Ambassador of Sri Lanka in France Manisha Gunasekera convened a meeting with the Sri Lanka Association leaders and senior representatives of the community of Sri Lankan origin in France at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Paris on 31 March 2023. The meeting entailed discussion on bilateral ties between Sri Lanka and France, the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries being celebrated this year, action being taken to further strengthen political, economic, cultural cooperation and people-to-people ties, as well as the means through which the community of Sri Lankan heritage in France could better engage with Sri Lanka and contribute towards the country’s prosperity and development.
The Ambassador, at the outset, referred to the significant presence of the community of Sri Lankan origin in France over several decades, comprising persons of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim ethnicities, as a valued asset for Sri Lanka offering multiple opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation. In this regard, she referred to the recent launch of the Office of Overseas Sri Lankan Affairs (OOSLA) at the Presidential Secretariat as a central point of coordination to obtain the support of the Sri Lankan community residing or living overseas, which would provide a platform for more results-oriented engagement with the community in France.
The Ambassador sought the support of the community leaders in strengthening economic and business ties in particular, while appreciating the noteworthy contribution of the Sri Lankan origin business community in France towards Sri Lanka’s development, including through the export of a range of products to France. The Ambassador also outlined the progress made in reconciliation, and welcomed the trend of greater engagement by the Tamil community in France with the Embassy as well as with Sri Lanka, while appreciating their presence at the meeting.
The Embassy also sought the support of the community in reaching out to the second generation of French-Sri Lankan youth who are now engaged in multiple skilled professions in France, and could thus contribute towards the furthering of ties between the two countries.
In the exchange of views that followed, the community leaders and representatives welcomed the remarks of the Ambassador and the productive discussion. They elaborated on the projects they have initiated to support numerous development and cultural activities in Sri Lanka, which were welcomed by the Embassy. The Ambassador extended her gratitude to the community for their unstinted efforts in teaching the mother language and culture, including music and dance forms, to the next generation, and for sustaining the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.
With regard to reconciliation, the representatives detailed the various cultural and sports activities they have organised to promote unity and reconciliation among communities in France, an aspect which was welcomed by the Embassy.
The community leaders presented their proposals for further engagement in the future, and raised several queries on the consular services. The Ambassador highlighted the importance attached by the Embassy towards the provision of an efficient and effective consular service, and referred to action being taken to further streamline service delivery in this sphere in consultation with the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka.
In concluding the meeting, the Embassy’s deep appreciation was conveyed to the community leaders for their presence as well as for their contribution towards the furthering of France-Sri Lanka cooperation. The meeting was followed by refreshments and a networking session, with agreement to conduct regular meetings to work on areas identified for further cooperation and follow up.
The meeting was attended by members of 26 organisations and associations that are active in France, including a second-generation youth association. The Ambassador was supported at the meeting by the diplomatic staff of the Embassy handling political, economic, cultural, defence and consular matters, as well as work related to UNESCO, who actively contributed towards the discussion.