|Redouble collective efforts to combat terrorism - President to SAARC|
|Sunday, 03 August 2008|
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the opening session of the 15th SAARC Summit this morning (August 2) at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, called on the South Asian leaders attending the summit to commit themselves and their countries to a more determined and concerted effort to collectively combat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestation.
He emphasized that it is the very interdependence which gave birth to SAARC that has emerged as the crucial factor for durable peace and the protection of democratic values in the region.
In this regard, President Rajapaksa expressed the need to ensure strengthening regional legal mechanisms and intensifying intelligence sharing, in order to secure the region's collective prosperity, peace and stability, in combating terrorism.
He said it is also necessary that South Asia as a region, endeavour to set right the many wrong impressions that exist, or are promoted elsewhere, about the actions that are imperative to protect our people and societies from the brutalities of terrorism. Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and there are no good terrorists or bad terrorists, he emphasized.
The full text of President Rajapaksa's address is given below:
Address by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa
At the 15th SAARC Summit, Inaugural Session - August 02, 2008
I am honoured and privileged to welcome you to Colombo for this fifteenth SAARC Summit.
Your presence in our country adds to the historic importance of this year for us. This year, our nation celebrates the sixtieth Anniversary of our being freed from the yoke of colonial rule. Most of the nations of our region share with us the common heritage of colonial dominance and struggle for freedom to restore our national dignity and honour.
I consider it my duty on this occasion to express on behalf of all Member States of SAARC, our deep appreciation for the dynamic leadership that India has provided to this region and to SAARC since the fourteenth SAARC Summit in New Delhi.
I would also take this opportunity to welcome and extend best wishes to the new Secretary General of SAARC, Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, while also expressing our appreciation to his predecessor, Mr. Chenkyab Dorji and the SAARC Secretariat for their dedicated and invaluable work in preparation for this Summit.
This Colombo Summit takes place amidst a background of significant political events and major international issues, such as food and fuel insecurity and degradation of the environment. It is our responsibility as leaders and representatives of our peoples to give tangible expression to the SAARC Charter objective of promoting the welfare and improving the quality of life of our peoples, which remains at the core of all our common endeavours.
The Delhi Summit launched SAARC as a Partnership for Prosperity, for the Prosperity of Our People, identifying the importance of connectivity as a powerful engine of growth. Continuity, consistency and coordination are all vital to have the desired practical effect towards our goal of regional economic integration.
However, we must ensure that SAARC becomes more meaningful to all our people. Therefore, throughout the ensuing year we have to give SAARC a truly people-centred focus through all its programmes and mechanisms. It is then that SAARC can become the robust Partnership for Growth for all our people.
South Asia's continued progress in economic and social development is a matter of great satisfaction to me. Unemployment in our country, as well as in the region, has reached historic low levels leading to declines in overall poverty. South Asia is no more the poverty trough of the world, although we have yet to eradicate poverty from our midst.
Yet, for growth to be sustainable, its benefits must be evenly distributed, pro-poor strategies must be put into place, and the rural populations that make up the vast majorities in all our countries, must be empowered ensuring gender equality.
The SAARC Social Charter and our shared experiences and best practices, already provide a solid foundation to further strengthen empowerment of the rural people. In our own country, the Policy Vision of the Mahinda Chintana, my electoral pledge to the people of Sri Lanka, addresses this issue and seeks to transform current challenges into opportunities for the upliftment of the rural people.
It is a matter of satisfaction that we are progressively inaugurating, in each of our countries, SAARC villages as visible examples of our collective commitment to rural uplift. The most recent such village was opened on 27th July this year in Nawalapitiya, in the central hill region of Sri Lanka.
Excellencies and Friends,
As we meet today, most countries of our region are faced with the curse of terrorism that threatens the peace and stability that is needed so much for the forward march of our people. No country in the SAARC region has been spared of this plague. We need to redouble our efforts for collective action to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It is important to remember the element of interdependence which is crucial for a durable peace and the protection of democratic values in the region.
We must ensure strengthening regional legal mechanisms and intensifying intelligence sharing, in order to secure the region's collective prosperity, peace and stability. Further, I would strongly suggest that in-depth studies are carried out to understand the social impact of this menace. Sri Lanka has seen the benefits of such cooperation in combating the terrorism in our midst and hopefully eradicating it sooner, than many once expected.
My gratitude must go to all our regional partners and our many friends from other quarters that have cooperated with us in this matter. In my view it is also necessary that we, as a region, endeavour to set right the many wrong impressions that exist, or are promoted elsewhere, about the actions that are imperative to protect our people and societies from the brutalities of terrorism. Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and there are no good terrorists or bad terrorists.
Asia's economic surge provides our region with manifold opportunities. We are on the threshold of a new age the Age of Asia with South Asia being an important part of it, not only in numbers but also in skills and the strength of growing economies. Today, Asia is the economic power house of the world.
