Author: MOHAMMED RASOOLDEENSun, 2018-02-04 03:00ID: 1517686332917952900
RIYADH: Sri Lankan Ambassador Azmi Thassim said that he is glad that his country is celebrating its independence and national day at a significant period as the Kingdom steers activities toward the Saudi Vision 2030.
Thassim, whose father, the late M. R. Thassim was his country’s first ambassador in the Kingdom, was speaking to Arab News on the eve of his country’s national day.
“We are glad to participate in the Kingdom’s cherished goals toward the Vision 2030,” the envoy said, adding that there are many promising areas where the two countries could cooperate and achieve mutual benefits under the program.
Recalling long-standing bilateral relations between the two countries, they have seen eye to eye with each other on several international issues which benefit the global population.
To boost bilateral relations, Sri Lanka’s current focus is on promoting trade, tourism, investments and deployment of skilled workers in the Kingdom.
A trade delegation last October was followed by an employment promotion delegation from Colombo, he said, then a Saudi trade team visited the island in last December.
Saudi tourists have started visiting to Sri Lanka in large numbers lately. Last year, a record 50,000-plus Saudi tourists visited the island.
“We hope to raise this number in the coming years by increasing the facilities and services provided to Saudi nationals who go to Sri Lanka for business and family holidays.”
He said Saudi tourists feel at home on the island with its friendly people and the easy availability of halal foods and mosques throughout the island.
“Sri Lanka is popularly known as the land of the smiling people,” he stressed. Sri Lanka is also world famous for its fine tea. Tea is the country’s cash crop, and was first planted by British planter James Tailor.
“Recently we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the tea industry globally and in Riyadh too with a Grand Tea Party,” he said.
The Saudi Fund For Development has been a partner in progress with Sri Lanka, he added.
He noted that a 200-bed hospital for epileptics, funded by the Saudi Fund for Development, was opened by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo.
Thassim said that this support from the Kingdom helped attend to a need that had been long-felt need in the island nation.
He recalled that the Saudi Fund For Development has been with Sri Lanka in many of its projects for more than three decades.
“We were able to complete major projects such as the Kinniya bridge with its assistance,” he added.
The SR100 million ($27 million), 10-story hospital building consists of a surgical theater, intensive care unit (ICU), high dependency unit (HDU), as well as 242 beds for male and female patients.
Recently, the SFD handed over an additional SR48 million to equip the hospital with a CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners, physical therapy devices and medical furniture.
“Sri Lanka has more than 2,500 years of history and a rich culture. Sri Lankan spices and gems were well known globally for thousands of years. Sri Lanka was the main stopover on the famous silk route connecting East and West,” the envoy said.
“It is a compact island which one can cover from end-to-end within four to five hours. This is a plus point because one can see many parts of the country and have a variety of experiences during a short time.”
He said Sri Lanka has a diverse range of attractions including beaches, Ayurveda medicine, sports and adventures, festivals, scenic beauty, and wildlife.
“Coming to Sri Lanka and spending one or two weeks will give the visitor a better experience than at a number of destinations around the world over a longer period of time.”
Visas on arrival
Saudi tourists are given visas on arrival at the airport and they can obtain entry visas also at www.eta.gov.lk.
The country’s national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines, operates 18 return flights to Colombo from the three major airports of Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah, with daily flights from Jeddah and Riyadh. Saudis traveling to Colombo will find convenient connections to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Seychelles, the Maldives and various cities in India.
“It has been a matter of great satisfaction that Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia maintain excellent bilateral relations since the establishment of our mission in Jeddah in 1981. The relationship enjoyed by our countries dates back many centuries and is a relationship that is strengthening every day.”
As Saudi Arabia has the largest Sri Lankan expatriate workforce in the Middle East, the two countries have estblished a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship.
“Our historically friendly relations encompass all spheres including political, economic, cultural and social fields. Saudi Arabia is one of Sri Lanka’s most important trading partners in the Gulf region,” he said, thanking King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and their government, for the continuous cooperation extended to Sri Lanka at all times.
Main category: Saudi Arabia