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Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is on a two day State Visit to the Republic of Seychelles addressed the country's National Assembly on June 30th afternoon at an Extraordinary Sitting.
Full text of the President Rajapaksa's speech:
The Honorable Members of the National Assembly,
First of all, let me avail myself of this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for bestowing me with this rare honor of addressing this distinguished House of National Assembly of the Republic of Seychelles.
Standing here, I do consider it a great pleasure and honor to be among friends from an island nation that shares so many common aspirations with my own country and I greatly appreciate the very warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation.
Standing here, I also go back in time when I entered our Parliament in 1970, as its youngest MP at that time and I feel at home to be addressing this august assembly.
The history of Sri Lanka's links with Africa, our western maritime neighbor, connected by the vast Indian Ocean, dates back many centuries. We have an ancestral connection; a strong line that binds us to this vast continent.
The historical 1955 Afro-Asian Conference or the 'Bandung Conference' as it is popularly known marked a very significant turning point in Asian – African relations. The Conference, in which Sri Lanka played a leading role brought Asia and Africa to work together for the betterment of 1.5 billion people living in the 29 countries that took part in the Conference.
The Bandung Conference also marks water shed in Sri Lanka's modern relations with the African continent, which was when we started establishing diplomatic relations with the African nations. Following the Conference, in 1976, when Sri Lanka hosted the 5th NAM Summit, we also had the opportunity to closely interact with many prominent African leaders of the day.
With my assumption of the Presidency in 2005, the foreign policy of Sri Lanka took a new course and we were able to re-discover our old friendships and affinities with Africa. My addressing this distinguished assembly today is a clear manifestation of that timely foreign policy re-orientation.
Africa's relentless struggle against colonialism and the charismatic great leaders who have given leadership to the struggle for independence, have left an indelible mark in the collective mind of the people of Sri Lanka. They have contributed in no small measure to mould the Sri Lanka political landscape and its thinking.
It has been decades since both Africa and Sri Lanka have freed themselves from the shackles of colonialism and oppression. The walk to freedom was long and full of obstacles. When looking back at the past, we can see that we were united in our struggle against colonialism. We rallied together genuinely irrespective of our differences in size, political or military power and economic strength for a common cause. That is to gain independence and bring prosperity to our nations.
Thinking about the present I see that modern international relations are marred by the self-interest of states and their struggle for power. We feel that the very colonialism that we had fought and freed ourselves from a few decades ago is making a comeback in a different from in today's global scenario. New power blocks are emerging, states are intervening in the affairs of other status using their strength and the past seems to be re-surfacing.
The threats emanating from these developments will be harmful to small nations like ours. Our independence and sovereignty are at risk and we should get together, as we have done in the past, to face these challenges.
I emphasize the need for cooperation between Asia and Africa to prevent attempts by interested parties to intervene the internal affairs of developing nations.
For the first fifty years or so, we have been talking South – South Cooperation and of the need to work together for common prosperity. These deliberations, it seems to have remained most of the time an academic exercise. If our deliberations were transformed into real action, the situation would have been different.
For instance, if you take a look at trade patterns, most of the trade of the developing nations is still dome with the developed world. It is, therefore, imperative for us to get together and do more trade among the developing nations with a view to achieving prosperity for us all.
Seychelles and Sri Lanka share many commonalities such as their identity as developing nations, their colonial past and their views on international issues. However, most important of all of these is our common heritage in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is our legacy.
Being island nations, both our countries face challenges such as sensitive environments, exposure to natural disasters, and limited markets and high dependence on marine and coastal resources. However, we have a vast pool of resources in the Indian Ocean.
It is the world's third largest ocean. Through which 40% of global trade goes through, creating major sea routes connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The nations that have inherited the rights of this ocean of resources must get together to embark upon a common approach to harness its potential for the benefit of our peoples.
I see the Indian Ocean Commission, of which Seychelles is a member, as one such organization, that provides the island nations of the Indian Ocean a platform, to discuss their issues and to forge a common approach to tap the resources of the vast Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is keen to join the Indian Ocean Commission and we are grateful to the Seychelles for the support extended to our application for membership of this Commission.
Island nations can play a pivotal role in international and regional politics as well. To quote my good friend, President Alix Michel, (I quote) "Islands have critical role to play in relation to the reform and development of the world's multi-lateral architecture. Islands are often at the epicenter of global politics" (Unquote).
Being an island nation, Sri Lanka is very much concerned about protecting the maritime environment and the natural habitat of the country. Islands do have their own endemic fauna and flora and Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of such natural resources. We are also sensitive to the repercussions of global warming, which pose a threat to small island nations, like yours and ours.
For these reasons, Sri Lanka takes this phenomenon very seriously and is committed to policies to reduce the production of green-houses gases, thus contributing to the mitigation effects of global such as resultant rise of sea levels.
As I speak before this august gathering of lawmakers of Seychelles, let me provide you with a brief account of the present state of my country.
After a long drawn conflict against separatist terrorism, which unleashed its brutal forces upon the citizens of my country for thirty years, we are now enjoying durable peace and political stability, having eliminated the menace of terrorism from our midst.
With a view to expediting the national reconciliation process, we have taken concrete steps to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Necessary budgetary allocations have provided by the government for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations through a National Action Plan.
Since the end of the conflict we have embarked upon massive infrastructure development projects that would give the people of Sri Lanka the dividends of peace. Our aim is to develop Sri Lanka as a regional hub in five strategic areas; namely, knowledge, commercial, naval and maritime, aviation and energy. My government's policy paradigm, "Mahinda Chinthana, Vision for the Future" outlines our strategies to become the regional hub in these five areas.
However, while we are trying to bring about national reconciliation and economic development, we are not without post-conflict challenges. Interested parties endeavor to undermine our victory over terrorism and humiliate us in the international scene. We count on the valuable and continued support and understanding of friendly nations like the Seychelles.
The best assistance that the international community could afford Sri Lanka at this point of time in its reconciliation process is to provide the required time, space and encouragement to the government.
During the recent past, there have been visits by a number of leaders to my country, and I too have been to a number of countries. Out of these visits, I would say that President Michel's visit was one of the most productive visits as far as the implementation of decisions taken during a visit is concerned.
My visit to your country is to further strengthen the bold initiatives taken by President Michel and to encourage and accelerate action, to implement the decisions taken by us for the benefit of our peoples.
I am certain that the Seychelles and Sri Lanka could work together to promote regional economic integration and
connectivity and to evolve an open, balanced and rule-based architecture.
I have no doubt that the Sri Lanka – Seychelles Parliamentary Friendship Association, which was established during President Michel's visit to Colombo, would play a pioneering role towards this end. We would like to increase the co-operation between our two Parliaments and welcome greater exchange of visits by Honorable Members of Parliament of our two countries.
In conclusion, my I reiterate my government's strong commitment to greater cooperation between our two countries. I wish continued success, prosperity and happiness for the people of the Republic of Seychelles.