|Geneva Mission celebrates 61st anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence|
|Thursday, 05 February 2009|
The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland held a reception for the Sri Lanka expatriate community in honour of the 61st National Day of Sri Lanka on 4 February 2009.
Speaking to the large number of attendees at the function, H.E. Dr. Dayan Jayatillake, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva observed that, "We shall not forget this 61st Independence Day for a very long time, not because we are gathered here in Geneva but because we are at a critical turning point in the long history of the country that is our birthplace and our hope."
Dr. Jayatilleke also spoke of the challenges that Sri Lanka will face in the future to "defeat the forces of separation, terrorism and fascism militarily, while simultaneously, building unity, avoiding the mistakes that led us to this situation, preventing the recurrence of yet another cycle of division, sadness, destruction and bloodshed". However, he also expressed the hope that the foundations would be laid for a united Sri Lanka, to which Sri Lankans abroad could return to contribute their experiences to the continued development of the country.
The event saw Sri Lankans from different communities from all over Switzerland gathered to celebrate this important day. In particular, the reception was also attended by members of EPDP and EPRLF, who said they had not heretofore attended Independence Day celebrations in Geneva.
The evening's reception was opened with the hoisting of the national flag and the singing of the national anthem, followed by observances by the Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian religious dignitaries. The traditional oil lamp was lit by the children of the Mission staff, dressed in traditional costumes of all communities of the island. Thereafter, guests were served traditional Sri Lankan treats such as 'Kiribath' ('Milk rice') and sweet meats.
The speech by H.E. Dr. Dayan Jayatillake, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva was as follows:
“Reverend Sirs, the Ambassador to the WTO Mr. Perera, friends,
I shall speak a few words in Sinhala, and then switch to our link language, English, and a summary of my sentiments will be translated to Tamil by the new Minister of our Permanent Mission, Mr. Jauhar.
Reverend Sirs, we shall not forget this 61st Independence Day for a very long time, not because we are gathered here in Geneva but because we are at a critical turning point in the long history of the country that is our birthplace and our hope.
Many societies, almost all societies, go through periods of trial and tribulations and the manner in which they face those trials shapes the destiny of generations to come. This is true of the big and small. This is true, for instance of the United States of America, whose President, President Barrack Obama has sent us a very warm and appreciative message of congratulations on our 61st Independence Day, today.
We know that the United States in the 1860s went through a civil war against the threat of separation, of secessionism. And one of the greatest leaders of the United States and the world, Abraham Lincoln spearheaded the fight of that country against the armies of secessionism for the unity of the United States.
The challenge which Sri Lanka has been facing is of no less magnitude. We have faced a separatist army which has attempted to break off a part of our small island and has attempted to do so when there have been many honourable alternatives available to them, at least from the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987. But having turned their backs on all these reformist alternatives, the secessionist forces of the LTTE murdered democratic leaders of all communities and has distinguished itself by being the only terrorist organisation in the world to murder the leaders of more than one country; as we know, the former Prime Minister of India, Sri Rajiv Gandhi, who was the grandson of the great Jawaharlal Nehru, the founder Prime Minister of India, and the son of Indira Gandhi, was murdered by an LTTE suicide bomber on the soil of Tamil Nadu.
It is this sort of fascist, terrorist enemy that Sri Lanka has been facing. And today, we have victory within our grasp. By ‘we’ I do not mean only, or pre-eminently, a single ethnic community. As President Mahinda Rajapksa said on an earlier occasion, after the victories in Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass, this was not being distorted or reduced to the victory of South over North, of one community over another. This is not for the South. This is a victory for the liberation of all our communities and future generations from a fascist, totalitarian threat.
Recently, as recent as the 6th of January this year, a well-known and respected American journalist, Barbara Crosset, an editorialist for the New York Times, probably the best known newspaper in the world, writing in the liberal newspaper The Nation described the Tigers as the most lethal and totalitarian organization in contemporary Asia. Now as we know, contemporary Asia is an organisation which contains within itself Al Qaeda, Taliban, Abu Sayyaf, the MILF, the JET, and various terrorist organizations. But Barbara Crosset defines the Tigers as the most lethal and totalitarian.
We are about to defeat that foe. That is not an achievement of any small or meagre proportions. That task remains to be completed. And it is quite possible that the toughest battles are in this closing stage of the war. We must wish the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and people all the goodwill and the luck necessary to fulfil this task.
We are faced with another challenge on this 61st independence anniversary, and that is the pressure from some section of the international community who have disproportionately influenced in the western media, pressure brought thereupon Sri Lanka to have a cessation of hostility, or a ceasefire and negotiate with the Tigers: these statements, some of them well meaning, some of them not so well meaning, are piled one on top of the other as if Sri Lanka has not negotiated with the tigers; as if India has not negotiated with the Tigers; as if successive Sri Lankan administrations have not negotiated with the Tigers; as if the several leaders who attempted at negotiated solutions of Sri Lanka and India not dead for the efforts they made.
Our reply to these well-intentioned suggestions is, to quote the phrase of a former British Prime Minister in another context: “We’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and we are not going there back again.”
We shall fight hard irrespective of the pressures that have been brought to bear on us to complete the victory and to reunify the territory of Sri Lanka. But that is only one of the tasks that face us on this 61st anniversary of our independence day. The other task is to reunify the people of Sri Lanka; to reunify the communities of Sri Lanka; to build, perhaps for the first time, an authentic Sri Lankan nation, where every community, ethnic or religious, feels that they are equal shareholders or stakeholders, where nobody looks down upon the other or assumes privileges by some accident of arithmetic. This is the twin challenge. There is not only one challenge. There are two indissoluble challenges that face us, on this day and in this year.
To defeat the forces of separation, terrorism and fascism militarily, while simultaneously, building unity, avoiding the mistakes that led us to this situation, preventing the recurrence of yet another cycle of division, sadness, destruction and bloodshed. This is one of those rare moments in history where we can get everything right, or we can get it wrong. It is up to us. President Rajapksa has given a signal in the Independence Day message that was read out by our Counsellor Mr. Ekanayake in which he speaks about ‘samanathvaya’, equality, for the Tamil people, its assurance and all the rights guaranteed under the constitution.
So, it is this twin historic challenge that we have the privilege and the burden of shouldering today. And what hopes that we would be able to have the resolve and the wisdom, the resolve to fight on until victory in the shortest possible space of time; the resolve to listen to the well-meaning advice of our friends overseas but to know to ignore it when they are wrong, and the wisdom to heal the wounds of war. To reach out to all communities, to treat everyone as we would like to be treated ourselves, and to lay the foundations for a united Sri Lanka, based on fair play, justice and equality, where our children, the youngsters that I see here today, will be able to return, contribute and share with their brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, what they’ve learnt of societies in which they lived, such as Switzerland, because we cannot live in isolation. We have to combine the best of other countries, with the best that is in ours. Not everything that is ours is good or correct, because we know how to sift out the good from the bad in every society and enrich our own, with the influence of and inputs from all over the world.
With those words, I would like to switch to the Sinhala language and then Mr. Jauhar will summarise my words in Tamil.”
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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