South African High Commissioner speaks on challenges of Foreign Ministries in the 21st Century

South African High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, His Excellency Sandile Schalk speaking at the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute highlighted challenges before the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the 21st Century. Delivering a speech on ‘The Role of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the 21st Century” at the BIDTI on 3rd November 2023, he said that global issues were calling for a new economic order.

High Commissioner Schalk emphasised the need of addressing the veto power of the United Nations Security Council, as it was no longer represent the existing global order. Further, with the advent of the multi polar world, a new global order is in the offing thus the world is in need of a moral leadership.

He highlighted the challenging situation in the world and how Foreign Service officers should respond to those by dissecting and analyzing situations reported in the media.  High Commissioner Schalk expressed the importance of adopting to new trends as states cannot achieve multilaterally what had been lost bilaterally.
Referring to the South African Foreign Service, he said that Foreign Service Act governs the conduct and role of officers and they take the lead role in every negotiating event on behalf of the country.

Korean Ambassador Visits the BIDTI

The Korean Ambassador to Sri Lanka Her Excellency Miyon Lee paid a visit to the BIDTI on Monday 18th September, 2023. Welcoming the Ambassador, the Director General appreciated her visit undertaken upon commencing Ambassodor’s assignment in Sri Lanka.
Referring to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the BIDTI and the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA) on 15th March 2017, Director General reminisced the visit undertaken by H. E. Cho Byug-jae, Vice Foreign Minister and Chancellor of the Academy to the BIDTI on 31st October, 2017. She also mentioned the dynamic language training programmes conducted by the KNDA, for which Sri Lankan diplomats are given opportunities to learn the Korean language.
Ambassador Lee stated that Sri Lanka is important to Korea as it has undertaken a number of projects in the country. In view of the cordial relationship enjoyed between the two countries Korea wishes to further enhance economic collaboration for the mutual benefit.  Ambassador mentioned that she has already commenced meeting with key stake holders to discuss in this regard.

Dr. Nadeera Rajapakse talks on Travelling through Silk Roads at the BIDTI

Delivering a special guest lecture on ‘Travelling through Silk Roads: Cultural Pluralism and Porous Boarders’ at the BIDTI on 28th July, 2023, Assistant Professor of the University of Paris, Pantheon – Sorbonne Dr. Nadeera Rajapakse gave a detail description of journeys made by the famous traveller Ibn Battuta.

Dr. Rajapakse explained how Ibn Battuta , a Judge  and a native of Tangier in Morocco had been received at various realms from the West to the East during his journeys as well as techniques he used to convince rulers to permit him to travel through areas under their jurisdiction.

She revealed the significance of the records of Battuta’s accounts which focused more on the people than on the places he visited and explained the great insights into the cultural practices along the way. She explained that those records show a greater cultural harmony than most mainstream history lessons have shown.

Dr. Rajapakse explained that the narrative of Battuta relevant to the Holy Kaaba where paintings of three angles existed.  Further, the practice of the Mongolian court as well as existence of Christianity in the East. Referring to the Gandhara civilization she said that it was a mix of Greek culture and Buddhist thinking.

During the presentation, she described that the Silk Road provides proof that culture transcends borders and that borders themselves have been mostly porous and blurred. She pointed out that by looking at historical narrative of travel along the Silk roads, people get a sense of the ease or the difficulty of travel, the welcome or rejections travelers face, the way travelers and their cultures are integrated, assimilated in new places.

The talk given by Dr. Nadeera Rajapakse was under the Special Guest Lecture series conducted by the BIDTI.   It was attended by distinguished persons including former Foreign Secretaries, Ambassadors, Academics and former participants of the programmes of the Institute.

Special guest lecture by Prof. Bérénice Guyot-Réchard

A Special Guest Lecture was conducted at the BIDTI on 26th May, 2023 by Prof. Bérénice Guyot-Réchard of King’s College London exclusively for participants of the BIDTI programmes.

