Jayasuriya highlighted that Saudi Arabia makes a tremendous contribution to uplifting the living standards of the migrant workers’ families in Sri Lanka who contribute to the progress and development of the Kingdom. He recalled that at present 136,000 migrant workers are living and working in Saudi Arabia. This is a significant decrease of almost 60,000 workers since 2016.
He commented on this at the bilateral discussions held with the Parliamentary delegation led by Shura Council of Saudi Arabia President Dr. Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh on 9 September at Parliament. The visiting delegation was received by Speaker Jayasuriya, Parliamentarians Rauff Hakeem, A.H.M Fauzi and Mujaibur Rahman and Secretary General of Parliament Dammika Dasanayake. They were hosted for a tea and bilateral discussion by the Speaker.
Speaker Jayasuriya also conveyed Sri Lanka’s appreciation for the progressive steps introduced by Saudi Arabia through the Musaned System in solving labour-related matters. These steps are much more innovative compared to the systems of other countries in the region. These processes have immensely helped Sri Lankan workers mainly in the domestic and non-skilled categories.
He also recalled long-standing friendly relations between Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia and said this friendship has grown into a stronger partnership since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1974, whose 45th anniversary will be marked this year.
Jayasuriya mentioned the terror attacks on Easter Sunday, a shock from which the country is now recovering with steady resilience, and conveyed appreciation for the support extended by the Saudi Arabian authorities in arresting and repatriating some of the most wanted people connected to the attacks. The Speaker of Saudi Arabia responded that they are willing to work closely with Sri Lanka to eradicate terrorism.
Karu Jayasuriya pointed out that there has hardly been any investment from Saudi Arabia since 2005, inviting Saudi Arabian investors to invest in Sri Lanka. To this, the Saudi Arabia Speaker replied that they are also keen to establish governmental linkages in order to promote investments from their country. The Speaker also emphasised that the Sri Lankan Government has brought the differences between the causes of death indicated in Saudi post-mortem reports and Sri Lankan post-mortem reports to the notice of Saudi authorities, which have not been addressed positively. He pointed out that it is important to establish a mechanism for obtaining compensation in a short time period as there is a considerable delay in receiving a cheque for the End Services Benefit that must be handed over by the sponsor to the Saudi Labour Department.
They also discussed Sri Lanka’s trade with Saudi Arabia, which has been significant over the past thirteen years. Saudi Arabia stands as the 23th import partner in the Sri Lankan import market, while Sri Lanka is ranked as the 82th import partner in the Saudi Arabian import basket. Total trade stood at $327.77 million in 2018. Tea, food items, apparel, coconut products, spices, rubber products and cut flowers are among the main export commodities from Sri Lanka.