A revitalised UN, panacea for all ills - President
The full text of the speech by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa when
he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The theme for our debate, "The impact of the global food crisis on
poverty and hunger in the world, as well as the need to democratise the
United Nations" is indeed farsighted. It focuses on one of the critical
survival needs of humanity as well as one of the key institutional needs
of the world body.
global food crisis has become a frightening actuality and has the
potential to assume even more dangerous proportions if we fail to take
urgent and collective action. Similarly, a less democratic United
Nations runs the risk of being less effective and less credible while
raising major concerns about its legitimacy.
Through a series of projects with regional impact, Sri Lanka will
contribute to the goal of increasing food production, investing more in
agriculture and research, and sharing technologies and best practices.
This is an integral part of rural empowerment so essential in the
developing world, as the vast majority of our people are rural based and
depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
The Government has declared its policy of engaging in dialogue and
discussion with the democratic leadership of the Tamil community, a
people who have lived in harmony with other Sri Lankans for centuries.
Today, there are Tamil leaders holding responsible ministerial posts in
Significantly, the restoration of democracy in the East of Sri Lanka
was achieved in less than one year of it being freed from the clutches
Achieving food security would require strengthening and revitalizing
the agriculture sector. This calls for the empowerment of small and
medium scale farmers through a series of measures. These represent vital
collective steps by all of us in the UN system. Sri Lanka sees
self-sufficiency as the answer to overcoming the food crisis and giving
strength to nations. No longer can we expect farmers in developing
countries to be mainly producers for export markets. In this context,
implementation of effective social safety nets remains a priority as
reassurance and empowerment. This is why we have introduced measures of
social security such as the fertilizer and fisheries subsidies. The
advice given by some powerful countries and powerful institutions are
contrary to this. Yet, it is necessary that we pay no heed to such
advice, and determine to do what is best for the innocent people of our
As the current Chair of SAARC, I have the honour to state that at the
recent Summit, we affirmed our resolve as a region to make our own
contribution to grapple with the food crisis and to make our Region
revive its historic critical role in food production, by once again
becoming a major granary of the world.
We also decided on the immediate establishment and operationalisation
of the SAARC Food Bank. This mechanism, we believe, will help
considerably to ensure both food and nutritional security of the people
of South Asia. This initiative will contribute to the larger global
efforts that we launched in Rome, in June this year, for averting and
mitigating the impact of the food crisis.
We also must find solutions to the energy crisis that are both
equitable and pragmatic. Energy supplies must be diversified by
developing advanced, cleaner, more efficient and cost-effective
technologies, for both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. We
need to engage in energy conservation and accept the reality of
dependence on fossil fuels for much longer.
Equally obvious is the imperative of transferring new technology to
the developing countries. We in our own region will use increasing
resources of human and scientific talent to produce our own
technologies, making the best use of the natural resources, the sun,
wind and ocean that we have in abundance, free of the restrictions of
the marketplace. Demands of humanity cannot anymore be allowed to be at
the mercy of speculative or captive markets.
To this end, Sri Lanka's own view is that the United Nations and its
agencies must take the leadership in developing a framework for
international cooperation so that the vulnerable developing countries
have access to the energy benefits of the so-called 'nuclear
renaissance', at reasonable and affordable rates. This cooperative
endeavour will impact positively in such diverse areas as energy, MDGs,
climate change and even arms control.
We urge caution in the rush to use bio-fuels to break our dependence
of fossil fuels. It is already seen that the rush to bio-fuels has
contributed to high food prices. Sri Lanka's policy is that any arable
land should not be diverted or directed towards the production of
bio-fuels, however profitable it may be in the short-term. It was
propitious that Sri Lanka acted with courage and foresight, without
being cowed by many pressures, through the last three years, and thus
did not face any situation where our people had to face hunger or
On climate change, the SAARC leaders reiterated the need to redouble
efforts within an expanded regional framework for environmental
protection, conservation and justice.
We stressed that we should contribute to restoring harmony with
nature, a part of the heritage of South Asia. We humans have interfered
with nature, too much for too long. We must accept that the dangers of
Climate Change are manmade, and its solutions too require man's
With the promulgation of the UN Charter to save succeeding
generations from the tragedy of war, at least the major threat of
intercontinental war seems to have receded.
However, the just struggle of Palestinians for statehood continues.
Today, the United Nations and its people are confronted with the fast
spreading menace of terrorism that manifests itself in various forms in
Asia, Africa and Latin America. The United Nations has a grave
responsibility to save today's and succeeding generations, from this new
and continuing menace. We have been talking for long enough. It is time
for clear action in this regard.
Like many other countries, Sri Lanka too has not been spared this
global menace. Exploiting perceived ethnic grievances, that must and can
be addressed through political means, the vested interests of a well
organized terror group, the LTTE indulges in blatant and brutal acts of
terrorism, including suicide bombings to seek negotiating leverage,
political recognition and legitimacy. What is happening in Pakistan
today is the destructive policy of bloody terrorists. I am saddened by
the loss of life and destruction caused by the recent terrorist attack
Our Government has always been ready to address the causes of these
issues and effectively implement political and constitutional solutions
to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities.
