Speech by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI), Oslo, 21 June 2016
ADVANCING RECONCILIATION DIPLOMACY
Speech by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, MP
at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI)
Oslo, 21 June 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen, in fact all of you are aware, that on the 08th of January last year in a historic election, in fact what the world calls the rainbow election of 2015, the people of Sri Lanka voted for change, and for democracy, reconciliation and development, the three pillars on which the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe are taking the country forward today. In fact on that day, the people of Sri Lanka chose free and fair elections, good governance and the rule of law over authoritarianism and impunity; they chose stability, reconciliation and peace over the politics of fear and hate which had prevailed for many, many years previously. And they eschewed isolationist crony capitalism for openness to the world and a competitive, transparent rules-based economy.
In fact, this victory in January was repeated again in August where extremist political parties on all sides of the divide were again decisively defeated and for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history, the two principle political parties which have governed Sri Lanka since independence chose to be on the same side leaving aside the bitterness of the past. And also for the first time, the leader of the TNA, the party which represents the Tamil community in Sri Lanka was chosen as the leader of the opposition and thus I feel a new window of opportunity was opened for Sri Lanka after many years to rectify the mistakes of the past and go forward towards a new future.
In fact as you all may be aware, when Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948; it was a country which the world believed will succeed in no time. I have seen an article written in the, I believe it was the London Times, the day after Sri Lanka gained independence from the British. The editorial in that paper says Ceylon, as it was called then, which gained independence will in no time become the Switzerland of the East because of its strategic location, because of its human and natural resources. Not only that, as recently as 1965, Lee Kuan Yew, the new Prime Minister of Singapore then having just broken away from the Malay Union presenting his first budget says that my ambition in 65 of course is to surpass the growth rate of Ceylon in the first five years meaning that we were way ahead of even Singapore at that time. But of course by 1983, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew went on to say that Sri Lanka is an example that no country should follow because we had all the opportunities, we had all the reasons to succeed but because we could not come to terms with our own diversity as a nation, what could have been easily solved at the early stages then became in to a bitter war and as a result, Sri Lanka again today has to I believe start, recommence that journey all over again, trying to catch up for lost opportunity.
Because as I said, the new conjunctions have given Sri Lanka an opportunity it has never had for a long time. We have a Government which consists of the two principle parties. We have an opposition and a leader of opposition who represents the moderate aspirations of the Tamil people and other minorities of Sri Lanka and therefore we also have a Government which is indeed committed to the three pillars of governance as I mentioned earlier, that of democratization, of reconciliation and development.
In fact again as some of you may know, we have achieved a considerable amount, many victories, in a short period of time in the area of democratization. Within the first 100 days itself, President Sirisena pruned down many of his executive powers as much as he could without going through a referendum as the Supreme Court requested. He reintroduced term limits for the Presidency. He again took away all the institutions like the Judiciary and the Public Service Commissions, the Corruption Commissions all out of the grip of Presidential rule and independent commissions are now functioning again and also committed himself to a new Constitution, not merely Constitutional Amendments, a new Constitution.