Lord Tariq Ahmad
I’m pleased I’ve been able to meet many senior members of the government, including the President, the Prime Minister and of course the Foreign Minister as well. Together with that, it’s really understanding the fabric of what constitutes Sri Lanka today. It’s mix of different communities, personalities, people young and old. Learning from our elders but learning also from our young.
I’ve met with incredible and brave courageous human rights defenders. Also civil society leaders, faith leaders, who have shared with me some of the challenges they face. But also their hopes for coming together – together to build a modern inclusive Sri Lanka. And as a partner and friend of Sri Lanka, that’s what the UK wants to see as well.
During my time in Sri Lanka with the communities and the people I’ve met, we’ve discussed a broad range of issues from education to the environment, from investment opportunities to the economy. But also, as the UK’s Human Rights Minister, the importance of Civil and Human Rights within Sri Lanka. Of conflicts of the past; how communities need to work together. The importance to ensure there is reconciliation, there is justice for the victims of what happened and went before, but equally and most importantly for Sri Lanka, reconciliation between communities.
Equally important is of course the challenge of Climate Change.
Climate Change and the environment continue to be important areas of concern but also opportunity, not just for Sri Lanka but for the whole world. We were delighted to welcome the President and his team to COP26 along with other world leaders to Glasgow in November last year and during the course of my discussions with government and civil society, I’ve seen projects that have looked at the biodiversity of Sri Lanka, protecting natural habitats across Sri Lanka, the projects I’ve seen on wetlands, how mangroves have planted to protect the coastline of Sri Lanka, an island state like the United Kingdom, and, during this time we’ve also discussed how we can look at sustainable energy, alternative energy, solar and indeed the expertise the UK can provide from its area of insights – our own leadership on offshore wind
I believe the richness of the discussions we’ve had across all areas of society looking at issues which confront us today as a global community looking at issues of how we can strengthen our bilateral relations, looking at how different agencies such as the British Council can continue to contribute to the education diversity of Sri Lanka, how we can empower women who play an incredible role across all elements of Sri Lankan society. We want to see more women leaders in Sri Lanka and the UK, indeed in the world.
But I do believe the last three days have illustrated to me that we can come together, we can build a constructive relationship, beyond where we are today with Sri Lanka, we can discuss the issues of difference and challenge in a candid but constructive fashion. We can stress the importance of inclusivity of communities, the strengthening of human and civil rights and at the same time explore economic empowerment for all communities across this island state.