Prof. Guyot-Réchard is the author of the critically acclaimed ‘Shadow States: India, China and the Himalayas, 1910-62’. A specialist of modern South Asia and the Indian Ocean, Prof. Guyot-Réchard holds an associate professorship in contemporary international history at King’s College London. Her award-winning work focuses on the long-term impact of decolonization, particularly in terms of international politics. She has written extensively on the strategic borderlands between India, China and Burma.

During her presentation, Prof. Guyot-Réchard revealed how the political tensions between two nations that took place from 1949 – 1962 who are striving for development have been exacerbated by geography and how sharing a border has increased their rivalry. Professor paid special significance to the friction in the Eastern Himalayan borderlands to which both nations lay claim. She explained the competition between the two nations to win over hearts and minds of the people in the border areas.

Three Constitutions and Three Decades of Working in the Parliament

Speaking at the BIDTI on Friday 30th September, the former Secretary General of Parliament Nihal Seneviratne highlighted the advantage of the constitution introduced by the Soulbury Commision stating that it was the best constitution Sri Lanka had up to date.
Having served in the Parliament over 30 years, Seneviratne elaborated on the evolution of the Constitution from the Colbrooke – Cameron reforms of 1833 up to the 1978 Constitution. He reiterated the importance of safeguarding the Constitution to uphold democratic values. Further, he discussed about the Executive Presidency, its influence and effects to the country shedding light on the variety of speeches orated over the years in the Parliament.
Highlights of his experience shared with the audience was received with an overwhelming response from the former Foreign Secretaries, Ambassadors, Military personnel, Academics, media as well as alumni of the BIDTI. The lecture was followed by an interactive session where many expressed concerns of the prevailing economic and political situation in the country suggesting remedial action.
Mr. Seneviratne’s speech was a part of the Special Guest Lecture Series initiated by the BIDTI in 2019 as an exercise in creating awareness on the contemporary topics among the general public. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the lecture series was suspended in March, 2020 and relaunched after two and half years with his lecture.

Tracing socio-cultural roots of the Portuguese influence in Sri Lanka

“Cultural impressions made by the Portuguese, have not been erased by the Dutch or the British” explained Dr. Shihan De Silva Jayasuriya in a Special Guest Lecture on “The Portuguese impact on the socio-culture of Sri Lanka” on 6th February 2019 at the BIDTI.

“The intangible Portuguese heritage has been remarkably durable” thus having a significant influence in Asian language, religion, architecture, cuisine, music and dance. However, “the most vibrant Portuguese influence” is on Sri Lankan popular music- chorus Baila. Music, which was a significant element in Portuguese culture, was used as an interface for harmonious communication. In fact, Dr. De Silva argued that music was a factor in bridging the cultural gap between Sri Lankans and the Portuguese.

Another form of Portuguese Socio-cultural influence is portrayed in the lexicon of Sinhala, Tamil and Sri Lankan Malay. Taking into account the asymmetric power relationship between the Portuguese colonisers and the Sri Lankans, “an inevitable emulation enhanced cross cultural flow and linguistic transmission.”

Furthermore, the Portuguese influence within Sri Lankan society is even more prominent in Portuguese Burgher communities and Afro- Lankan communities within the Island. These communities have preserved cultural attributes such as Creole known as “Sri Lankan Portuguese”.These communities, often marginalized, are unable to showcase their cultural traits hence remain unknown to the public. It is also concerning, that such cultural characteristics if not appreciated and preserved may be lost with time. As future generations seek to connect with those outside their own community.

Peace building needs cohesive environment

Delivering a talk at the BIDTI, the former Defence Minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Prof. Selmo Cikotić stated that a cohesive environment is needed to create peace. Explaining the background of negotiating a settlement in his country, he mentioned that during the final two years of the war the parties to the conflict were unwilling to accept any peace proposals. Further, despite the end of hostilities in 1994, peace talks did not take place immediately. In that sense, he stressed that to negotiate peace, many aspects are required; not only military but a coherence of systems viz., economic, communication, transport, education, healthcare etc.

A gathering of officials from the Tri Forces and interested participants attended the special guest lecture by Professor Selmo Cikotić on 4th July 2019 at the BIDTI. The lecture was organised in collaboration with the Secretariat for Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM).