Anne concludes Sri Lanka visit describing herself ‘eyes and ears’ of monarchy

Anne concludes Sri Lanka visit describing herself ‘eyes and ears’ of monarchy

The Princess Royal had concluded her visit to Sri Lanka describing herself as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the monarchy, the British media reported.

Anne is known for her busy work schedule and she said there was a need to ‘get out and find out what’s going on’.

Her comments came at the end of a successful three-day visit to Sri Lanka with her husband where she was pictured carrying some of her bags down the steps of the plane when they first arrived on Tuesday.

The princess, who is president of the UK Fashion and Textile Association, also suggested clothing manufacturers might return to a period when garments could be altered for a new use rather than thrown away – in a bid to improve sustainability.

The princess, 73, has been dubbed the King’s ‘right-hand woman’ thanks to her support for her brother, and her reputation as one of the most hard-working royals in Charles’s slimmed-down monarchy.

Interviewed by the PA news agency, she was asked about her workload and replied: ‘Well, I think in the context of the monarchy it takes more than one person to be able to stay in contact, and we’re part of the eyes and ears.

‘So, as much as possible, we just want to get out and find out what’s going on and help support people who are doing an incredibly good job, wherever they are in the country and that applies here too.

‘You look around here, there are charities here that are well established, and they do a fantastic job and that kind of ethos has to be supported, wherever you find it, so that’s not difficult.’

Anne has toured Sri Lanka over the past three days with her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, beginning in the capital Colombo where she visited MAS, a company producing sportswear and active clothing including tops for tennis star Novak Djokovich.

And for the past 30 years it has been manufacturing underwear and lingerie for Marks and Spencer.

Her visit to the clothing company was also to learn about its efforts to produce sustainable garments and she commented to PA about the ‘ubiquitous T-shirt which was churned out in millions’.

She added: ‘…what do you do with them next? Nobody really thought that one through and they are going to have to think about that sort of thing in the future.

‘You think about how much is going into landfill.’

She suggested whether a return to traditional processes of clothing manufacture might be the answer.

Anne said: ‘You go through the phase when fashion was very structured and people followed fashion, but you had tailors and dressmakers who absolutely fundamentally made that, but you could also alter it because they had the skills to do so.

‘Now you’ve got instant fashion which you then throw away, you don’t alter it because it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

‘So whether we’ve got to relearn those skills, go back and say ‘actually, we need materials that can do more than one evolution of fashion’.’

Earlier Anne paid her respects to the fallen when she laid a wreath in their memory in Colombo, during her first visit to a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery as the organisation’s president.

When asked if it was an honour to take on the role, she replied ‘definitely’ and went on to describe some of the military graves she had come across during her oversee visits.

She said: ‘You would find these little war grave cemeteries, beautifully maintained by locals, probably father and son.

‘And then you go to the bigger ones like in Singapore, which are a completely different scale of graveyards in any shape, or form, and again, they’re beautifully done, really well looked after – the source of extraordinary knowledge.’

The couple received a rapturous welcome at the temple and received a blessing from the chief priest, as well as a garland and gifts.

A shimmering scarf of gold and red silk was draped over the princess and her husband’s shoulders, a garland of jasmine and rose flowers were placed around their necks and each received a pottu in the middle of their forehead.

Sir Tim was asked to smash the coconut, which is symbolic of getting rid of bad luck and welcoming better fortunes.

A procession of female dancers and musicians playing drums and an oboe-like instrument called a Nadaswaram preceded the couple as they walked into the temple.

Inside the huge building the cacophony of the droning music was deafening, and they stood before a shrine to Lord Ganesh and touched an offering of fruit – including pomegranates, mangoes and bananas – betel leaves and a garland of jasmine flowers for the deity.

Chief Priest Sachithanantha Kurukal went into the shrine to conduct the pooja or blessing as Anne and her husband watched, and they later toured the temple viewing the many shrines to Hindu gods.

Outside they were offered the chance to feed sacred cows, a revered animal in Hinduism, and Anne held some vegetation as they munched away.

Earlier on, she looked solemn as she laid a wreath at a cemetery in Colombo on the final day of her Sri Lanka tour.

The Princess Royal visited her first Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery as the organisation’s president, as her tour of Sri Lanka draws to a close.

At the CGWC’s Jawatta Cemetery in Colombo, Anne and her husband joined other dignitaries paying their respects to the fallen.

