7 July 2014
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Monday for his first visit as Special Envoy of the President.
President Jacob Zuma appointed Ramaphosa as Special Envoy to Sri Lanka and South Sudan during his State of the Nation address in February, following a request from both countries for assistance in bringing about peace and reconciliation.
Despite the official end of the decades-long civil war between the Sri Lankan state and the militant separatist Tamil Tigers in 2009, religious conflict continues to dog the south Asian island nation, against a backdrop of rising ethnic tensions between the largely Buddhist majority Sinhalese and minority Muslims.
Senior delegations from the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil National Alliance visited South Africa in February and April respectively. Both delegations met Ramaphosa and invited him to visit Sri Lanka.
“We are going to listen to the Sri Lankans,” Ramaphosa said ahead of his visit. “We have already met them a few times in South Africa, but this time around we are going to go to Colombo and meet the government, the president of Sri Lanka and a number of other government ministers.”
He is also expected to meet opposition parties and travel to the north, where conflict in that country is at its fiercest.
“We will discuss with people in the community. We will also try to help the Sri Lankans with the truth and reconciliation process, their own constitutional reform, and make sure Sri Lanka does indeed become a stable country where they will enjoy human rights.”
Ramaphosa is being accompanied by Deputy International Relations Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo. He is expected to return to South Africa on Wednesday.
SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter