Sri Lanka is currently exploring the possibility of seeking a suitable formal associational linkage with ASEAN, as a sectoral or dialogue partner and also would like to have formal relations with respect to the Asia Pacific Economic Community, Anura Bandaranaike, Speaker told the Conference of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace at Phnom Penh this week.
The following is the full text of Mr. Bandaranaike’s speech:
"It gives me great pleasure to lead the Sri Lanka Parliamentary delegation to this historic Conference attended by distinguished fellow parliamentarians from the Continent of Asia. I feel a particular, familiarity, with all of you and your respective countries today, not only as I am privileged to address you as a Member of Parliament for continuous period of 23 years and presently as the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka but also as the son of the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and the late Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike, both former Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka. My beloved parents were in the vanguard of the struggle to diversify Sri Lanka’s Foreign relations, to ensure the establishment of diplomatic relations with many of the countries represented here today, and also relentlessly supported the process of de-colonisation and the achievement of independence in several of them.
"On a personal note, I would like to recall to your Excellency, that my sister, Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the President of Sri Lanka and I had the singular privilege of personally welcoming your dear father, His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk when he graciously visited Colombo in 1958, 42 years ago to participate in the Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations, when my late father was the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. I have met His Majesty on several occasions thereafter, and I wish him good health and long life and every success and happiness.
"Sri Lanka has had a long and enduring relationship with all Asian Countries. Much of these links have been based on the common religious and cultural values we have shared rooted in the teachings of the Great Lord Buddha. In the middle ages, my country as one, where East met West, has also been host to numerous envoys and missions from this part of the world. Together, with Sri Lanka, many of our countries went under the yoke of colonialism and emerged from it towards the middle of the last century. Today, despite our differing levels of economic development, we continue to grapple together with the winds of change sweeping the globe — those of globalisation and technological advancement.
"It is, indeed, a great privilege for me and my delegation to participate in the 2nd meeting of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace and Co-operation. This Association began in 1999 — has commendable and laudable objectives, as stated in the preamble of its Charter.
"The 20th century has been a century of great hope, and the 21st century must be a century of great achievements. As Parliamentarians representing the Continent of Asia let us together strive to give our peoples a life without despair and poverty a life devoid of the savageries of war and confrontation. Let us create a world in which our peoples can live a truly meaningful life where their abilities and talents can flourish without hindrances. With our varied experiences we can regularly participate in the exchange of views and carve out common strategies for the promotion of common peace and development in Asia and throughout the world. Let this Conference make its objectives achievable and not confine itself to statements and communications as in most forums.
"I am certain that under the experienced and able guidance of Your Excellency, that we amicably and positively work towards this, in the years ahead
"As the Chairman of the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) since 1998, Sri Lanka has also been deeply committed to moving the SAARC process forward, despite obstacles of a serious nature. With that objective, the Sri Lanka Government initiated action to hold an extraordinary meeting of the SAARC member countries at a senior officials level in Colombo in November, 2000 and are hopeful that the momentum of the association that has been slowed down could be rejuvenated. This is important because in recent years the SAARC has been able to make positive contributions not only towards appreciating our shared cultural affinities and values, but also in moving towards greater economic co-operation. Under Sri Lanka’s Chairmanship, SAARC has also endeavoured to develop formal links with other regional bodies, especially the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"Sri Lanka as a member of the United Nations (UN) and a founder member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) remains committed to continue to play an important role on the international stage. My country additionally shares membership with countries represented here of several other regional and sub-regional groupings that have been formed in recent years. Sri Lanka is currently exploring the possibility of seeking a suitable formal associational linkage with ASEAN, as a sectoral or dialogue partner and also would like to have formal relations with respect to the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC).
"As you are well aware, the ramifications of ethnic strife, which has taken a terroristic dimension over the last two decades, has extracted an unprecedented toll on the economy and polity of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Government has over the past few years adopted a multi-pronged strategy aimed at ending the armed conflict and restoring peace in Sri Lanka.
"Sri Lanka has been drawn into a relentless battle and faced with the intransigence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the only group that continues to remain outside the democratic framework. Over the years, successive Sri Lanka Governments has been constrained to take unavoidable military measures to protect the lives and the welfare of all Sri Lankans and to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our State. This has been done while protecting the civilian population from human rights abuse and in recent instances, where violations have occurred, ensuring that the perpetrators of such acts, are punished.
"Sri Lanka has endeavoured to restore normalcy in areas liberated from the LTTE, particularly the Jaffna Peninsula, which was wrested back in 1996. The Sri Lanka Government continues to supply food and other essential requirements including medicines to its citizens, presently in the Wanni areas which is dominated by the LTTE, knowing full well that a large part of this food is being stock piled by them for their own sustenance while fighting the Sri Lankan forces. "The Government has pursued its quest to find a mutually acceptable political settlement to redress the grievances suffered by the minority communities. Draft constitutional proposals worked in this regard are already on the table and there is a continuing effort to evolve a multi-party consensus with regard to finding a lasting settlement. With a view to bringing the LTTE to the negotiating table the Sri Lanka government, over the last two years, has sought and obtained the assistance of the Norwegian Government as facilitators.
"This move has been welcomed by the most important political party in the Opposition, The United National Party and the minority political parties represented in Parliament by the Tamils and the Muslims.
"The Government continues to be committed to reaching a political settlement and in view of past experiences with the LTTE where the group has repeatedly used occasions of cessation of hostilities to re-arm and re-group, made it clear that it is willing to enter into negotiations immediately, provided they are unconditional. We are hopeful that the year 2001 will prove to be one where all sections of our people can reach an amicable settlement and end this confrontation so that Sri Lanka could reach its full potential, it so richly deserve.
"An important aspect, has been to transform Sri Lanka’s image abroad by giving the country a renewed dignity and purpose within the committee of nations. This has ensured that the international community is continuously informed of the efforts being made on the ground to deal with an extremely difficult situation, within the framework of democracy and the rule of law. The fund raising and propaganda activities of the LTTE abroad have come under considerable pressure due to several governments including that of India, the United States, Canada, and Malaysia among others who have taken tangible action to outlaw these groups. It is the expectation of Sri Lanka, that in the wake of obligations cast upon nations that are party to recent UN conventions, including that on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings of 1998 and on Suppression of Terrorist Financing of 2000, that other countries too will ensure that the LTTE’s capacity to continue its wave of terror would be curbed.
"We sincerely hope that a political settlement can be reached at the negotiating table in the very near future, which will enable to end this senseless blood letting that has plagued my country for several decades.
"In conclusion, on behalf of my delegation, I wish to extend our warm felicitations to His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, to the President of the Cambodian National Assembly His Excellency Prince Norodom Ranariddh, to His Excellency the Prime Minister, Hunsen, the Government of Cambodia and its gracious and wonderful people for the warm and cordial welcome. The excellent arrangements that you have made has enabled us to make this Conference not only successful but meaningful."
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