VIDEO: Much progress has been made in Sri Lanka, but more to be done - Abbott

VIDEO: Much progress has been made in Sri Lanka, but more to be done - Abbott

November 17, 2013   10:02 am

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Sri Lanka has made a great deal of progress following the end of the three decade long war and added that it is important to work constructively with the island nation.

On the final day of CHOGM, Mr Abbott said there has been “much progress” in Sri Lanka.

“I welcome the opportunity that Sri Lanka has had to showcase itself to the world,” he said.

“As I said at the opening of the conference a couple of days ago, Sri Lanka has come through many troubles, but today there is more freedom and more prosperity.

“Obviously there is more to be done, but much progress has been made, and the fact that Sri Lanka is prepared to showcase itself in this way to the wider Commonwealth... shows the goodwill and the good intentions of the Sri Lankan government.”

Speaking in Colombo this afternoon, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will give two Bay class patrol boats to Sri Lanka to assist with people smuggling efforts in the Indian Ocean.

The vessels being provided have seen about 10 years of service with Australian Customs and will be brought back to full operational capability at a cost of $2 million.

Mr Abbott said the patrol boats should be with the Sri Lankan navy by mid-2014.

The Prime Minister said it was important the two countries “continue our excellent cooperation at sea”.

“People smuggling is a curse. It is a curse, it is an evil trade,” he said.

“This is why the promises that the people smugglers offer are promises of death, not life.”

The patrol boats, which are being gifted to Sri Lanka under a memorandum of understanding, will be used for humanitarian purposes. Australia will also provide training along with the boats.

Mr Abbott said Australia is upgrading its Customs fleet and does not need the Bay class boats anymore.

“It is important that Sri Lanka has an enhanced search-and-rescue capacity, an enhanced interdiction capacity and that’s what these two Bay class patrol boats will offer the Sri Lankan navy,” he said.

The Prime Minister is in Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and finalised the deal with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Saturday as part of diplomatic talks.

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