Statement made by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Parliament on SAARC: 7 October 2016

Statement made by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Parliament on SAARC on Friday, 7th October 2016

Hon. Speaker,

I rise to make a statement on the 19th SAARC Summit that was to be held in Islamabad on the 9th and 10th of November 2016, and matters in connection with regional cooperation in South Asia.

Hon. Speaker,

As this House is aware, Sri Lanka is a founder member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, commonly known as SAARC. Sri Lanka was in fact among the earliest countries in the region to support the concept of regional cooperation when it was first discussed. Therefore, when the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was conceptualized, we were naturally among the original signatories to the Charter of SAARC on 8th December 1985.

Successive Governments in Sri Lanka, throughout SAARC’s history of over three decades, since 1985, have remained faithful to regional cooperation through SAARC. I recall the words of President J.R. Jayewardene at the first Summit in Dhaka on 7th December 1985 where he said, I quote,

“We approach our task with hope and with optimism, for we believe that as the full potential of our venture comes to be realized, its benefits will be incalculable to the welfare of our several peoples and countries.

Manifesting our firm commitment to regional cooperation, Sri Lanka assumed the responsibility of chairing SAARC and providing leadership to the Organisation on three occasions. Sri Lanka was host to SAARC Summits in 1991, 1998 and in 2008. We have always been active participants in SAARC, contributing to the realization of objectives envisioned in the Charter, “…to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region”.

We can, I believe, be modestly proud that Sri Lanka has taken all the steps that could possibly be taken to work with countries in the region, since SAARC’s inception, to explore ways and means of making SAARC improve the lives of people and making SAARC relevant to people so that they realize the value of working together, of cooperating with each other, and they see regional cooperation as an essential means to ensure the betterment of their lives.

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