Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay concludes visit to Sri Lanka
Saturday, 18 April 2015 00:00
Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay who visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of President Maithripala Sirisena concluded his three-day official visit recently.
He was received on arrival by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera along with several dignitaries. Tashi Doma accompanied the Bhutanese Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan was accorded a ceremonial welcome on 10 April at the Presidential Secretariat including a Guard of Honour and the Gun Salute. The President of Sri Lanka, accompanied by several Cabinet Ministers engaged in bilateral talks with the visiting Prime Minister and the Bhutanese delegation. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe hosted a working luncheon in honour of the visiting Bhutanese leader. President Sirisena hosted a Banquet in honour of the visiting Prime Minister. Tobgay was accompanied throughout the visit by Food Security Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera in his capacity as the Minister in Attendance.
The official discussions on 10 April between the two sides were marked by friendship, mutual respect and understanding.
President Sirisena while warmly welcoming Prime Minister Tobgay said that the visit is a very special occasion for both countries given that it further consolidates a relationship which is linked through ancient Buddhist associations binding the two peoples in a special spiritual and cultural bond. Cultural and Buddhist affinities, he said, are particularly helpful in developing relations and which is reflected in the presentation of the sacred Bo sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi as a gift to the people of Bhutan on the occasion of the 60th Birth Anniversary of fourth King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck being commemorated this year.
President Sirisena commended Bhutan’s unique development paradigm centralised on human happiness and conveyed the blessings and best wishes for the continued prosperity of the people of Bhutan. The Sri Lankan President shared with the visiting Prime Minister the several initiatives underway as part of the 100-day program carried out by the Government after his election as President including the key constitutional reforms aimed at reducing the powers of the Executive Presidency, re-establishing democratic governance including the rule of law and people-centric development initiatives.
He further pointed out that this same inspiration is reflected in Sri Lanka re-invigorating her relations with the international community, which he said was critically important for Sri Lanka’s future. In this context, President Sirisena expressed confidence that the two countries will also continue the excellent cooperation in regional and multilateral fora and thanked Bhutan for the consistent support and understanding extended to Sri Lanka over the years.
Good wishes of the King of Bhutan
Prime Minister Tobgay conveyed the warm greetings and good wishes of the King of Bhutan to the President, the Government and people of Sri Lanka. He extended profound gratitude for the overwhelming welcome and hospitality he received in Sri Lanka and congratulated Sirisena on his election as President which he said reflected the extensive trust and confidence placed by the people in his leadership.
He observed that the change which has taken in such a short time during President Sirisena’s leadership is widely welcomed in Sri Lanka and by the outside world. Tobgay extended a warm invitation for Sirisena to visit Bhutan at an early date. He observed that although Bhutan is a landlocked country and Sri Lanka an island, the two countries shared a special spiritual affinity and a unique friendship which binds the two peoples in a special way.
The Prime Minister conveyed the profound gratitude of the people of Bhutan for the gift of the sacred Bo sapling which would be presented to the king. The Planting Ceremony to take place soon will be blessed by the presence of a high level delegation of Venerable Clergy from Sri Lanka. He went on to convey that the present visit while consolidating this friendship is also a special spiritual journey for him and his delegation given the opportunity to visit several places of Buddhist religious significance.
He also informed the developments in Bhutan particularly those associated with the transition towards a parliamentary system of governance blended finely with the role of the Monarchy that has taken place in the last few several years.
Bilateral discussions’ focus
The bilateral discussions focused special attention on initiatives in education and human resources development, health, aviation and cultural cooperation as well as regional and multilateral initiatives, and, ways and means of further enhancing this engagement.
In the fields of education and human resource development and health it was decided to look at enhancement of scholarships, placements and provide better facilities for Bhutanese students in Sri Lanka who at present number around 200.
The Bhutanese side thanked Sri Lanka for extensive facilitation of Bhutanese medical students at Universities in Sri Lanka. The excellence of the students and the commitment the Sri Lankan-trained doctors have in serving the people of Bhutan was warmly acknowledged. Sri Lanka also offered to provide short-term training to Bhutanese nurses in various specialisations which would create a useful synergy between the Sri Lankan-qualified doctors and the nurses. The two sides also agreed to share expertise in healthcare systems and administration.
The two leaders emphasised the need to finalise, at an early date, the bilateral Air Services Agreement currently being negotiated. The Sri Lankan side invited Bhutanese airlines to commence flights to Sri Lanka which would provide a particular impetus to enhancing economic relations, religious and leisure tourism, people-to-people contact as well as facilitate Buddhist pilgrimages and inter-regional and intra-regional air connectivity.
President Sirisena proposed that bilateral and regional initiatives in several fields need to be progressed emphasising particularly on the development of technological and scientific cooperation.
MoU on bilateral consultations
The two leaders witnessed the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Consultations between the Foreign Ministries which establishes a mechanism for regular review of all bilateral initiatives. The two sides will meet at an early date for the first consultation to maintain the momentum generated by the Prime Minister’s visit.
In Colombo, the Prime Minister visited the Kelaniya Raja Mahaviharaya, Gangaramaya Temple and the Parliament. Following the bilateral discussions, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Higher Education Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama called on the visiting Prime Minister and discussed specific initiatives to take forward the preceding discussions.
On Saturday (11 April), the Bhutanese Prime Minister paid homage to the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, adorned a robe on the sacred bodhi tree and participated in traditional religious observances at the Atamasthanaya. He received from Ven. Dr. Pallegama Sirinivasa Thero, Atamasthanadhipathi, the sapling of the sacred Bo Tree.
Following his visit to Anuradhapura, Tobgay visited the UNESCO World Heritage City of Kandy and paid homage at the Sri Dalada Maligawa. He then paid last respects to the remains of the late Most Venerable Keerthi Sri Dhammadassi Rathnapala Bhuddharakkhithabhimana Thero, Chief Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter. He was hosted to lunch by the Central Province Governor Suranagee Ellawala. During his visit to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, the Bhutanese leader was accorded the honour of planting a sapling of an endemic plant in Sri Lanka Eugenia rufo-fulva (Myrtaceae) in commemoration of his visit to Sri Lanka.
The Consul of Bhutan in Sri Lanka Abbas Esufally hosted a dinner in honour of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay before departure to Bhutan. Prime Minister Tobgay was accompanied by Minister of Education of Bhutan Lyonpo Mingbo Dukpa, Actg. Foreign Secretary of Bhutan Ambassador Sonam T. Rabgye, Ambassador of Bhutan in Sri Lanka Pema Choden, Director, Department of Civil Aviation of Bhutan Wangdi Gyaltshen, and other senior officials.