We should learn from our history cent red on Anuradhapura and transform the country into a transshipment hub in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said. According to ancient chronicles, the largest ships which arrived in China in ancient times were from Sri Lanka.
The reason why Sri Lanka was able to build such large ships was the economic strength it had gained by serving as a leading trade centre in the world, the Prime Minister said when he participated in the enshrinement of Sacred Relics in an ancient dagoba restored at the Uhana Rajagala archaeological site in Ampara on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said in ancient times, ships from China arrived in Eastern Ports such as Thiriyaya and Gokanna, while ships from Arabia arrived in ports such as Mantota and Chilaw.
Anuradhapura was the hub where all trade was centred. At that time, Sri Lanka traded in cereals, pulses, gems, elephants and tuskers. Goods arriving from China were transshipped to Arabia and Europe. The country had such a strong economy based on this trade that it was able to build historic edifices like Rajagala.
“We should go back to that tradition again and build an export economy because it was our heritage. We should try to profit from our heritage and understand the manner in which Sri Lanka became the trading hub of the Indian Ocean,” he said.
A book published by the London University recently mentioned Sri Lanka. It had referred to Sri Lanka as a trade, education and religious (Buddhist) hub. A book published by Sahalya Fernando, a former employee of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, too had referred to Sri Lanka as a maritime hub, the Premier said.
The Prime Minister said the subject of archaeology came under his wing briefly during the 100-day interim government formed after 2015. At that time, a team led by Ven. Dambara Amila Thera and Mandawala met him and asked for resources to restore Rajagala and he responded by giving the necessary funds because it was of historic significance.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe acknowledged the contribution of the US Embassy and the Central Cultural Fund to the project. The government took the responsibility of the restoration work by utilising these funds, he said.
Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Colombo, David McGuire said he was delighted to have joined the Prime Minister in inaugurating the stupa that has been restored with funding from the US Department of State. “Rajagala’s heritage is an important reminder of the breadth of the human experience in Sri Lanka,” he said.