Sushma Swaraj tributes | We will miss our friend: neighbours

Sri Lanka, Maldives recollect memories

“Friend” was a recurring term in messages that poured in from leaders in neighbouring Sri Lanka and the Maldives, as they expressed grief over former Minister Sushma Swaraj’s death.

Ms. Swaraj visited Sri Lanka in its post-war years, both in the capacity of Leader of Opposition and later, as External Affairs Minister.

Leaders across political hues fondly recalled their engagement with her.

In a message on Wednesday, President Maithripala Sirisena called her a “true friend” of Sri Lanka, referring to her “immense contribution” to strengthen bilateral ties.

“She has etched a remarkable stamp in politics and diplomacy, reaching out to people of all walks of life through her pragmatic and people-centred foreign policy outreach,” he said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the people of Sri Lanka would always remember the “personal touch” she brought to relations. Recalling his meetings with her, the PM said in her “pleasing personality” he found a “true friend, neighbour and a relation of Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Mangala Samarweera said in a tweet on Wednesday that “"#India has lost a great leader & #SriLanka a dear friend.”

Leader of Opposition and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa called her a “role model”. He tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of the demise of India’s Former Minister of External Affairs, Ms. Sushma Swaraj. I had the good fortune of engaging with her during my tenure as President. She was an exemplary role model for her contemporaries. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

In a Facebook post, Tamil legislator M.A. Sumanthiran said: “She was a friend of the Tamil National Alliance.” Tamil leaders here often refer to Ms. Swaraj’s keen interest and continued engagement on the Tamil question. During her visit to Sri Lanka in 2012 as Leader of Opposition, then President Rajapaksa assured her on implementing “13 plus”, implying that he would go beyond the 13th Amendment, which speaks of devolving powers to the provinces, to ensure substantive power-sharing with all provinces, including Tamil-majority ones.

Maldives’ condolences

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih described Ms. Swaraj as “India’s daughter”. “Sad at the passing of @SushmaSwaraj . Our condolences to her loved ones, @PMOIndia and people of India. She was a great friend of the Maldives. She was truly India’s daughter and will be greatly missed,” he said in a tweet.

Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed tweeted: “I am so sad to hear of the passing of @SushmaSwaraj. She was undoubtedly the best among the very best of diplomats. She understood South Asia and how it relates to the rest of the world. With her passing, we have lost a good colleague and friend.”

In his tribute, Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said she was a “stateswoman extraordinaire, diplomat par excellence; A warm human being.” Ms. Swaraj, he said, was a “key architect of renewed Maldives-India friendship”.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2020 1:03:39 PM |

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