In order to ensure that we in the SAARC provide the necessary thrust for Asia's economic surge, I would once again promote the idea of SAARC intensifying to the maximum possible its regional economic and trade integration. We have to set in motion a process of adopting a single currency in the region. Undoubtedly, full implementation of the SAFTA and other follow up measures will greatly facilitate the realisation of this vision. Our region also should assume a leadership role in the reform of Multi-lateral Financial Institutions.
Today, as never before we are confronted with the global issues of food and energy insecurity and climate change. Food prices in international markets have increased by 54 percent in the past year alone. World oil prices have increased by 300 percent over the past four years. These are the statistics of near despair. Yet, I believe that we need not despair. Excellencies,
I propose that we seize this challenge and transform it into opportunity, with focus on agriculture, on food security that is largely based on home grown food; that we look at realistic policies on nutrition, at strategies for development that are least dependent on the forces of speculation and markets that have no feel for the people.
We must productively use existing mechanisms such as the SAARC Food Bank and the SAARC Development Fund, for the development of strategic buffer stocks of our staple foods. Food security is vital because of its impact on all sectors of national life. It is today recognised as an essential condition for economic and political stability.
We also need to act fast on meeting the energy crunch. There is the necessity to accelerate our plans for South Asian energy sharing. Knowing that we have to depend on fossil fuels for many more decades to come, we must explore the use of other sources of energy that will take us out of the deadly grip of the oil well. However, pursuit on Bio-fuels must not be at the cost of food crops or arable land.
To take the next leap from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we have to move with speed on harnessing the Sun, the Sea, and the Wind resources that all of our countries have in plenty. South Asia must look at shared research in the areas with potential for local technologies in harnessing renewable energy.
As we grapple with the issues of food and fuel security, we will also need to address as a matter of priority, the looming water deficit in the region. King Parakramabahu, an ancient ruler of Sri Lanka, advised the people not to allow a single drop of water to flow into the sea without first being of use to the people. We must bring a new focus on conservation of water resources to ensure that South Asia would be the best watered region in the world.
Asia's evolution has been founded on ancient traditions of environmental sustainability, integrating environmental responsibility with cultural and religious values. We should go back to the tradition of sharing that sustained our people in the past, shedding the tradition of exploitation of nature that came to us from our former conquerors.
Throughout our region there is increasing movement from the village to the city, resulting in degradation of the environment and human dignity. Let us therefore commit ourselves to upgrade village housing and facilities, through a sound mix of traditional construction methods and material with modern technology, to discourage people from moving out of the villages. In the cities, we need to further evolve models of urban design and housing construction that strengthen the inherited spirit of social community common to all our societies.
The Delhi Summit last year laid stress on connectivity. Today, we find that with the advances of communications technology, good connectivity is not very far from our people. Although the numbers of mobile phone users in South Asia are rapidly increasing yet, our people remain distanced through the barrier of tariffs. I, therefore, propose that we actively promote a reduced tariff for IDD calls within the South Asian region to bring our people much closer, much sooner.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
We, in South Asia share a rich and common heritage, a heritage of understanding and of tolerance, a heritage that respects learning and wisdom, and takes pride in sharing the bounties of nature. But for this great heritage that transcends differences and upholds the value of a shared purpose and existence, our diverse cultures, languages and religious traditions could have made us the most divided region in the world. Instead, by and large we see a great harmony among our peoples.
In my own country, the impact of this common heritage is best seen today in what we have achieved in the East, where we have defeated terrorism, restored democracy, elected a Chief Minister from a minority community who was a former child soldier, and, most of all, where the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities live together, work together, and together seek the common goals of progress and prosperity. This indeed is a unique transformation within a short span of one year. This is my deep desire for the people in the North as well.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, and friends,
In conclusion ay I say that there must be a spirit of large heartedness by all including the stronger and wealthier nations, when some of these crucial issues are addressed. It is my fervent hope that the Colombo Summit will enable our dialogue with the Observer States to broaden into a process for constructive consultations, and project related cooperation in agreed areas. I have no doubt that together we can make our common endeavours, this Partnership, succeed for the benefit of all our peoples.Thank you.
May the Noble Triple Gem Bless you all.
(Courtesy : Ministry of Defence)
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the SAARC Regional Leaders at BMICH in Colombo
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and his wife
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with H.E Makhdoom Syed Yosuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with H.E Girija Prasad Koirala and his wife of Nepal
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with H .E Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his wife of Maldives
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with H.E Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinly of Butan
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with H.E Fakhryeein Ahmed and his wife of Bagladesh
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Afgan President H.E Mr.Hamid Karzai
(Picture Courtesy : Sinhala Net )
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