We must not forget that diversity which enriches our societies needs handling with sensitivity and foresight to prevent fragmenting of the Commonwealth, said President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It is therefore necessary for the Organization to address the concerns of the wider membership, on a level playing field. A divided Commonwealth will not serve its founding principles, he added.
The President recalled that at the CHOGM in Colombo last year, he emphasized the importance of practical modalities focusing on social and economic issues, which are close to the heart of the overwhelming majority of the Commonwealth peoples.
While economic priorities take centre stage, we should not forget that people are the greatest wealth of our nations, he said.
The President was speaking at the Commonwealth Cultural Event, which was associated with the celebration of the traditional Sinhala & Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka, on Saturday (April 26), at Temple Trees.
Following is the text of the speech by the President:
As the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, I warmly welcome you to this celebration of multi-cultural diversity, of the Commonwealth family. I am particularly happy that His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former President of the Republic of Maldives, and a great friend of Sri Lanka has agreed to spare time from his vacation here to grace this occasion as the Guest of Honour.
Both His Excellency Abdul Gayoom and Madam Ibrahim are members of my extended family, being close and trusted friends of my wife Shiranthi and myself. Having schooled here, their long bonds with this country have helped forge a robust relationship between Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
I wish to thank the Commonwealth Heads of Government representing the different geographical regions of the Organization’s membership including from South Asia, and the Commonwealth Secretary General, for their kind messages of good wishes to mark this event. I extend a special welcome to the High Commissioners as we celebrate the diverse cultures of the Commonwealth this evening.
I think this joyful season of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year the most important national festival in Sri Lanka, shared by both the Sinhala and Tamil communities is the best occasion to celebrate the Commonwealth’s cultural diversity. This national festival marks the end of the harvesting season and is celebrated in several other parts of Asia too. This is a time to give thanks for an abundant harvest and other blessings of the past year and begin the New Year with renewed hope and goodwill, towards all.
Building Humane Values among people requires a cultural heritage and honest ideals. The celebration of a country’s cultural heritage such as in this New Year celebration is important as it symbolizes national unity and the nation’s collective progress towards prosperity.
The unique character of the Commonwealth, comprising 53 nations from across the world, comes from the diversity of its peoples and cultures. The strength of the Organization is this very diversity, seen from the multitude of cultures represented and the varying economic and social circumstances of its members.