What the Government would not, and could not do is to let an illegal
and armed terrorist group, the LTTE, to hold a fraction of our
population, a part of the Tamil community, hostage to such terror in the
northern part of Sri Lanka and deny those people their democratic rights
of dissent and free elections. Through our past actions, we have proved
The Government has therefore declared its policy of engaging in
dialogue and discussion with the democratic leadership of the Tamil
community, a people who have lived in harmony with other Sri Lankans for
centuries. Today, there are Tamil leaders holding responsible
ministerial posts in my government. A former Attorney General of then
Ceylon, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, also a loved Tamil politician, in
September 1904, had this to say at a public meeting in Colombo. (I
quote) "I have been to many countries in the world.
But, nowhere have I seen such a friendly race as the Sinhalese who
also uphold high moral values." Such was the harmony between the Tamils
and the Sinhalese. But a malicious group has turned all of this upside
All successive governments of Sri Lanka have endeavoured to resolve
the problem for over twenty five years, including through Norwegian
facilitation and international Co-Chairs overseeing a so-called peace
process that was treated with contempt by the terrorists. On each
occasion that talks were held seeking peace, the terrorists of the LTTE
walked out on the flimsiest of excuses and reverted to terrorism of the
worst kind, indiscriminately targeting innocent civilians.
Our Government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed
group when it is ready to commit itself to decommissioning of its
illicit weapons and dismantling of its military capability, and return
to the democratic fold.
The Government has also made it clear that the elected Government
cannot and will not permit undermining of the territorial integrity of
the sovereign UN Member State of Sri Lanka and the division of its
territory. We are clear in this message.
The Government's objective is to enable the people to enjoy the
benefits of the democratic processes and to speed the development
activities in those areas where there is a heavy presence of terrorists.
This would be similar to the fast tracking of economic development
taking place in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, where former
terrorists now function as democratically elected Provincial Councillors,
and a former child soldier conscripted by the LTTE is now the elected
Chief Minister, having abandoned terrorism and embracing democracy.
Significantly, the restoration of democracy in the East of Sri Lanka was
achieved in less than one year of it being freed from the clutches of
Our Government has also sought and received the cooperation of the
United Nations, ICRC and other agencies to help us in providing
humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and
other affected civilians. The UN Secretary General's special
representative on IDPs who visited Sri Lanka some years ago said and I
quote: "Sri Lanka represents the unusual situation of a central
government providing relief aid to persons under the control of (the)
main opposition group. In a world replete with examples of Governments
and rebel groups using food as a weapon against civilian populations,
the situation in Sri Lanka is one that deserves closer attention if not
more publicity as an important precedent. (Unquote)
The Government of Sri Lanka continues this humanitarian policy even
today although we know that the terrorists seize a good proportion of
these humanitarian supplies. Our supplies are not confined to food; they
extend to medicines, and all other essentials as well as schools and
hospitals, with teachers, doctors, nurses, and all other essential
staff. This is not all, the government also purchases the paddy and
other foodstuffs produced in those areas. I do not think there is any
country in the world where there is a government that provides such
humanitarian assistance to terrorists that attack it. Our government
considers the supply of humanitarian relief to its people as its prime
The complex situation in Sri Lanka needs to be addressed and resolved
through an appropriate process of deterrent law and order action and
patient political efforts of consensus building. We have achieved the
difficult but essential task of building democracy in the Eastern
Province and are confident that it can be done in the North as well.
This session of the Assembly is a good time to take stock of progress
made towards MDGs around the globe. As we do so, it is regrettable to
note that most are behind schedule. The slowing down of global economic
growth, financial turmoil and speculation, rising food and fuel prices
and the impacts of climate change are clear and present obstacles. Also,
based on their political role, sanctions imposed on the leaders, and the
leadership of some countries following some protests, are in fact
targeted at the innocent people of those countries.
The steadily growing menace of international terrorism, with related
activities such as smuggling of illegal arms, human trafficking, drug
trafficking, money laundering, and business empires run by terror groups
undoubtedly undermine the fundamentals of humanity and civilization. It
appears that steps taken by us to eradicate these illegal activities
have not been effective. This further complicates all national and
international efforts at moving towards realizing MDGs. Terrorism, as I
have emphasized many a time, by its very nature, rolls back even our
Another similar menace is threatening to devour our children, the
most valuable asset of any nation. That is the insecurity of the cyber
space that has not only helped corrupt the minds of our children but
also exposes them to predators such as paedophiles, drug dealers and
pornographic sites. Sri Lanka has banned pornographic and similar
destructive sites from being available through ISP providers. We are
also controlling and restricting the use of mobile telephones for such
damaging activities. This is an important area for world leaders to
It is important that urgent and collective actions, both short and
long term, are taken to stem these adverse trends. Only such determined
and concerted actions will enable progress towards the realization of
the agreed development goals, including the MDGs and frustrate elements
which are bent on reversing the gains made.
We must deeply commit ourselves as members of the United Nations
towards forging a way forward from the limitations not seen by those who
laid the foundations for this great institution of humankind. If we fail
to do it now, future generations will curse us.
I wish to conclude my address with a stanza from the Dhammapada,
words from the Enlightened One.
Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the calmed
live Having set victory and defeat aside.
May the Noble Triple Gem bless you!