Thursday, February 18, 2021
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has cancelled Prime Minister Imran Khan’s scheduled address to the country’s Parliament next week due to coronavirus restrictions, reported Sri Lankan publication Daily Express.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage told the publication that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had asked the government to cancel the address as he could not ensure full attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The publication also quoted Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena saying that Colombo had added PM Imran Khan’s address at the request of Islamabad.
The newspaper reported that the address could have also been cancelled due to fears of certain government officials that it might "sour" ties with India.
The cancelled address was scheduled to take place on February 24 as part of the two-day trip of the prime minister.
Had the address not been cancelled then PM Imran Khan would have become the third Pakistani leader to address the Sri Lankan legislature.
Only two Pakistani leaders — President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — had addressed the Sri Lankan Parliament before.
Last week, it was reported that the PM will be visiting Sri Lanka for two days at the end of February. The trip will be his first foreign trip of the year.
"I can confirm that the visit is taking place and a curtain raiser will be issued closer to the visit,” a senior official was quoted by The News.
The PM is expected to reach Colombo on February 22.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka General (retd) Saad Khattak spoke to the media in Colombo about the visit but gave few details.
PM Imran is expected to meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, say officials in Colombo familiar with the visit.
Both countries have for decades enjoyed a broad-based relationship on trade, commerce, culture and defence matters. Pakistan armed forces in 2009 had supported Sri Lanka by providing high tech military equipment and intelligence support in its fight against the LTTE.