Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Sri Lanka on Tuesday (22 September). Following decades of civil war, the country has recently made significant progress as regards reconciliation and democratic development. During his visit, Steinmeier offered Sri Lanka Germany’s support in the reconciliation process.
A new era
This was Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s first visit to Sri Lanka. The island state off the east coast of India suffered decades of civil war, which has left its marks on the country to this day. However, there have recently been positive developments. Six years after the end of the civil war, democratic elections at the start of 2015 resulted in a peaceful handover of power. Foreign Minister Steinmeier commended this transfer of power, describing its “peaceful nature” as “exemplary in the region”.
A visit at a time of reconciliation
The reconciliation process between the parties to the civil war – the Sinhalese and the Tamils – was the main topic on the agenda of Steinmeier’s visit. Germany’s Foreign Minister held talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as with Tamil opposition leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan.
Following his meeting with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Steinmeier said:
There is no one global model for reconciliation processes, but Germany would be happy to share its experiences with Sri Lanka, if the country so wishes. Elements of reconciliation include seeking the truth, justice, compensation and, of course, the guarantee that the past will not be repeated.
Foreign Minister Samaraweera thanked Steinmeier for his offer of support. “We are willing to accept international help,” he said.
Giving young people prospects for the future
During his visit, Foreign Minister Steinmeier also travelled to Kilinochchi in the Tamil region in northern Sri Lanka, where a vocational training centre is currently being set up with German support. Provincial capital Kilinochchi was hit particularly hard by the brutal civil war in Sri Lanka, which lasted over 25 years and only ended in 2009.
Steinmeier said that giving young people prospects for the future was the most effective way to foster reconciliation and reconstruction. This is the reason why Germany is supporting Sri Lanka in the field of vocational training. Speaking at the inauguration of the centre, Steinmeier underlined that the opening of a vocational training centre in Kilinochchi was also a “sign of hope” after a long and bitter civil war. In his speech to the students, Steinmeier emphasised the importance of this project.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a time of renewal. We are not merely building a Sri Lankan-German vocational training centre here. This is where you will lay the foundations for your career and your future. I firmly believe that you will have the opportunity to achieve even more in this institute. It will help you to create a better future for your country.