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Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (left) and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (R) shake hands during a meeting in Colombo. AFP

COLOMBO: Malaysia will send a mission to help rebuild the formerly war-torn Northern Province in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The mission will determine the assistance required to aid the people in Jaffna particularly, who had been affected by the civil war, Najib added.

The assistance could be in the form of micro-financing to single mothers akin to the Amanah Ikhtiar initiative, training for ex-army personnel and public housing.

There are 45,000 single mothers who became their family’s sole breadwinners following the civil war. This was in addition to 11,000 ex-army personnel without jobs in Northern Province, one of nine provinces in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Najib said this at a press conference with the Malaysian media, concluding his three-day official working visit to Sri Lanka today (Tuesday).

The decision to send the mission was made following a courtesy call on Najib by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V Wigneswaran this afternoon.

Najib said the mission, will possibly be sent next year, and will comprise leaders from both the public and private sectors.

As such, he called on Malaysian corporate leaders with Sri Lankan heritage to join the mission.

“We will send a mission from the public and private sectors especially from the Sri Lankan diaspora in Malaysia. There are more than 200,000 Malaysians who are third or fourth generation of Sri Lankan descendants,” he noted.

Najib also said during a luncheon discussion his Sri Lankan counterpart, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had sought Malaysia’s help to spur the country’s economy overall.

“Sri Lanka is on the verge of economic recovery after the civil war. This is the right time to enter and help develop its economy.

“The country is looking for a friend and a strategic partner, and Malaysia is seen as perfect as it is neither small nor big, and is not a threat,” he added.

Malaysia and Sri Lanka already have a cordial trade and diplomatic ties.

Last year, Sri Lanka was Malaysia’s 41st largest trading partner; and among South Asian countries, Sri Lanka was Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner after India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

From January to September 2017 their total bilateral trade increased by 20.8 per cent to US$499.1 million compared to US$439.2 million for the corresponding period in 2016.

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