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Memorial Speech by Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe – Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
at the National Diet of Japan
on 6th October 2015
Sri Lanka – Japan Relations : Future Direction
His Excellency the Speaker,
His Excellency the Prime Minister,
Distinguished Members of the Diet,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure and privilege and respect that I address this august audience. We have been in your country for three days and we leaving back to Sri Lanka tomorrow. My Delegation, including my wife and of course myself, were made to feel more than at home by your unique, sincere and warm hospitality and the courtesies integral and inherent to the peoples of Japan. We were extremely touched by the most cordial and congenial reception extended by the Government of Japan as well.
On this momentous occasion, I wish to take this opportunity to convey our good wishes and sincere appreciation on behalf of President Maithripala Sirisena, the Parliament and the peoples of Sri Lanka, to His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, the Prime Minister, the Government, the National Diet and the peoples of Japan.
The last speech made by the First Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka, D S Senanayake was on the Japanese Peace Treaty. Speaking on 29th February 1952, he said,
“We can congratulate ourselves on being a party to this Peace Treaty. This is the first opportunity that Japan is getting to establish herself. We should not harbour anger and try to keep the Japanese people down.”
Twenty-two days later, he was dead. A month after his death, Sri Lanka fulfilled his policies by establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. D S Senanayake was of the view that the post-war world should not be dominated by Western powers and the USSR. Therefore he did not waver in the belief that it was necessary to encourage Japan to re-start its economic development. His thinking was similar to that of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and because of this conviction and foresight he waived war reparations from Japan to Sri Lanka.
As a part of this strategy, D S sent J R Jayewardene, the Minister of Finance to lead our delegation to the San Francisco Peace Conference. When I entered politics, I remember J R Jayewardene telling us of the conditions of the war ravaged Japan when he stayed at the Imperial Hotel on his way to San Francisco. On this occasion he also had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Yoshida. This is why he took a strong stand on the Peace Treaty when others in Asia were undecided or hesitant.
Commending J R Jayewardene in Parliament for this speech, D S Senanayake described him as “our representative with a backbone, who made it clear that we were not going to yield to the game played by the Soviet Union”. During this phase Japan-Sri Lanka relations were both emerging from World War II as we re-established our independence. Twenty-five years later, in 1977, J R Jayewardene himself became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the following year he became the first Executive President of the country. By then Japan had become Asia’s economic miracle. During his tenure of office, relations between our countries became closer and stronger.
I was his first Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1977. One of the first foreign envoys sent to meet us was your Vice Minister representing the Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Fukuda. At that time, Mr. Jayewardene, being highly taken with the Fukuda Doctrine, sought the support of the Japanese Government to establish a market economy and to implement a massive development programme in Sri Lanka. Friendship between the two countries led to this much needed support. And we must remember with gratitude the gift of a hospital with 1001 beds by the Japanese Government to the new capital Sri Jayewardenapura.
One of the members of the Japanese Government who was involved at the initial stage in developing of economic relations between the two countries was the Minister of International Trade and Industries – Mr. Shinatro Abe, the father of the present Prime Minister. I must also mention the support given by the Prime Minister Nakasone and Foreign Minister Abe when Sri Lanka faced with communal unrest, terrorism and the ethnic conflict from 1983 onwards. I myself had the opportunity of coming here as the representative of President Premadasa to seek the assistance of your Government when we were the unfortunate, indirect victims of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the resultant economic crisis. Prime Minister Kaifu was generous in his response.
When I became the Minister of Industries, Science and Technology, I sought the advice of Mr Saburo Okita. Then, when I became the Prime Minister in 2001, I was given the mandate by our people to engage in Peace Talks with the Tamil Tigers. And I must mention again, with appreciation, the help given by Prime Minister Koizumi in hosting the donor conference for Sri Lanka in Tokyo and for being a Co-Chairman of the Peace Process.
Today, the world order has seen far reaching transformations - politically, economically and technologically, especially since the time of President J R Jayewardene and Prime Minister Nakasone. Therefore it is imperative that these changes are reflected in the future direction of the relationship between our two countries – in particular, the new Japanese ODA Charter 2015. My visit to Japan is primarily to discuss the Declaration of the Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries. I believe this will be a framework for collaboration in the following spheres:
The cultural, and
The Comprehensive Partnership will delineate our cooperation in these important areas.
Sri Lanka elected a new President in January and a new Government in August of this year - I wish to take this opportunity to place this on record. Today, democratic norms including that of good governance, transparency, the rule of law and the rule of justice are being entrenched in the country. On 1st October 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka commended the new Government for the initiatives already taken.
This Government consists of the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party - the two largest political parties in Sri Lanka. Traditionally rivals, they entered into a Grand Coalition similar to what prevails in Germany … beginning a new era in political collaboration.
This has given us the mandate to restore peace, inclusivity, transparency and stability. As Abraham Lincoln stated “Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets”.
Our political goals include a new Constitution, the consolidation of human rights and the strengthening of democratic institutions.
But what is most important to us is to incorporate a political settlement to the outstanding issues relating to national unity, ethnicity and religion.
We have already started informal discussions with the Tamil National Alliance and other parties on a political solution. The language and ethnicity issues, which dominated the country over five decades, and religious discord that were stirred up during the last decade, must be resolved if a strong Sri Lankan identity – based on equality - is to be established. Only this will bring about an inclusive settlement acceptable to all communities.
We also look forward to Japan contributing to National Reconciliation and Peace Building in Sri Lanka. Once again we are seeking Japanese assistance to summon a meeting of donors to assist in the reconstruction and in revitalizing the socio economy of the conflict-affected areas.
With women being a majority in our population, the Women’s Rights law will incorporate the UN principles on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. Currently, all elected women representatives in the country are less than 5% of the total number of political representatives. Therefore another law will provide reservations for 25% women representatives in Municipalities and Provincial Councils. The Parliament will give affect to recommendations of the Task Force on Sexual and Gender based Violence. We are also in the process of establishing a national centre for women headed households – with its headquarters in the North of the country.
The Government gives priority to protecting the environment since we are all in agreement to safeguard the rich bio-diversity in Sri Lanka. Tackling climate change will receive priority under this policy. The Parliament will also establish, by law, a Sustainable Development Council to enact the Sustainable Development Goals.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution limited the powers of the Executive Presidency. We are now discussing measures to strengthen Parliament. This will include the introduction of oversight committees, similar to the National Diet, the US Congress and the EU Parliament. There will also be a Parliamentary Budget Office. The Mandate of the J R Jayewardene Centre will be expanded to include research and training for Parliamentarians thereby forming a back up office to Parliament and core political training on the enactment of legislation, parliamentary conventions and procedures, ethics and good practice for new legislators.
The Tamil National Alliance, now the third largest party holds the leadership of the Opposition, while the JVP the Peoples Liberation Front has the office of Chief Opposition Whip. Therefore the main parties hold Office in either the Government or in Parliament, resulting in the Parliament becoming the national forum. We will also televise Parliamentary proceedings. We will, thereby, attempt to build on Lord Buddha’s advice to the Lichchavi Republican Assemblies in the Ganges, “to meet in harmony, to discuss in harmony and depart in harmony”.
Let me now say a few words on the recent developments in regard to a national machinery for reconciliation and accountability. In this, we will be guided by the same words of Lord Buddha that J R Jayewardene quoted in San Francisco. “Hatred ceases only by love”. Therefore, we are discussing with South Africa, the architecture of a new structure for a truth machinery. This will include, first, a Truth Commission to record the instances of violence and violations. Second, we will establish an innovative new mechanism – a Compassionate Council - headed by the leading clergy of all the religions – Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim. They will give us advise on the measures to be taken on individual cases. Finally, we will be devising a new judicial structure to inquire into the violation of human rights.
The Government is planning to carry out the next generation of economic reforms to make Sri Lanka a highly competitive economy – we are aiming to be the most competitive in South Asia - on par with South East Asia. The Ministry of Development Strategy and International Trade will coordinate all investments and economic relations. The barriers to Direct Foreign Investments including the bottleneck and delays to doing business will be removed. There will also be reforms in the Financial and Monetary sectors and a more stringent control of the Budgets. We have created a new Ministry for Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure.
Sri Lanka will also strengthen its social sector programme especially Universal access to Education and Health by increasing the budgetary allocations to both these sectors. Finally, a new set of laws will be put in place to combat corruption and financial crimes.
