Today marks a monumental milestone in the history of modern Türkiye as we proudly celebrate a hundred years of resilience, progress, and unity that echo the invincible spirit of our nation.
On this auspicious occasion, as the Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to Sri Lanka and Maldives, I extend warm and heartfelt congratulations to our citizens, both at home and abroad, as we come together to commemorate the centennial of the proclamation of the Republic.
A century ago, doors of a new era were unveiled, symbolizing Türkiye’s relentless struggle for freedom while paving the path for a golden chapter for our Republic. It was, the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish National War of Liberation, and our First President, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who, surrounded by comrades and parliament members, proclaimed on October 29, 1923, that sovereignty would be passed “unconditionally to the nation”. Therefore, it is with great honour and pride that I pay tribute today to our visionary national leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his comrades in arms and our unsung heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for the future of our nation.
Atatürk’s thought and actions have left such a deep and durable imprint on our nation as it resembles the title bestowed upon him as the “Father of the Turks”. His visionary ideas and the reforms he implemented have transformed Türkiye into what it stands today as a strong democratic, secular and modern country. Our path during the past hundred years has been embellished with milestones that echo the heroic strides of a nation that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Her lands have witnessed millennia of conflict between powerful forces—East and West, Christianity and Islam, modernity and tradition. However, with the strength it draws from its rich history, Türkiye determinedly advances on the path to building a bright and prosperous future for herself as well as to her region as an independent power with a unique national identity.
The comprehensive political, economic, social and cultural reforms that were initiated throughout this century have led the Republic to achieve a growth story that is not only phenomenal but also exemplary for other nations who are striving for development and stability. From a 1500-dollar per capita income in the 1980s capable of exporting only 3 billion dollars, to a tenfold increase in the per capita income today with exports exceeding 170 billion dollars, the Turkish economy stands as testament to a resilient and adaptive economic trajectory, significantly evolved and enriched in comparison to a hundred years ago. Besides, our recent natural gas discovery in the Black Sea has energized our energy prospects while our advanced defense projects spanning various sectors including aerospace, naval and land systems have made Türkiye a notable player in the global defense industry in the 21st century.
In the theater of global and regional stability, the founding principle set out by Atatürk, “Peace at Home, Peace in the World’’ has enabled Türkiye to gracefully play the role of a mediator embedded with humanitarian virtues and relentless efforts toward peace and prosperity. Be it through our significant contributions toward mitigating crises such as in Syria and Ukraine while mobilizing international community to achieve a ceasefire in Palestine or by hosting nearly five million displaced people at a time when the world is currently experiencing one of the largest refugee flows creating humanitarian, political, social and economic consequences. Türkiye, the guarantor of peace and the key to serenity, will continue her common-sense, solution-oriented “Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy” towards resolving crises, establishing peace, stability and co-operation. While strengthening her strategic locations around the world, Türkiye has also recognized the increasing importance of Asia in global arena with initiatives such as “Asia Anew” aiming to capitalize potential opportunities of bilateral cooperation with Asian countries, as well as regional organizations.
In the realm of humanitarian aid, especially in times of global crisis, our humanitarian ethos shines positioning herself as a compassionate power. This is evident as Türkiye stands as the most generous country in terms of the volume of humanitarian aid it provides in relation to its GDP. In the aftermath of the devastating tsunami that struck many island nations including Sri Lanka in 2004, Türkiye came forward to provide immediate humanitarian assistance and also built a housing complex for those who lost their homes in the coastal parts of Sri Lanka, as well as for the IDPs who suffered by the separatist war in the country. Apart from her ongoing humanitarian and capacity building assistance, Türkiye through the Türkiye Scholarship program is offering students from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to pursue their high education in a friendly country. Turkish government also provided medical assistance to Sri Lanka during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis last year.
The humanitarian approach of Türkiye has been reciprocated by the international community as the country was struck with one of the biggest natural disasters of the century with the February 6th earthquakes that affected more than 14 million people with an affected area two and a half times bigger than Sri Lanka. Despite facing its own turbulent times, the heartwarming assistance extended by our dear Sri Lankan friends as well as the Sri Lankan government to help the victims of the earthquake will forever remain etched in the hearts of every Turkish citizen. The assistance of Sri Lankan people following the earthquake was nothing else than the reflection of the excellent relations between our people, which have centuries long history going well before 1864, when the first diplomatic relations were established between Ceylon and the Ottoman Empire.
The significance of year 2023 reverberates beyond the centenary proclamation of the Turkish Republic. It is worth mentioning that Türkiye was among the first countries to recognize Sri Lanka’s independence 75 years ago. This year also marks the completion of ten fruitful years since the establishment of the Turkish Embassy in Colombo. Last but not least, our national flag carrier Turkish Airlines also completes ten successful years since its establishment in Sri Lanka. Having started operations in 2013 through a stop-over in Male (Maldives), Turkish Airlines from November 2023 on, will begin direct flights between Istanbul and Colombo. I believe this new arrangement, in dissociating the Istanbul-Colombo and Istanbul-Male flights, will make a significant contribution to boost the Sri Lankan tourism market at this very crucial moment.
As we turn the page of a century based upon these monumental milestones, it is with great optimism that I envisage a flourishing future of enhanced cooperation between our two countries. May the friendship between Türkiye and Sri Lanka continue to prosper in the centuries to come and may our shared journey ahead be filled with remarkable milestones of triumph and togetherness.