‘It is important to keep Indian Ocean open and free’ | Daily News

‘It is important to keep Indian Ocean open and free’

Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Kenichi Suganuma, who completes two years in office, outlined details about bilateral relations, Japan funded development initiatives and future areas of cooperation and other relevant issues in an interview with a select group of journalists from mainstream newspapers at his office last Monday (September 4). Here are edited excerpts.

On Japanese funded development projects

There are many projects in Sri Lanka and the total funding amounts to almost Rs. 1.8 trillion. The overall assessment of the projects is very good and they have contributed to the development of Sri Lanka significantly. We have a system of evaluating the results of the projects by a third party committee.

The committee report is very positive and says that almost all projects have been successful. We have been trying to improve the efficiency at the projects on recommendations. Wherever I go, I do not forget to talk with the people and they say the projects have been highly beneficial to them. If it is appreciated by the people, then it is the most important thing. There are many other projects, cultural exchanges as well. When it comes to development projects, we cannot do everything and we have to be selective. In the case of Sri Lanka, we have mainly three sectors.

One is high quality infrastructure which will help country's overall growth, particularly exports. The second is addressing the issue of income disparity and third is reduction of social vulnerabilities.

Maritime cooperation and the development of Trincomalee Port

Sri Lanka is in strategically important location. It is between East Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East and East Africa. In the South of Sri Lanka, we have a most important sea lane in the world.

About 100,000 ships pass this region every year. Sri Lanka has a deep harbour in Colombo. It is very important when you take the sea routes in the Indian Ocean. You can cover the Southern region of the Indian Ocean with this Port. As Japan depends on sea trade a lot, this is very important for us.

This is why we think keeping the Indian Ocean open and free is vital for not only Japan but also for other countries. We hope to discuss how to improve maritime cooperation further with Sri Lanka.

With regard to Trincomalee port development, we have already allocated Rs.1.3 billion for selected areas.

The project is to procure the products such as mooring buoy and vessel, light buoy, automatic identification system and lights, which are all manufactured by Japanese enterprises to improve the facilities at the Trincomalee port to enhance its daily operations.

We have also begun discussions with Sri Lanka and with India on how to develop the port further.

Tripartite Agreement between Japan, Sri Lanka and India for supply and power generation from LNG

Sri Lanka power demand will grow in the future and the government has identified power generation through Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as one of the areas of focus. LNG based power is very environmental friendly. We have started discussions with Sri Lanka and India for a tripartite cooperation for LNG, supply and power generations. LNG is a new experiment for Sri Lanka. The country needs a lot of new technology and expertise. So we are discussing with the government and India how to go about in developing LNG power generation in Sri Lanka.

Potential areas for Japanese Investment

Sri Lanka is a hub of the Indian ocean. Many companies like coming here and setting up investment because of the location. South Asia as a whole is growing fast, so we have a big market. Sri Lanka is strategically located in South Asia and thus becomes a very important destination. Sri Lanka is also a middle income country and the potential for further growth is very high. We are looking at several areas, power, development of ports and also tourism. However, the Government should ensure a consistent economic policy and an investment friendly climate.

Sri Lanka’s first elevated Light Rail Transit (LRT) line

Japan has assisted in making the Urban Transport Master Plan in 2013. Sri Lanka has officially requested for a STEP loan for LRT. Both sides agreed to conduct JICA feasibility study which commenced in February 2017. JICA feasibility study will be done by February 2018 and hopefully, we will commence the project immediately after that.

( LRT line extends from Malabe to Union Place and Kollupitiya)

On Hambantota Port Deal

We think it is important to keep Indian Ocean open and free. For that purpose, all ports should be operated transparently and openly. We are against a country using ports of another country for its exclusive purposes or military purposes. We hope that in future Sri Lanka ports will be controlled by the Government. We hope they will not be used for military purposes by another country and that all security matters and Customs operations will be handled by Sri Lanka.

Support for Peace and Reconciliation

We are trying to support Sri Lanka so it doesn't have to face a calamity like it had in the past. Our support extends to both political and economic fronts. We think reconciliation will play a big role in ensuring a healthy growth, stability and peace in Sri Lanka. We are supporting Government's efforts fully in this regard.

Japanese help for digitilisation of television broadcasting

The digitilisation of terrestrial television broadcasting has become a worldwide trend. Broadcasters are now turning to digital technologies to reduce their operating costs and offer enhanced services to the public. Television broadcasting is a universal service and is an important infrastructure, which most people rely on as a source of information.

It is, therefore, essential to make television more accessible to people to allow Sri Lanka to keep pace with the rest of the world. Japan is helping Sri Lanka to digitalise television broadcasting. 


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