A short service of remembrance featured a bugler playing the Last Post before a minute’s silence, where Anne laid a wreath.

During last year’s Remembrance weekend it was announced Anne would take on her new role, succeeding the Duke of Kent who had been president since 1970, and the King was announced as the CWGC’s first patron.

It has been a visit of much variety – as Anne was also witness to the deadly land mine legacy of Sri Lanka’s civil war when she watched workers clearing a site.

The Princess Royal travelled to the former front line of the conflict described as ‘brutal’ and like the Western Front to learn about efforts to make the area habitable.

During the visit a family who have returned to their homeland after being forced to flee the war welcomed Anne and her husband with lotus flower garlands and performed the namaste greeting which the royal couple returned.

The King’s sister put on a heavy protective vest before she was given a private tour from the perimeter of an active minefield near the northern city of Jaffna, being cleared by workers from the Halo Trust using machines.

The conflict between armed separatist Tamil Tiger forces and the Sri Lankan Army ended in May 2009 after 26 years, with the government troops claiming a victory that left an estimated 100,000 dead.

Stephen Hall, Halo Sri Lanka programme manager, gave Anne and husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence a briefing of the charity’s work before they drove to the landmine site.

He told the princess, who is midway through a three-day tour of Sri Lanka, that the area close to their location, Muhamalai near Jaffna, was the forward defence line in the civil war.

‘For this think Western Front, First World War, it’s very similar. Ten years we had both sides dug in firing at each other, entrenched,’ he said.

Mr Hall added: ‘It was brutal, it was bloody and there is a lot of ordnance out there to clear.’

Halo’s land mine clearance in Sri Lanka has allowed 280,000 displaced people to return to their homelands, with locally trained staff removing more than one million pieces of ordnance that were left by both sides during the war.

He also said: ‘We’re very much focused on the humanitarian impact of our work – the resettlement of internally displaced people, restoring livelihoods and reconciliation. So clearing explosive ordinance is a means to an end.’

Rasathurai Nallaiah and his wife Kesavi Rasathurai gave the royals a tour of their land, showing them their goats and Anne marvelled at a dusty purple yam the smallholder pulled from the ground.

The displaced family were told to leave their land in 2000 by Tamil Tigers and returned in 2020, after living in the Jaffna area, to an acre of land where they have built a new home and are waiting for an extra four acres to be cleared of munitions.

When told four of their eight children remained at home Anne quipped: ‘They are quite useful – not very useful.’

Earlier the princess and her husband visited Jaffna, the centre of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community who are rebuilding their cultural heritage after the civil war, and toured the public library which is home to more than 200,000 Tamil books and manuscripts.

When she arrived the princess had a garland placed around her head and a pottu or dot placed on her forehead and met Tamil representatives from the arts, education and local politics and viewed library archives.

On day two of her tour, Princess Anne paid a visit to a sacred Buddhist temple as she kicked off the second day of her Sri Lankan tour to celebrate the UK’s ties with the Commonwealth nation.

She wore white as she paid her respects at the Sacred Tooth Relic, after landing nearby in her helicopter.

The ancient city of worship in the central city of Kandy is Sri Lanka’s most significant Buddhist temple, and is home to a tooth Buddhists believe is from their deity.

Her helicopter, provided by the government of the country, followed local protocol when it flew her to the site – and avoided landing on a cricket wicket.

Anne’s first day in South East Asia began with the royal carrying some of her bags down the steps of the plane before starting a busy round of engagements marking the 75th anniversary of Britain’s diplomatic links with Sri Lanka.

The princess is visiting the country at the request of the Foreign Office.

She has been dubbed the King’s ‘right-hand woman’ thanks to her support for her brother, and her reputation as one of the hardest-working royals in Charles’s slimmed-down monarchy.

The trip is the royal family’s first overseas tour of 2024.

In 1948 Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, gained its independence after more than a century of British rule.

Anne last visited Sri Lanka nearly 30 years ago in 1995 as patron of Save the Children to see projects supported by the charity.

The King and Queen, as the then-Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, travelled there in 2013 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Charles carried out solo trips in 2005 in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and in 1998 to mark 50 years of the diplomatic relationship between the UK and the republic.

The King and Queen are expected to visit Canada in May, and Australia, New Zealand and Samoa in October.

The Prince and Princess of Wales are reported to be planning to travel to Italy for an official visit this spring. (Daily Mail / Colombo Gazette)

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