Sri Lankan Speaker Abeywardena thanks India for help during financial crisis, says 'you saved us'

The Sri Lankan Speaker’s remarks, made during a gala dinner reception attended by Indian and Sri Lankan officials, highlighted the cultural and policy interconnections between the two countries and praised India’s support in saving Sri Lanka from further turmoil.

July 08, 2023 11:58 am | Updated 01:21 pm IST - Colombo

Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, greets speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena as he arrives at the parliament to deliver his policy speech in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, greets speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena as he arrives at the parliament to deliver his policy speech in Colombo, Sri Lanka. | Photo Credit: AP

Describing New Delhi as a "close associate" and a "trustworthy friend" of Colombo, Sri Lanka's Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Friday thanked India for the financial assistance it extended to the island nation when it reeled under an unprecedented economic crisis last year.

Sri Lanka was hit by a catastrophic financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves. As the country struggled, locked in the throes of the crisis, India extended multi-pronged assistance of about $4 billion to it last year, through multiple credit lines and currency support, in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

In his address at the gala dinner reception hosted for delegates of the Indian Travel Congress here, Mr. Abeywardena said that India "saved us" during the financial crisis otherwise, there would have been "another bloodbath for all of us".

At the evening reception, the Speaker thanked India for the help extended to the cash-strapped nation and recalled the civilisational ties and similarities between the two countries and their cultures.

"Sri Lanka and India are very, very closely interconnected countries, culturally, nationally, and policy-wise, and above all, India has been a very close associate and trustworthy friend of Sri Lanka." Mr. Abeywardena said, adding that when "we were in trouble", India always helped out. "And, even this time, today, I heard that India is willing to extend our restructuring of loans for 12 years. Never expected, and never in the history, not a single country has extended that kind of assistance," he said.

Also Read |India’s timely help ensured Sri Lanka’s economic survival during crisis: Sri Lankan envoy Moragoda 

He recalled the helping hand lent by India during the period of trouble last year that devastated the Sri Lankan economy, pushing it into a debt crisis.

"I must tell you, during the trouble that we had last year, you (India) saved us, India saved us otherwise, there would have been another bloodbath for all of us. So, that is how India came to help us." Mr. Abeywardena said.

He made the remarks in the presence of the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, Sri Lanka's Tourism and Lands Minister, Harin Fernando, and other senior officials of the Sri Lankan government.

"Your ambassador here, (a) very close friend of ours. We love and respect him," the Speaker said, referring to Mr. Baglay.

Noting the similarity between the Indian surname Singh and the Sri Lankan surname Singhe, Mr. Abeywardena claimed that "it shows we are genetically connected to India"

"That way, India is not a new country to us. It's part of the ethos of our country, part of our life, part of our heart," he said, adding, "We are here to receive you, respect you, join with you." 

Also Read | The View from India | India’s helping hand for Sri Lanka 

"Together, we (Sri Lanka) can join with you (India), without any difficulty or hesitation, with great trust," the Speaker said.

In his address, Mr. Fernando pitched Sri Lanka -- Pearl of the Indian Ocean -- as a unique destination for India and the rest of the world, saying, "One island nation offers so many different tourist experiences, without travelling far from one location to another."

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