SRI LANKA - Singapore will help beef up Sri Lanka's education capabilities in its efforts to help the country recover from its long civil war, said Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.
This will have a far bigger impact on locals' lives than making any number of international statements about the country's past, he said at a forum with academics here.
Mr Shanmugam noted that there were various aspects involved in reconciliation, a path Sri Lanka has been on since the 25-year war between the Tamil Tiger militants and the government ended in 2009.
The first is to provide closure to all parties affected, in an equitable manner. But it would be difficult for other nations to impose "mechanisms" that would satisfy everyone, the minister added.
Singapore's focus has always been on looking at what needs to be done, he said at the Institute of South Asian Studies' (ISAS) Colombo Colloquium.
Education has been identified as an area where it can make a difference, said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister.
He said: "We may not be able to train the students directly, but if we bring the latest pedagogy, train the teachers, that will have a multiplier effect."
Various Singapore organisations such as the Singapore International Foundation are already providing aid in this area in the war-ravaged northern province of Jaffna. They are training teachers and librarians, and also building up the collections in the city's public library.Jaffna, Sri Lanka's ancient seat of education, had seen the bloodiest battles during the war, the final phase of which saw almost 40,000 civilians killed by Sri Lankan military shelling, according to United Nations estimates.
Mr Shanmugam also recounted how, on previous trips there, locals had told him they were keen to be helped in education.
His counterpart, Sri Lanka's Minister for External Affairs G.L. Peiris, agreed and said Singapore has "unrivalled expertise" when it came to curriculum development and has "contributed value where it is most needed".
Both ministers also reaffirmed bilateral ties.
Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam also called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and signed the revised Singapore-Sri Lanka Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement with Professor Peiris.
He also officiated at the Sri Lankan launch of the Encyclopedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora published by Singapore's ISAS.
He travels to Jaffna today, and will launch a project to build English language competencies there.
This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.
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