ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT CHANDRIKA BANDARANAIKE KUMARATUNGA
AT THE 59TH SESSIONS OF
THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
President Chandrika Kumaratunga addresses the 59th Session of
the United Nations General Assembly
at UN Headquarters, New York , September 21, 2004
I congratulate you on your assumption of the high office of President
of the Fifty-Ninth Session of the General Assembly of the United
Nations and assure you of Sri Lanka's fullest support and cooperation
as you undertake the onerous responsibility of presiding over
the deliberations of this august assembly. I also thank the outgoing
President, Honourable Julian Hunte, for his able and efficient
conduct of the Fifty Eighth Session.
The International Day of Peace we celebrate today is indeed a
significant event in the UN calendar. It is a Day dedicated to
the creation and pursuit of a culture of peace. As I speak today
in this Hall of Peace, men, women and children in my country are
celebrating the Day of Peace through a wide variety of civil society
events. Prayers and meditations, the resonating chimes of bells
and the gentle glow of candlelight are powerful symbols of our
deep collective yearning for peace.
We recognize that the pursuit of peace requires more than symbols.
It requires consistent commitment, patience, perseverance and,
above all, resolute action and consensus building.
Mr. President, peace and resolution of conflict through dialogue
takes center stage in the world lives and hence need to be accorded
the highest priority on the UN Agenda. All of us here are only
too aware that peace is not the simple absence of war; it entails
an active engagement to understand and address the root-causes
that endanger peace and generate conflict.
In Sri Lanka, my government has implemented a series of programmes
to engage the armed group, in comprehensive peace negotiations
for ten years.
In Sri Lanka we faced the challenges posed by an armed group
using terror and suicide bombers in its demand for a separate
state. My governments have adopted the policy that all conflict
has deep rooted and real causes that we must sift out from the
acts of violence and terror and find means to redress them. We
believe a lasting solution lies along the path of power sharing
between the center and the regions where people of different communities
live. We believe that this could be found only through negotiations
Mr. President, we abhor violence and war. We believe in life
and the celebration of all that is humane and decent. We believe
that the moral justification in the state and all human institutions
such as the United Nations in the protection and guarantee of
life. My governments have requested and received mandates from
our people at numerous elections to end the conflict through negotiated
settlement. We are committed to achieve peace, a peace founded
on democracy, respect for human rights, a pluralist polity and
We are fully aware that peace is not achieved easily. It is a
constant struggle for mutual understanding and reconciliation,
and the establishment of the rule of law, justice and equality.
The Buddha, popularly known as the Prince of Peace, has preached
at length about peace and all that is required to achieve it both
within each individual and between nations. I quote from the Dhammapada:
"Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily
the peaceful live, giving up victory and defeat."
We are deeply saddened at the violence, instability, loss of
life and human suffering in Iraq. We in Sri Lanka know, and have
experienced first hand, the impact of violence on society and
the difficulty in finding solutions to problems of governance
that satisfy all parties. Security measures alone, as pointed
out recently by the Secretary-General's special representative
to Iraq, will not suffice to end violence and create stability
and peace. Political consensus building, reconciliation, rehabilitation
and the promotion of the rule of law are essential for democracy
to take root. Equally important, in today's interdependent, increasingly
globalized world is the commitment of the international community
to remain engaged and ensure that Iraq does not become further
plagued by violence and fragmented on ethnic or religious lines.
All of us as leaders, and above all as mothers and fathers,
can never forget the sheer brutality of the terrorist attack earlier
this month on a school in the Russian Federation which led to
the loss of so many lives of children and adults. Terrorism in
all its manifestations must be condemned and fought relentlessly
and globally. While no cause justifies terror unleashed upon the
innocent, such outrages must make us redouble our efforts to address
their root causes and seek political and socio economic explanations
and solutions to them.
My Government is firmly committed to the global endeavour to
fight terrorism. We have signed and ratified the UN Conventions
aimed at combating this menace and we continue to contribute to
the process, by chairing the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate
International Terrorism. We hope that at this session of the General
Assembly, substantial progress could be made on the draft Comprehensive
Convention on International Terrorism and the draft Convention
on Nuclear Terrorism.
Sri Lanka believes in the UN and its potential to be the principal
forum where the voice of the poor, the defenceless and the weak
is also heard as much as the voice of the rich and powerful. In
this regard we applaud the words of Secretary General Kofi Annan
today where he made a passionate appeal for the upholding of the
rule of law without discrimination throughout the world. We congratulate
him on the courageous leadership he gives to our world body. It
gives us confidence and hope at this moment of human history when
we question our collective ability to lead Humanity towards peace
We recognize therefore, the need for comprehensive reform to
render the United Nations more responsive to the needs and aspirations
of all of its member States. We look forward to the recommendations
to be presented to this Session of the General Assembly by the
'High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change', appointed
by the Secretary-General.
There is general agreement that the Security Council, as presently
constituted, does not reflect the current geo-political realities.
