1975 to 1995. He is also the Chair of the Olympic Committee and the largest sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom, known as Mumtalakat, among others.
The Deputy Prime Minister welcomed the Envoy, Dr. Mendis, and stated that the bilateral relations, in all spheres and provinces, have been progressing steadily and affably, particularly, with active participation of a competent, disciplined, honest and committed expatriate workforce from Sri Lanka. The Deputy Prime Minister also added that the expatriate Sri Lankan workers have contributed to the expansion and development of the Kingdom of Bahrain, during the past decades.
Mendis emphasised the vitality of the expatriate Sri Lankan work force in the Gulf region including the Kingdom of Bahrain adding that the contribution of remittances is nearly 9% of the GDP, which is greater than the combined total contribution of garment sector, tourism, tea and gems and jewellery.
He also expressed gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister for providing a contented and amiable milieu for Sri Lankan expatriate workers to live and work in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Ambassador Mendis also suggested that Sri Lanka has a large pool of highly qualified, experienced and competent workers in disciplines such as IT and ITES, quantity survey, accountancy, engineering, academia and hospitality, among others.
On behalf of the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ambassador Dr. Mendis expressed greetings and best wishes to the Deputy Prime Minister for demonstrating solidarity and unity to Sri Lanka, especially, at the most testing and trying times such as at the Human Rights Council, among others. The Deputy Prime Minister also stated that Sri Lanka is well placed and well poised to become a rapidly developing nation, thus benefiting not only the South Asian region but the entire Asia.
Ambassador also highlighted that SriLankan Airlines operates direct flights between Colombo and Bahrain, daily, and the national carrier of the Kingdom, Gulf Air too operates direct flights five times a week to Colombo, thus facilitating Bahrain and other nationalities to visit Sri Lanka, with ease and comfort.
Mendis detailed the recent political and economic developments in the country which have transformed and transmogrified the entire political and economic landscape of the country. He added that the democratic norms, tenets, ideals and values are re-stored and entrenched in the country with the election of the Government of Sirisena in early 2015 and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in August of 2015 respectively.
Mendis also highlighted the recent high level visits between the two countries such as the visit of Principal Advisor to the Prime Minister; Chief of Labour Authority, known as Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), Ausamah Al Absi; and Minister of Labour and Social Development to attend the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) in Colombo.
Al Absi, President of LMRA, visited Sri Lanka in order to conduct discussions with the counterpart Minister in Sri Lanka and senior most officials to strategize efficacious courses of action to secure employment of semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled Sri Lankans in Bahrain. This, particular, visit was followed up by a high-level visit from Ministry of Foreign Employment and SLBFE of Sri Lanka to Bahrain, a couple of months ago. These high-level visits further widened and elevated the already-close relations between the two countries.
The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated that both Sri Lanka and the Kingdom of Bahrain are island nation states, with increasing potentiality, and Bahrain would be eager to enhance and to augment economic, touristic and commercial cooperation as well as creation of employment for Sri Lankans, thus leading to the expansion and diversification of the economic base of both the countries.