Since time immemorial Sri Lanka has been at the heart of Indian Ocean trade, and more precisely in the Bay of Bengal. We will continue this tradition by entering into an Indo-Lanka Economic and Technology Collaboration partnership, Free Trade Agreements with Pakistan, Bangladesh and the ASEAN nations bordering the Bay of Bengal - Myanmar Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
We are preparing ourselves for an Asia Pacific based on the Trans Pacific Partnership. Sri Lanka will also negotiate with the EU for GSP+ concessions and with China for a Free Trade Agreement.
Today the global economy is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. I believe that two major economic developments will determine the fate of medium term global growth.
First - the normalization of the US monetary policy.
The second is China’s slow transformation to an economy relying on consumption, which will lead to slower and sustainable growth in China.
In this background, the Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde has described the medium term growth prospects as “the new mediocre”.
I am advocating that we, in South Asia, respond to this predicted low growth scenario - by creating a High Growth South Asia Region.
The economies of UK and US are performing well while the EU and Japan are on the way to full recovery. India is expected to sustain its growth.
The new national Government in Sri Lanka is providing stability for economic restructuring which is expected to lead to a high rate of growth. However Japanese participation in South Asian Economic Development will add momentum to enable higher growth rates in South Asia. This requires multiple options to be pursued - including Japanese Connectivity to India through Sri Lanka.
Speaking at the STS Forum in Kyoto, I proposed a partnership between Japan and the South Asian countries to enable the application of Japanese Science and Technology to transform the regional economy. I am convinced that we have to make this happen – not only will it profit South Asia but it will benefit Japan too, giving her a lead role in shaping the South Asian economy.
Today South Asia has a population of 1.6 billion people and a GDP of US$ US$ 2.6 trillion. By 2050 the region’s population is projected to increase to about 2 billion, which will make it larger than East Asia. Let us ponder on that.
Let me reiterate, we will look to Japan to take the lead in the economic transformation of Sri Lanka and South East Asia. To create a South Asian High Growth Area enabling the region to fulfill its economic potential and bring higher living standards to its people. This will also have a positive impact on the medium term Global Economic growth. It is in this context that we are discussing a new collaboration partnership with Japan. Sri Lanka is willing to make the start on this new journey, which will also offer many new opportunities for Japanese investors.
The proposed collaboration, as I stated before, also aims to utilize Japanese science and technology, to overcome the economic challenges to development. This requires multiple approaches to utilize Japan’s experience, namely,
Collaboration between existing institutions
Building Centres of Excellence in Science and Technology Innovation
Strengthening of Science and Technology education and the establishment of an Institute of Technology with a Japanese ethos.
Assistance to strengthen human security and to counter climate change.
Finally, I would like to invite Direct Japanese Private Investments in all sectors and we will put in place the appropriate environment for this. We also hope to improve bilateral trading and enhance inter-personal relations by attracting Japanese tourists.
The proposed collaborations will be parallel to the existing infrastructure development programmes and the financial assistance programmes aiming to create synergies and a strategic platform for Japan’s activities in Sri Lanka and the South Asian region.
I further propose that this economic collaboration be buttressed by political collaboration, which will further strengthen the ties between our two countries.
I believe that we have a common interest in Maritime Security and Oceanic issues especially in regard to the Indian Ocean:
The reduction of tension in Asia,
The maintenance of free, open and stable seas - based on the Rule of Law,
Improved maritime connectivity, and
Reforms to the UN Security Council.
In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to record the gratitude and appreciation of the Government, the peoples of Sri Lanka and of myself to the Government and the peoples of Japan - for the cooperation and assistance extended to Sri Lanka, in a myriad of ways, over the past decades.
Further, being afforded the opportunity to address the members of the National Diet of Japan is deeply valued and appreciated by my delegation and by myself. I will be failing in my duty if I do not mention the role played by Mr Koji Omi who ensured that this visit was a success.
May I also add that over the last several decades the Government and the peoples of Japan have been exceptionally and remarkably generous in extending assistance and cooperation towards the advancement of the developing and less developed nations in the world (including Sri Lanka). By being so benevolent, the happiness, comfort and the well-being of the peoples of Japan will surely never decrease.
And I wish to quote, the judicious words of Lord Buddha:
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
I thank you.