Palestine has strong historic relations with Sri Lanka , the Maldives and South Africa - Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Sri Lanka and the Maldives
His Excellency Dr Anwar H. Al Agha, the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Sri Lanka and the Maldives
Dr Srimal Fernando– Asia Correspondent for Foreign Exchange – The Diplomatic Society engages His Excellency Dr Anwar H. Al Agha, the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Sri Lanka and the MaldivesSrimal Fernando (SF): Please give a brief about your Professional background?
His Excellency (HE): I am from the city of Khan Yuonis in the Gaza Strip of Palestine. I am a Ph.D. Degree holder in Educational Management and a Master of Arts graduate in Education. Prior to my Master’s degree I obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication. After completion of my Ph.D. in 1993, I worked on a fulltime basis as an Assistant Professor for several universities in Palestine. In 1994 I was appointed as the Director Media and public relations in the Ministry of Housing in the Palestine National Authority. From the year 2000, I worked at Palestine State Television and Satellite channels as the Director General of International Relations and Development. At the same time I worked as a producer and a presenter of live political talk show, programmes. While I was working for the state television, I lectured at several universities till 2005. In that year I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was appointed as the Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives at the end October that same year to date.
SF: Palestine and Sri Lanka continues to enjoy friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations. What is the role played by the Palestine Embassy in Colombo to improve diplomatic relations further?
HE: We have strong historic relations with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and have our representation office of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Sri Lanka since 1975. In 1988 when the Palestine National Council in exile declared, the State of Palestine in Algeria, the Republic of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives were one of the first countries in the world to recognize the State of Palestine in exile. Then the name of the representation office of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Sri Lanka and the Maldives was later changed to Embassy of the State of Palestine in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. From the time of the establishment of diplomacy representation in Sri Lanka we were very keen to establish strong ties and enhance the historic relations with the two countries Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
We are very proud of the historic relations we have with the two countries Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The Palestinian people appreciate the special role played by His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa in supporting the cause of the Palestinian people. His Excellency Rajapaksa along with other dignitaries established the Sri Lanka Solidarity Committee with Palestine in 1975. The solidarity movement continues to grow throughout the years.
We have developed relations with different parties and people of Sri Lanka and the Maldives and with the Parliament and different organizations. We keep Sri Lankans and the Maldivians aware of the Palestine situation by updating the people and the officials by organizing seminars, orientations at Universities and by having numerous media and press conferences, photo exhibitions, films cultural shows and exhibitions. In the year 2007 the Sri Lankan Government decided to have a representation in Palestine to enhance the relations further. The Palestine leadership and the people very much appreciate the gesture of the Sri Lankan and Maldivian support for the Palestine cause and people.
To establish a good relationship, H.E. the late President Yasser Arafat has visited Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas has visited Sri Lanka twice and also visited the Maldives. We have invited Palestinians from different organizations to Sri Lanka to discuss the means and ways of enhancing good relationship with people at different levels. At the same time a number of Sri Lankan people have been invited to Palestine to see the actual situation of the people and further enhance relations with different inhabitants in Palestine.
SF: What is the main problem faced by your country?
HE: The main problem faced by Palestine is the Israeli occupation of Palestine since 1948. Palestine was prevented from having the Statehood to be recognized by the international community. Basically the Palestine territories were seized and stolen by the Israeli’s with the help of some of the international powers. Since then Palestinians were denied their rights of freedom, stability and independence. They were facing bigger challenges though out the past 64 years having a very difficult life caused by the atrocities initiated by the Israeli occupying forces in the form of mass deportation of Palestinians from their homes and lands. Daily Palestinians are killed, thousands are detained and their lands confiscated. Further Israelis occupying forces are building illegal settlements in Palestinian lands in areas close to Palestinian homes. They also prevent Palestinians going to schools and Universities by establishing checkpoints and imposing a siege on Palestinian people, attacking holy places in Palestine and further Israel has built an apartheid wall on Palestinian lands that has divided areas, communities and homes and created a lot of suffering for the Palestinian people.
The international community should understand this situation of the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation and put an immediate end to the Israeli occupation and to establish the independent Palestinian state and make Jerusalem its capital.