We share the concern over the lack of progress on the question
of equitable regional representation and the increase in the membership
of the Security Council, in both the permanent and non-permanent
categories. For many years, the developing countries, have consistently
urged that the composition of the Security Council be broadened
to accommodate the basic principles of democratic representation.
In this context, we observe that Asia, the most populous continent
that is home to expanding economic powerhouses of the world is
grossly under-represented in the present Council.
Mr. President, we take note that four countries - Brazil, Germany,
India and Japan - will announce their participation in a compact
in terms of which they will collectively support their respective
candidatures for permanent status in an expanded Security Council.
Sri Lanka supports their candidatures, as they comply with the
objective criteria applicable to the expansion of the permanent
membership of the Security Council. Sri Lanka would also wish
to see a consensus emerging on the permanent representation of
Africa in the Security Council. Africa must be included when a
final determination is reached on the future composition of the
Security Council. It is hoped that the Open Ended Working Group
would also continue to exert efforts to resolve all outstanding
We also propose that the General Assembly, representative of
all member States of the UN should play a larger and more active
role as a deliberative and decision-making body.
At the dawn of the new millennium, four years ago, we forged
a consensus to pursue a vision of an inclusive globalization process
that provides benefits for the widest possible segments of society.
Leaving aside the commonplace clichés about globalization,
we agreed on a number of goals to be implemented within specific
My government's economic and social development programmes were
planned and put into action ten years ago. We have now made the
necessary changes to align our plans more closely with the UN's
Millennium Development Goals. The Sri Lankan Government's strategy
for development seeks a constructive partnership between a strong
and accountable private sector, including foreign investment,
and a robust and responsive public sector. The major thrust of
our vision is to eliminate poverty, reduce inequalities, and enhance
the standard of living among the different sectors of our population,
thus providing equal opportunities for all.
Mr. President, on the subject of social progress, I must commend
the United Nations for its continued commitment and perseverance
in promoting and protecting children's rights. Apart from guaranteeing
the rights of every child to education and good health services,
Sri Lanka believes that children must be protected from abuse
of all types, sexual, alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Children in
some of our countries suffer from the ignominious practice of
being used as child soldiers. In Sri Lanka we are addressing the
problem of child conscription by the armed group by seeking to
engage them in the process of negotiation and by supporting the
activities spear headed by UNICEF and civil society organizations.
Our economic strategy is market driven but geared to achieve
human development and prosperity at the grass roots level. We
have crafted a policy and launched programmes to channel development
efforts and resources to domestic capacity builders at the village
level who are the pillars of our national economy. The majority
of our population belongs to the rural sector and depends on agriculture
for their livelihood. Promotion of small and medium scale enterprises
is therefore vital to sustain development. Sri Lanka draws strength
from the recognition the United Nations has granted for the small
and medium industrialists in the developing world through the
declaration of 2005 as the Year for Micro-Credit.
We witness with concern the emergence of a contrived association
of certain religious beliefs with some groups of fanatics. Extremism,
violence and terrorism are the complete anti-thesis of the ethical
and spiritual foundation of all religious philosophies and practices.
We should work resolutely to prevent these aberrations from becoming
On the other hand, Mr. President, we are disturbed to witness
religious symbols being defamed or abused for commercial purposes.
Whether the symbols belong to the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu,
Islamic, Jewish or any other faith, such abuse should be condemned
and prohibited. The recent phenomenon of Buddhist symbols being
used for commercial purposes, thus causing concern and pain of
mind to Buddhists all over the world is a case in point. Fortunately,
most of these organizations have agreed to refrain from such abuse
in the future. Sri Lanka together with other like-minded States
has brought this situation to the attention of UNESCO and other
relevant inter-governmental bodies. We propose that the United
Nations should call upon those responsible to pay due respect
to religious symbols and practices. This would be a fitting contribution
by the UN to its own initiative on a 'dialogue among civilizations.'
This year Sri Lanka will begin events to celebrate the 50th anniversary
of our membership of the United Nations that falls in 2005. On
that occasion, we will renew our commitment to the purposes and
principles of the United Nations. We expect the Organisation to
provide leadership in the task of creating a world where understanding
and harmony prevails with economic, scientific and technological
My commitment, and that of my government and the people of Sri
Lanka, to the United Nations remains undiminished. Our hope, Mr.President,
is that all member States will cooperate fully with the United
Nations to realize the goals of the Millennium Declaration.
Our noble words unless translated quickly in to palpable deeds
will remain no more than a silent testimonial to our collective
unwillingness or incapacity to transform lives of our peoples
when they cry out for attention and redress. If all that the United
Nations can do for them is to churn out periodically virtual phrases
and hollow invocations to duty and responsibility, their frustration
will swell and spread globally challenging peace and stability.
Let that not happen. Let us leave this session of the General
Assembly not only with renewed commitment to the ideals of our
organization but also with renewed vigour to address our awesome
responsibilities for alleviating the plight of the poor, the hungry,
the disadvantaged and the oppressed.
I thank you