Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for conducting the "fruitful and constructive" video conference with leaders of the SAARC nations and promised his country's "fullest support" to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.
I thank PM @narendramodi for his initiative to combat #COVIDー19 with cooperation among #SAARCNations.The discussion was fruitful and constructive with many great ideas being shared and initiated. #LKA will extend fullest support and thank the member nations for their solidarity— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) March 16, 2020
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa began the conference by expressing his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for initiating the move. The leader said that Sri Lanka's economy had 'taken a serious blow' due to the virus. He added that the tourism sector which was just recovering after 2019 terrorist attacks was suffering the most. Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka's biggest challenge was to stop the virus from entering its territory and control it’s spread.
Talking about Sri Lankan citizens abroad, he said that there were a large number of citizens working in Italy and South Korea. He further said that 34 students were evacuated from Wuhan and 750 others studying in different Chinese provinces were also rescued. During the conference, Rajapaksa had recommended that SAARC leaders work together to help the economy tide over the difficult period.
"He (Rajapaksa) also recommended the establishment of a SAARC ministerial-level group to share best practises and coordinate regional matters on combating COVID-19," as per a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs.
Participants from all eight SAARC nations — India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Bhutan — held a video conference to exchange their views and share experiences in fighting the pandemic that has killed more than 6000 people globally.
The conference witnessed Prime Minister Modi proposing the creation of a COVID-19 emergency fund based on voluntary contributions from all the countries, with India making an initial offer of USD 10 million for the fund.