Japanese investors are ready to invest in various industries in Sri Lanka including fisheries. The Japanese, international trade giant ‘Tuna King’ Kiyoshi Kimura will arrive in Sri Lanka shortly to study the feasibility of investing in Sri Lanka, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Japan Medagama Gamage Sunil said during an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer.
Q:What is meant by Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship, Cultural and Business Forum (JSFCBF)?
The JSFCBF is a business centre, coordinating business and trade activities between Sri Lanka and Japan.
A: The JSFCBF has development plans to benefit Japanese and Sri Lankan investors.
Medagama Gamage Sunil, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Japan
JSFCBF creates awareness among Japanese about Sri Lanka. For instance, certain Japanese still think there is conflict in Sri Lanka. The Forum has a responsibility to clear these doubts and fears. The JSFCBF is responsible to give clear guidelines to Japanese investors about the peaceful situation prevailing in the country after the elimination of the LTTE.
A large number of foreign investors can be attracted only through awareness among investors in Japan about the favourable atmosphere, infrastructure facilities and resources available in Sri Lanka. Awareness should be created among investors and the benefits they gain through investing in Sri Lanka. Investors should be told what facilities are available in Sri Lanka in comparison to other countries. Without depending on theory, it should be shown practically. The JSFCBF is doing this job to perfection. It has decided to hold workshops and awareness campaigns among the business community to boost Sri Lanka’s image.
The Japanese who visit Sri Lanka can be divided into two groups, holiday makers and investors. Tourists should be taught about the beauty of beaches, sacred places and world heritage in Sri Lanka. Then only Sri Lanka tourism can be promoted, Some tourists visit Sri Lanka for commercial purposes. They should be accompanied to the BOI, Fisheries Ministry, Economic Development Ministry as well as other prominent business institutions. Then commercial tourism can be improved.There are people in Japan who are not fluent in English. They face communication issues. We maintain a staff that is fluent in the Japanese language. When required they will provide interpretation service to them.
Q: What is your main role being the Consul General of Ibaraki, Japan?
A: My office renders a significant service launching, strengthening and expanding business, political, cultural and economic relations between Sri Lanka and Japan. The Consul General’s office also provides assistance to the projects implemented by the Embassy in Tokyo. The Consul General’s office maintains close links with Sri Lankan expatriates in Japan and takes part in national, cultural, religious and political events organised by those people.
Ibaraki is situated nearly 64 kilometres away from Tokyo. The office is in Ibaraki the sub administrative body of the Embassy in Japan. This office normally solves the problems of expatriate Sri Lankans residing away from the capital city.
As the Embassy is unable to deal with everyone, the Consul General’s office make the job of the Embassy easy. This office also looks after the well-being of Sri Lankan expatriates in Japan.
Q: What was the purpose of the recent tour of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne to Japan?
A: The Minister’s tour to Japan was scheduled so that he could participate in the annual convention of JSFCBF, it focused attention to hold discussions with Japanese investors and the business community to obtain assistance to improve the fisheries industry in Sri Lanka.
Since its inception in 2011, the JSFCBF plays a significant role in attracting Japanese investors and improving bilateral trade relations between the two countries. It plays the role of middleman between Japan and Sri Lanka.
Q: Why did you invite Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne to Japan?
A: Dr. Senaratne maintains a good relationship with the international community and he is a good orator. On these grounds I invited him to be chief guest at the annual convention of JSFCBF.
The Minister told the Japanese about the long lasting relationship between Sri Lanka and Japan from the era of the late President J.R. Jayewardene to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an attractive manner.
Q: Can you tell in brief about the relationship between Sri Lanka and Japan?
A: The cultural, religious and political relationship between Japan and Sri Lanka is several decades old. Both countries are following the Buddhism. Similar traditions are found in these two countries. The language is the only barrier but it has no impact on the relationship between the two countries. Both countries are rich in humanity and sharing the grievances of others.
Q: Can you explain about the assistance we received from time to time?
A: Japanese loan assistance accounts for 60 percent of the entire global loan assistance to Sri Lanka. As a result of the long-lasting mutual relationship, Japan provides such a great amount of assistance to help ongoing development projects. The Sri Jayawardenepura hospital was donated by the Japanese Government in gratitude for raising a voice at the San Fransisco Convention supporting Japan. While other countries observed in silence the late President J.R. Jayewardene spoke on behalf of Japan.
The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Kelaniya Bridge were also donated by the Japanese Government.
Since then, the Japanese Government provides technical and various other grants to improve the education sector. The assistance to improve the fisheries industry should not be forgotten. The Japanese Government is continuing its help to Sri Lanka. The Japanese Government granted financial, technical and other assistance to redevelop the conflict affected Northern and the Eastern provinces.
Q: What kind of assistance has been granted to Sri Lanka?
A: When I was engaged in discussions with the Japanese Education and Higher Education Minister Hirano, I told him that in comparison to the assistance given by the Japanese we have done nothing.
The Japanese Education Minister said that Sri Lanka donated invaluable eyes to provide vision to thousands of blind people in Japan. Our technical assistance to Sri Lanka is nothing in comparison to the eye donation from Sri Lanka. Ours was mere assistance but you have given a part of your body.
That cannot be measured in monitory terms. The Japanese recall this assistance, the Consul General said quoting the Japanese Education and Higher Education Minister Hirano.During the recent tsunami in Japan, Sri Lankan expatriates extended a helping hand to the affected people. The Consul General’s office in Ibaraki and the Sri Lankan Ambassador for Japan provided assistance to the displaced. Sri Lankan rice and curry was given to over 10,000 displaced people. Nearly 2,000 people were housed in welfare camps. There was no water, electricity and other facilities. We raised funds for them. The Japanese Government appreciated our assistance. National television of NHK also spoke of the Sri Lankan assistance on its daily news bulletin.Japan has enough wealth to cater to their people. But at a critical time we extended our help to the affected.
Q: What was the response we received from Japan following the tour of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne to Japan?
A: At the end of tour he came to know what a great job the Minister had done. No sooner he arrived in Japan, he met the ‘Tuna King’ and held a two-hour discussion with him. Following the discussions the ‘Tuna King’ has agreed to invest in Sri Lanka in the fisheries industry and to provide necessary technical assistance to improve the industry.