Sri Lankan President Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa Delivers Remarks To The U.N. General Assembly
Wed September 24, 2008 12:34 EDT .
(JOINED IN PROGRESS) RAJAPAKSA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... without being cowed by many pressures through the last three years and thus did not face any situation where our people had to face hunger or starvation. On climate change, the SAARC leaders reiterated the need to redouble efforts within an expanded regional framework for environmental protection, conservation, and justice.
We stressed that we should contribute to restoring harmony with nature, a part of the heritage of South Asia. We humans have interfered with nature too much for too long. We must accept that the dangers of climate change are manmade and its solutions, too, require man's intervention.
Mr. President, with the promulgation of the U.N. Charter to save succeeding generations from the tragedy of war, at least the major threat of intercontinental war seems to have been receded. However, the just struggle of Palestinians for statehood continues.
Today, the United Nations and its people are confronted with the fast spreading menace of terrorism that manifests itself in various forms in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The United Nations has a grave responsibility to save today's and succeeding generations from this new and continuing menace.
We have been talking for long enough; it is time for clear action in this regard.
Like many other countries, Sri Lanka, too, has not been spared this global menace. Exploiting perceived ethnic grievances that must and can be addressed through political means, the vested interests of a well-organized terror group, the LTTE, indulges in blatant and brutal acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings, to seek negotiating leverage, political recognition, and legitimacy.
I am saddened by the loss of life and destruction caused by the recent terrorist attack in Pakistan.
Mr. President, our government has always been ready to address the causes of these issues and effectively implement political and constitutional solutions to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities.
What the government would not and could not do is to let an illegal and armed terrorist group, the LTTE, to hold a fraction of our population, a part of the Tamil community, hostage to such terror in the northern part of Sri Lanka and deny these people their democratic rights of dissent and free elections. Through our past actions, we have proved it.
The government has therefore declared its policy of engaging in dialogue and discussion with the democratic leadership of the Tamil community, a people who have lived in harmony with other Sri Lankans for centuries. Today, there are Tamil leaders holding responsible ministerial posts in my government.
A former attorney general of then Ceylon, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, also a loved Tamil politician, in September 1904, had this to say at a public meeting in Colombo. I quote: I have been to many countries in the world. But no where have I seen such a friendly race as the Sinhalese, who also uphold high moral values, unquote. Such was the harmony between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. But a malicious group has turned all of this upside down.
All successive governments of Sri Lanka have endeavored to resolve the problem for over 25 years, including through Norwegian facilitation and international co-chairs overseeing a so-called peace process that was treated with contempt by the terrorists.
On each occasion that talks were held seeking peace, the terrorists of the LTTE walked out on the flimsiest of excuses and reverted to terrorism of the worst kind: indiscriminately targeting innocent civilians.
Our government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group when it is ready to commit itself to decommissioning of its illicit weapons and dismantling of its military capability and return to the democratic fold.
The government has also made it clear that the elected government cannot and will not permit undermining of the territorial integrity of the sovereign U.N. member state of Sri Lanka and the division of its territory. We are also clear in this message.
The government's objective is to enable the people to enjoy the benefits of the democratic processes and to speed the development activities in those areas where there is a heavy presence of terrorists.
This would be similar to the fast-tracking of economic development taking place in the eastern province of Sri Lanka, where former terrorists now function as democratically elected provincial councilors. And a former child soldier, conscripted by the LTTE, is now the elected chief minister, having abandoned terrorism and embracing democracy.
Significantly, the restoration of democracy in the east of Sri Lanka was achieved in less than one year of it being freed from the clutches of terror.
Our government has also sought and received the cooperation of the United Nations, ICRC, and other agencies to help us in providing humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons, IDPs, and other affected civilians.
The U.N. secretary general's special representative on IDPs, who visited Sri Lanka some years ago, said, and I quote, Sri Lanka represents the unusual situation of a central government providing relief aid to persons under the control of the main opposition group.
In a world replete with examples of governments and rebel groups using food as a weapon against civilian populations, the situation in Sri Lanka is one that deserves closer attention, if not more publicity, as an important precedent, unquote. The government of Sri Lanka continues this humanitarian policy even today, although we know that the terrorists seize a good proportion of these humanitarian supplies.
Our supplies are not confined to food. They extend to medicines and all other essentials, as well as schools and hospitals, with teachers, doctors, nurses, and all other essential staff.
This is not all. The government also purchases the paddy and other foodstuffs produced in those areas.
I do not think there is any country in the world where there is such a -- where there is a government that provides such humanitarian assistance to terrorists that attack it. Our government considers the supply of humanitarian relief to its people as its prime responsibility.
The complex situation in Sri Lanka needs to be addressed and resolved through an appropriate process of deterrent law -- of deterrent law and order action and patient political efforts of consensus-building.
We have achieved the difficult but essential task of building democracy in the eastern province and are confident that it can be done in the north, as well.
Mr. President, this session of the assembly is a good time to take stock of progress made towards MDGs around the globe. As we do so, it is regrettable to note that most are behind schedule.
The slowing down of global economic growth, financial turmoil and speculation, rising food and fuel prices, and the impacts of climate change are clear and present obstacles.
Also, based on their political role, sanctions imposed on the leaders and the leadership of some countries following some protests are, in fact, targeted at the innocent people of those countries.
The steadily growing menace of international terrorism, with related activities, such as smuggling of illegal arms, human trafficking, drug trafficking, money laundering, and business empires run by terror groups undoubtedly undermine the fundamentals of humanity and civilization.
It appears that steps taken by us to eradicate these illegal activities have not been effective. This further complicates all national and international efforts at moving towards realizing MDGs.
Terrorism, as I have emphasized many a time, by its very nature rolls back even our modest achievements.
Mr. President, another similar menace is threatening to devour our children, the most valuable asset of any nation. That is the insecurity of the cyberspace that has not only helped corrupt the minds of our children, but also exposes them to predators, such as pedophiles, drug dealers, and pornographic sites. Sri Lanka has banned pornographic and similar destructive sites from being available through ISP providers. We are also controlling and restricting the use of mobile telephones for such damaging activities. This is an important area for world leaders to focus on.
It is important that urgent and collective actions, both short- and long-term, are taken to stem these adverse trends. Only such determined and concerted actions will enable progress towards the realization of the agreed development goals, including the MDGs, and frustrate elements which are bent on reversing the gains made.
We must deeply commit ourselves, as members of the United Nations, towards forging a way forward from limitations not seen by those who laid the foundations for this great institution of humankind. If we fail to do it now, future generations will curse us.
Mr. President, I wish to conclude my address with a stanza from the Dhammapada, words from the enlightened one: Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the calmed live, having set victory and defeat aside.
May the Noble Triple Gem bless you.
Published: Wed Sep 24 22:34:53 EDT 2008