Palestine leadership has agreed to negotiate and compromise with the Israel Government to establish a two state solution. The State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and the State of Israel with West Jerusalem as its capital but unfortunately after twenty years of negotiations with the Israel government, nothing has been given by the Israeli government to Palestinians, despite the fact that many agreements have been signed by the two sides as a good gesture by the Palestinian leadership, to give a chance for peace.
SF: What is the current economic outlook of Palestine?
HE: Since the Palestine National Authority was established in 1993 by the Oslo accord, the Palestine leadership started establishing a strong economic base. This was done by establishing different economic organizations such as agriculture, handy crafts, tourism and industrial factories in accordance with Paris economic accord of the Oslo treaty. Unfortunately, a large number of Palestine factories and economic centers were bombarded and totally destroyed by the Israeli occupying forces.
To bring pressure on Palestine National Authority, its people and to the economy, purchase of goods from the Israeli markets were made compulsory.
Palestine National Authority has conducted number of Investment conferences in different cities of Palestine to invite and encourage investors from inside and outside Palestine. There are some good opportunities especially in the fields of Agriculture, tourism, marbles, stone, handy craft and in several other small industries.
SF: How can friendly nations support in overcoming certain challenges faced by your country?
HE: Nations and their people can extend support to the People of Palestine either financially or morally, based on their understanding that the Palestinians were suffering for the past 64 years since 1948 due to the Israel occupation which prevented the establishment of the Palestinian Independent state.
There are different ways of supporting and defending the Palestinian rights in the international arena. It is through various organizations, different societies, print media, radio, television and Internet and also by having demonstrations in favor of Palestinian rights. The same support can also be given by having lectures and seminars at Universities and Schools.
SF: The iconic leader Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) remained one of the most influential political leaders for several years around the world. Can you reflect on some of the most important achievements he gained for the people of Palestine during his leadership?
HE: The late leader and President of the State of Palestine had a special and vital role to play in the Palestine cause. Historically he established strong relations with leaders of the world whom he met frequently by raising the Palestine flag throughout the continents.
He was a strong leader, who convinced with his unique charisma and approached the sufferings of Palestinians in Israeli occupied areas. Leaders of the world believed his role in achieving the freedom for Palestine people. The late Palestine Leader President Yasser Arafat had gone to the United Nations to deliver his speech urging world leaders and communities to end Israeli occupation of Palestine and solve the Palestinian problem by supporting the establishment of the state of Palestine.
Now we can say the current President of Palestine Mohamed Abbas too has maintained excellent relations with leaders of the world in accordance with what the late President Yasser Arafat had achieved. We can see harmony of policies in both Presidents. The current President is concentrating and continuing the efforts in declaration of an independent state of Palestine and trying to find a just solution to the freedom of the Palestine people.SF: What are your thoughts about Former President Nelson Mandela and his role in South Africa and Palestine relations .
HE: We are very happy with the historic relations between South Africa and Palestine. The people of Palestine appreciate the continued support given to the Palestinian cause by South Africa. We remember the support given to the Palestine cause by former President of South Africa H.E Nelson Mandela. There is still the hope of accomplishment of our goal of establishing the State of Palestine. At the same time we are hopeful that the apartheid world built by the Israeli forces in the Palestine territories will vanish like what had happened in the apartheid world of South Africa. Peace will emerge and our people will have freedom and independence.
SF: Is there anything else that you would like to include?
HE: As you know we have been always struggling to end the Israeli occupation and declare the State of Palestine. For that the Palestine leadership has gone to the United Nations and asked the Security Council to recognize the existence of Palestine statehood and declare the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. But unfortunately the United Nations Security Council had failed to accomplish this. Therefore the Palestine leadership has continued its consultations with different parties in the world to find a way to declare the state of Palestine and perhaps it might be possible to be accomplished by going this year to the United Nations General Assembly to gain the rights of Palestinian people to declare the state of Palestine upon consultations with different bodies and leaders of the world
The Palestine leadership and the Palestine people will work hard peacefully, until the end of Israel occupation of the Palestine territories and establish the state of Palestine and have full freedom like all other nations in the world.