Sri Lanka can commence charter flights from mid-2021, in the post COVID-19 phase said Regional Manager (Southeast Asia) of the Sri Lankan Airlines, Mohan Meegolla, at a meeting organized by the Foreign Ministry. The meeting was chaired by the Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof, Jayanath Colombage, to discuss the possibility of establishing air connectivity with Myanmar.
Participating at the meeting virtually, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar Prof. Nalin De Silva, said that air connectivity between Sri Lanka and Myanmar has been discussed for a long time, due to the significant Buddhist cultural connectivity between both countries. He further stated that around 300 Buddhist Bikkus are presently studying in Sri Lanka and there are many Sri Lankan Bikkus and delegations visiting Myanmar for meditation and other religious purposes. He further said that there is immense potential for medical tourism from Myanmar. The Government of Myanmar, Tourism Associations and in particular the President of Myanmar has conveyed his keen interest in establishing air connectivity between the two destinations.
Assistant Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Jeevana Fernando commended this as an excellent initiative and a timely act as Sri Lanka looks forward to welcome Buddhist tourists to the country, in the post COVID phase. In this regard, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau confirmed their fullest support to carry out an aggressive campaign to promote tourists from Myanmar.
Foreign Secretary in his remarks stated that initiation of flights to Myanmar will facilitate tourists from both sides and it is timely as Sri Lanka is getting ready to open the airport on 21 January for tourists. He also stated that President Rajapaksa wishes to focus on immediate neighbours in Southeast Asia, in particular. The Foreign Secretary emphasized that Myanmar is one of Sri Lanka’s closest maritime neighbours and there is huge potential to enhance trade links.
The meeting was attended by the Foreign Secretary, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar, Prof. Nalin De Silva, State Secretary and officials from the State Ministry of Aviation and Development of Export Zones, Additional Secretary (East), Deputy Legal Advisor and officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Officials of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Myanmar, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Sri Lankan Airlines.
Sri Lanka and Myanmar are steeped in a history based on Buddhism which dates back to 4th century BC. Many Bikkus and laymen travelled to Sri Lanka frequently during the Anuradhapura Kingdom, and had close connections with King Vijayabahu I and King Parakramabahu I and King Vijayabahu II, during the Polonnaruwa Kingdom. In 1865, the establishment of Ramanna Nikaya could be cited as a significant milestone of the enduring relationship with Myanmar. Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations with Myanmar in 1949 and celebrated 70 years of diplomatic relations in 2019.