Address by President Maithripala Sirsena at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Tamil Translation – (to follow)
Address by H.E. Maithripala Sirisena
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
General Debate of the Seventy-Second Session
of the United Nations General Assembly
19 September 2017
United Nations, New York
A very good evening to all of you!
His Excellency the President of the General Assembly
His Excellency the Secretary General of the United Nations
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to be able to commence my address to the 72nd Session of the General Assembly while congratulating the newly appointed President and Secretary-General of the Organisation. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to address this august Assembly for the third time as the Head of State of Sri Lanka.
The theme of this 72nd Session of the General Assembly is ‘Focusing on people: striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet’.
Today, when we take into consideration the prevailing conditions in the world, this theme is extremely timely.
I was elected President in January 2015. Before being elected, there were a number of promises and pledges that I gave to the beloved people of my country. What I particularly mentioned at the time was that, since the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka had been vested with more power than that which has been vested in any leader in any other democratic system in the world, once I am elected, I would remove those excessive powers from the Presidency and entrust those powers to the Parliament.
Once I was elected to the Presidency, I have taken steps, while holding office and while enjoying the right to exercise those powers, to in fact shed those powers and transfer those powers to the Parliament. I have thus set an example both to national politics in my country and to international politics, as a leader who has shed power while holding office.
As countries that promote, protect and nurture democracy, it is very important that leaders who are elected to office in democracies take steps to strengthen and protect democracy, exercise power with great responsibility, and use one’s authority to build a righteous society.
However, when one observes recent history in the past few decades, one witnesses situations where the reluctance of leaders to leave office has led to the breakdown of peace within those countries, even resulting in the breakdown of peace and the creation of division, disunity and discord between countries in the international arena as well. We have the benefit of several such examples from history.
I must inform this Assembly, that, in my country, we have succeeded in consolidating democracy, and removing from office political groups that wielded extreme, excessive power and autocratic governance. During the last two-and-a-half years, we have succeeded in our journey of re-establishing and restoring the freedom of the people, protecting human rights and nurturing fundamental rights.
In the development journey of our nation, this year, 2017, was named as the ‘Year for Alleviation of Poverty’. Just like my country, the entire global community is today engaged in efforts to eradicate poverty. Having named 2017 as the year for freedom from poverty, we initiated and launched development projects in Sri Lanka this year to strengthen the domestic economy. As all of you in the international community are well aware, the conflict that prevailed in Sri Lanka for 30 years affected our economy adversely and resulted in the weakening of our economy. We succeeded in defeating the separatist terrorist movement within our country and in initiating peace, establishing democracy and taking our country forward as a peaceful and free nation. For this purpose, drawing from lessons learned from the conflict and economic disadvantages of conflict, we turned a new page, towards a forward looking journey to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and strengthening the domestic economy including local agriculture and industries.