Saudi-Sri Lankan Ties Reach New Milestone


RIYADH, August 21.  Saudi-Sri Lankan relations reached a new milestone during President Mahinda Rajapakse’s tenure, observed Mohammed Mahmud Al-Ali, who completes a six-year stint in Sri Lanka as the Kingdom’s ambassador in Colombo.


“President Rajapakse thanked the Saudi government for all its assistance it has been giving for the welfare of the people,” Al-Ali told Arab News over the phone, pointing out that Rajapakse had told him that the Kingdom is a very important country in the Arab region by virtue of its leadership in the Arab world.


“President Rajapakse profusely thanked the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his generosity in helping deserving people irrespective of their faiths,” he added.


Al-Ali, who is slated to take up appointment as ambassador in Pretoria (South Africa) in mid-September, will arrive in the Kingdom on Sept. 1 from Colombo. “Till a new ambassador is appointed to Colombo, Raed Al-Kunaimi will be the charge d’affaires of the Saudi mission in Sri Lanka,” he said.


The Kingdom is to build a SR75 million Epilepsy and Diagnosis Hospital in Colombo which will be the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, Al-Ali said.


“This is not the first time that the Kingdom has come forward to assist Sri Lanka in such projects. We have completed a Neuro-Trauma Hospital in Colombo and currently are building 1,000 houses for the tsunami victims in the island,” he added.


He said Saudi Fund for Development gave an additional grant of SR11 million for the development of health facilities at the Neuro-Trauma Hospital which was built with the Saudi aid of SR40 million.


Three years ago, the Kingdom gave SR40 million for the construction of a bridge and widening of a highway in the island.


 The bridge linked the eastern town of Trincomalee with Kinniya, a village located some 300 km away from the Sri Lankan capital. The Trincomalee- Batticaloa highway was also widened with the funds allocated under the agreement. So far, SFD has given more than SR400 million for various projects in Sri Lanka.


Earlier, it provided Sri Lanka with project loans on three previous occasions. It offered SR99.9 million for the second stage of the Water Supply and Sewage project and gave SR48.1 million for the Mahaweli Ganga Development Project System B in 1981.


Subsequently, Sri Lanka obtained SR85 million for the Mahaweli Ganga Development Project System B in 1984.


Al-Ali who is also accredited to Maldives, left yesterday for Male where he will meet its President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and other key government officials to bid adieu on completion of his tour of duty in the two countries.