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Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 08.10 GMT
President Rajapaksa Receives Award for Contributions to Peace and Democracy

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Monday (June 16), was awarded the “Parliamentary Order Merit Democratic Rep. Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruza” by the Bolivian Government.

Vice President of Bolivia and President of the Legislative Assembly Mr. Álvaro García Linera presented the award to President Rajapaksa at the Legislative Assembly in the city of La Paz.

The award, which is the highest honor presented by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, recognizes contributions to peace and democracy.

Bolivia said President Rajapaksa was selected for this prestigious award for defeating terrorism and restoring peace and development in Sri Lanka. It also recognizes President Rajapaksa’s commitment to human rights and his initiative to improve and expand relations with South America, including Bolivia.

United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon was also schedule to receive the award.

President Rajapaksa was in Bolivia attending the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Group of 77 and China (G77+China) that took place June 14 and 15 in Santa Cruz.


President Rajapaksa’s acceptance speech:



Your Excellency Evo Morales Ayma, President of the State of Bolivia,

Your Excellency Alvaro Garcia Linera, Vice President of Bolivia and President of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia,

Honourable Members of the Legislative Assembly,

I am indeed honoured to be in this august House and for the opportunity to meet with you.

This is my first visit to your beautiful country, and the scenic city of La Paz, as the seat of government. The warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation has indeed been memorable.

Diplomatic relations between our countries, were established as far back as 1963. Sri Lanka is keen to expand its bilateral relations with countries in Latin America, and therefore it has been a pleasure to visit Bolivia.

Your Excellency, Honourable Speaker, distinguished Members of the Legislative Assembly,

I am conscious of the significance of this prestigious medal, which has been awarded in recognition of my commitment, to the advancement of peace and democracy. The words of praise delivered by Your Excellency and the Honourable Speaker together with the contents of the Parliamentary Order are most appreciated.

I understand that this ¨Parliamentary Order to the Democratic Merit – Deputy Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz¨ is the highest honour awarded by the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

I am particularly touched to be conferred with this award which is named after a great son of Bolivia. I have learnt that this is the first occasion it is being awarded, to a foreign Head of State. Therefore, it is undoubtedly an honou for my country and for me personally.

In receiving this esteemed award, it is with deep satisfaction that I share the company of an son of your country, His Excellency, Luis Adolfo Siles, former President and Vice President of Bolivia, who was a champion of democracy and human rights. As one who has been actively involved for several decades in the trade union movement of my own country, I share deep empathy with the ideals and vision of the former President. Looking back on my career, I recall with satisfaction the consistent support which Sri Lanka has given to the cause of an independent State of Palestine, and my intense involvement in this issue since my days as a young Parliamentarian.

Sri Lanka has entered into an era of peace and stability after defeating terrorism of nearly thirty years. Despite many challenges, my country has been successful in addressing several post-conflict humanitarian issues. My government is committed to strengthen the democratic process and address political issues in Sri Lanka, in consultation with all political parties through a Parliamentary Select Committee, which has been established.

Sri Lanka firmly believes that the national reconciliation process should be homegrown for it to be sustainable. A mechanism has been established in the Presidential Secretariat to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of this domestic process the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, in a structured manner, through a National Plan of Action.

Your Excellency, Honourable Speaker, distinguished Members of the Legislative Assembly,

We are saddened by a growing practice at the international level to adopt double standards in respect of the application of human rights. My country is legitimately proud of its achievements, within a very short period, in restoring the democratic rights and freedoms of our people in areas that were ravaged by terrorism.

We have resettled hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, and returned to their p arents nearly 600 child soldiers almost immediately after eliminating terrorism. We also released to their communities large numbers of ex-combatants, within a few months of the dawn of peace, as we believe it is the society that can best rehabilitate them. We rebuilt the battered economy of the Northern Province to grow at 22 per cent while the national growth was around 7.2 per cent. We also held local and provincial elections, after almost three decades, ensuring the restoration of democratic rights to hundreds of thousands of people.

It is much to be regretted that these achievements have gone largely unrecognized because of a sustained effort on the part of the West to use human rights as a political tool, with adverse consequences for many of our countries in the developing world.

I count on your country’s continued support to Sri Lanka, on this issue.

Our two countries share a common legacy. We have both suffered for long periods, under the yoke of colonialism. Our historical experience enables us to understand with stark clarity the importance of developing solutions in harmony with the values and traditions, deeply rooted in the life of our local communities. We are sensitive to the need to pay special attention to the more vulnerable sections of our people. They must not be left behind in the race for advancement.

We must remind ourselves that when social structures are dismantled by external intervention without regard for local tradition and values, the inevitable result is total anarchy. Events which are unfolding in many parts of the world, as we meet here, amply illustrate this reality.

Your Excellency, I firmly believe that high level interaction could help to advance bilateral relations between the countries, and in this context, I hope that this visit to your great country will be the starting point for more regular interactions. I am also keen to strengthen relations between our two Parliaments. Sri Lanka has a uni-cameral legislature and our Parliamentary system and traditions are based on the Westminster model.

I propose the exchange of visits by Parliamentary delegations. This would help deepen the understanding of the Parliamentary traditions in the two countries and strengthen the bonds of friendship between the members of the legislatures.

In our Parliamentary tradition, we establish Friendship Association to enable Parliamentarians to take an active interest, in developments in friendly countries. If this is also in keeping with your traditions, I propose the formation of Parliamentary Friendship Associations in our legislatures. I understand that some of your Members of Parliament are elected by proportional representation and the rest to represent single member electoral district.

I am interested to learn about the manner in which this system of election operates, and the experience of its effectiveness. I also understand that you have an age limit for persons to contest a Parliamentary seat.

Your Excellency, Honourable Speaker, distinguished Members of the Legislative Assembly,

Our two countries have enjoyed close collaboration at multilateral fora, particularly in the Non Aligned Movement and the G77. We share similar views and common positions on many issues of relevance to developing countries. This close collaboration at international fora, should also now be expanded to our bilateral relations.

In this context, as discussed with His Excellency President Morales, we must find possible ways of expanding our trade and economic cooperation, in a manner that is mutually beneficial.

Your Excellency, Honourable Speaker, distinguished Members of the Legislative Assembly,

I am also keen to strengthen people to people contact between our countries. Although, the two countries are located rather a long way from each other, I believe we can have joint initiatives to promote tourism and cultural exchanges. We must promote people to people links which will deepen the understanding of our respective cultures.

Your Excellency President Morales, Honourable Speaker, distinguished Members of the Legislative Assembly,

Allow me to thank you once again for this opportunity provided to interact with this august assembly, and the honour bestowed upon Sri Lanka by awarding me this prestigious merit award for peace and democracy. Thank you.
 

 
 
   
   
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Last modified: June 17, 2014.

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