Sri Lanka – Japan Relations Future Direction

Sri Lanka – Japan Relations : Future Direction

His Excellency the Speaker,
His Excellency the Prime Minister,
Distinguished Members of the Diet,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with great pleasure and privilege and respect that I address this august audience.   We have been in your country for three days and we leaving back to Sri Lanka tomorrow.  My Delegation, including my wife and of course myself, were made to feel more than at home by your unique, sincere and warm hospitality and the courtesies integral and inherent to the peoples of Japan. We were extremely touched by the most cordial and congenial reception extended by the Government of Japan as well.

On this momentous occasion, I wish to take this opportunity to convey our good wishes and sincere appreciation on behalf of President Maithripala Sirisena, the Parliament and the peoples of Sri Lanka, to His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, the Prime Minister, the Government, the National Diet and the peoples of Japan.

The last speech made by the First Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka, D S Senanayake was on the Japanese Peace Treaty.  Speaking on 29th February 1952, he said,

“We can congratulate ourselves on being a party to this Peace Treaty. This is the first opportunity that Japan is getting to establish herself.  We should not harbour anger and try to keep the Japanese people down.”

Twenty-two days later, he was dead.   A month after his death, Sri Lanka fulfilled his policies by establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.  D S Senanayake was of the view that the post-war world should not be dominated by Western powers and the USSR. Therefore he did not waver in the belief that it was necessary to encourage Japan to re-start its economic development.  His thinking was similar to that of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and because of this conviction and foresight he waived war reparations from Japan to Sri Lanka.

As a part of this strategy, D S sent J R Jayewardene, the Minister of Finance to lead our delegation to the San Francisco Peace Conference.  When I entered politics, I remember J R Jayewardene telling us of the conditions of the war ravaged Japan when he stayed at the Imperial Hotel on his way to San Francisco.  On this occasion he also had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Yoshida.  This is why he took a strong stand on the Peace Treaty when others in Asia were undecided or hesitant.

Commending J R Jayewardene in Parliament for this speech, D S Senanayake described him as “our representative with a backbone, who made it clear that we were not going to yield to the  game played by the Soviet Union”.  During this phase Japan-Sri Lanka relations were both emerging from World War II as we re-established our independence.  Twenty-five years later, in 1977, J R Jayewardene himself became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the following year he became the first Executive President of the country.   By then Japan had become Asia’s economic miracle.  During his tenure of office, relations between our countries became closer and stronger.

I was his first Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1977.  One of the first foreign envoys sent to meet us was your Vice Minister representing the Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Fukuda.  At that time, Mr. Jayewardene, being highly taken with the Fukuda Doctrine, sought the support of the Japanese Government to establish a market economy and to implement a massive development programme in Sri Lanka.   Friendship between the two countries led to this much needed support. And we must remember with gratitude the gift of a hospital with 1001 beds by the Japanese Government to the new capital Sri Jayewardenapura.

One of the members of the Japanese Government who was involved at the initial stage in developing of economic relations between the two countries was the Minister of International Trade and Industries – Mr. Shinatro Abe, the father of the present Prime Minister.  I must also mention the support given by the Prime Minister Nakasone and Foreign Minister Abe when Sri Lanka faced with communal unrest, terrorism and the ethnic conflict from 1983 onwards.  I myself had the opportunity of coming here as the representative of President Premadasa to seek the assistance of your Government when we were the unfortunate, indirect victims of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and the resultant economic crisis.  Prime Minister Kaifu was generous in his response.

When I became the Minister of Industries, Science and Technology, I sought the advice of Mr Saburo Okita. Then, when I became the Prime Minister in 2001, I was given the mandate by our people to engage in Peace Talks with the Tamil Tigers.    And I must mention again, with appreciation, the help given by Prime Minister Koizumi in hosting the donor conference for Sri Lanka in Tokyo and for being a Co-Chairman of the Peace Process.

Today, the world order has seen far reaching transformations – politically, economically and technologically, especially since the time of President J R Jayewardene and Prime Minister Nakasone.  Therefore it is imperative that these changes are reflected in the future direction of the relationship between our two countries – in particular, the new Japanese ODA Charter 2015.   My visit to Japan is primarily to discuss the Declaration of the Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries.  I believe this will be a framework for collaboration in the following spheres:

The political,

The economic,

The technological,

The cultural, and

Security.

The Comprehensive Partnership will delineate our cooperation in these important areas.

Sri Lanka elected a new President in January and a new Government in August of this year – I wish to take this opportunity to place this on record. Today, democratic norms including that of good governance, transparency, the rule of law and the rule of justice are being entrenched in the country.  On 1st October 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka commended the new Government for the initiatives already taken.

This Government consists of the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – the two largest political parties in Sri Lanka. Traditionally rivals, they entered into a Grand Coalition similar to what prevails in Germany … beginning a new era in political collaboration.

This has given us the mandate to restore peace, inclusivity, transparency and stability.  As Abraham Lincoln stated “Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets”.

Our political goals include a new Constitution, the consolidation of human rights and the strengthening of democratic institutions.

But what is most important to us is to incorporate a political settlement to the outstanding issues relating to national unity, ethnicity and religion.

We have already started informal discussions with the Tamil National Alliance and other parties on a political solution. The language and ethnicity issues, which dominated the country over five decades, and religious discord that were stirred up during the last decade, must be resolved if a strong Sri Lankan identity – based on equality – is to be established.  Only this will bring about an inclusive settlement acceptable to all communities.

We also look forward to Japan contributing to National Reconciliation and Peace Building in Sri Lanka. Once again we are seeking Japanese assistance to summon a meeting of donors to assist in the reconstruction and in revitalizing the socio economy of the conflict-affected areas.

With women being a majority in our population, the Women’s Rights law will incorporate the UN principles on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.  Currently, all elected women representatives in the country are less than 5% of the total number of political representatives.  Therefore another law will provide reservations for 25% women representatives in Municipalities and Provincial Councils. The Parliament will give affect to recommendations of the Task Force on Sexual and Gender based Violence. We are also in the process of establishing a national centre for women headed households – with its headquarters in the North of the