External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris had said that in order to promote greater connectivity the South Asian nations must make greater effort to facilitate freer air travel and remove barriers to surface transport.

Addressing the 33rd session of the SAARC Council of Ministers in Bhutan, Minister Peiris said Sri Lanka attaches great importance to inter-regional connectivity. “Greater connectivity in the region is essential to promote intra-regional trade which was still low, even after the emergence of SAFTA. Greater connectivity is also essential for improving intra-regional tourism, for which there is tremendous untapped potential,” he said.

He extended Sri Lanka’s support for the proposal by the Maldives for an Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Service. In keeping with the overall spirit of enhancing people-to people contact, Prof. Peiris urged regular review of the revised guidelines on the SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme.

Minister Peiris welcomed the concept of the South Asian University, a flagship project of SAARC, which would soon become fully operational. As a nation with a uniquely proud record of human resource development, with special reference to achievements in education, Sri Lanka would participate fully in this project to ensure that the fledgling university will evolve in due course into an academic institution of excellence which will be a repository of South Asian values, competence and solidarity, in the region and beyond.

Minister Peiris recalled the proposal by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last Summit held in Thimpu, to take steps to convene a conclave of SAARC Parliamentarians as early as possible. Such a meeting, he said, assumes heightened importance in the context of renewed interest in democracy and people’s participation in governance worldwide, as well as the need to involve youth leaders in evolving policies, at both national and international level. The Minister added that Sri Lanka will convene an Expert Group Meeting in Colombo in September this year, to work out modalities for the establishment of this conclave.

Source: The Daily Mirror – 14.02.2011