ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY CHANDRIKA BANDARANAIKE
KUMARATUNGA AT THE HIGH-LEVEL PLENARY MEETING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK
15TH SEPTEMBER 2005
Ladies and gentlemen
May I at the outset extend our sympathy and solidarity
to the people and the Government of the United States of America
as they begin reconstruction and rehabilitation, following the
recent Hurricane disaster on the Gulf Coast . We do so while recalling
the generous and spontaneous response of the people, Governments
of other nations and the Government of the United States, and
so many member States of the United Nations, the UN and other
international agencies when the Tsunami waves hit Sri Lanka last
I had the honour to deliver my first address
to this august Assembly in my capacity as the President of Sri
Lanka at the historic Session in 1995 when the United Nations
celebrated its 50 th Anniversary. It is a distinct pleasure therefore,
to revisit this forum ten years later. More so because we commemorate
this year, both the 50th Anniversary of Sri Lanka's UN Membership,
and the 60 th Anniversary of the United Nations. It is time to
take stock, and remain focussed with a view to moving forward.
We have a substantial unfinished agenda and new challenges to
The United Nations is the most representative
universal body, that can legitimately seek common solutions to
common problems, that are acceptable to our diverse membership.
As recognized by the High Level Panel and the Secretary-General
in his report "In larger freedom: towards development, security
and human rights for all", the United Nations, despite its
many achievements, and because of its great potential, has to
do more to keep pace with the changes that have occurred in the
world since its inception sixty years ago. Reform of the UN must
be in the multilateral interest and embrace all facets of the
The vision that we will adopt at this summit
should indeed be decisive. It should serve as a roadmap which
would catalyse further change and reform. Reform must affect our
entire agenda, the mechanisms we adopt to implement it and the
resources we make available. It cannot be piecemeal and must benefit
all member States equitably. The integrated approach to security,
development and human rights is the key to this.
Allow me to re-visit an issue of current significance
- global terrorism - taken up both in 1995 and in the year 2000,
where action remains pending internationally, even as we in Sri
Lanka are trying out an integrated approach to resolve our problem
in the midst of great challenge.
More than 10 years ago, my Government launched
a bold policy of a negotiated settlement in place of conflict,
and a federal solution as against a separate State. With the support
of a broad multi-ethnic coalition of parties I proceeded to talk
with the rebel armed group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) about ending the conflict, and discuss with all the parties
in parliament about a new more inclusive, political Constitution
that would share power with all communities. This policy shift
laid the ground work for a new approach to fighting terrorism
and the peace process in my country, that simultaneously addressed
Security, Development and Human Rights.
We engaged the rebels in a ceasefire that we
hoped would save lives and allow people, particularly those living
in the conflict-affected areas to live and work more closely and
freely. This we believed would have a positive influence on the
overall climate for peace, thus improving security. We increased
development work in conflict-affected areas because we believed
that all of our citizens, irrespective of where they live, what
ethnicity they belong to, or even who they are forced to live
under, must have access to health, education and jobs. And we
believed this would give the rebel group, the LTTE an opportunity
to engage in useful and constructive work that may benefit the
people directly, rather than preparing for conflict.
And we took a number of steps to improve the
human rights of all the people of the country, with a special
focus on the concerns of ethnic communities who have not been
fully included in the past.
As part of the peace process, successive Governments
have given the LTTE all facilities as a party to negotiations,
including access to foreign entities and Governments, at times
using the good offices of the facilitators - the Norwegian Government,
who have made considerable efforts to move the process forward
under difficult circumstances. However, this process of engagement
and accommodation does not seem to have persuaded this Group to
move away from terrorism, as is evidenced by their recent killing
of my Foreign Minister, their continued recruitment of child soldiers
and their killings of political rivals.
Such actions of an armed group engaged in a peace
process tests the commitment of a vast majority of the people
of the country, to pursuing a negotiated settlement. Although
we had the option of a military response, we have rejected it.
And instead are choosing a different approach - to reiterate our
commitment to a ceasefire and to a political solution, whilst
reviewing the previous approach towards negotiating with this
Group. This review has begun with a call to the international
community to help exert real pressure on the LTTE, in order that
we can engage them in a process that will lead to a lasting peace,
bringing about democracy and human rights.
The challenge we face in Sri Lanka is not unique.
Vulnerable democracies which have undertaken bold, political initiative
to address the root causes of terrorism and seek political solutions
by engaging ruthless armed groups find themselves in a genuine
dilemma as to how to develop a credible and acceptable approach
to such negotiations.
If a democratic State, which consistently conforms
to international norms and laws and uses non-military means to
address the problem of terrorism, weakens as a result of the activities
of terrorists, chaos, and lawlessness will follow. Extremism,
fundamentalism and tribalism will reign supreme. As a result,
peace and security, within and among States, as well as universally
accepted human rights norms and fundamental freedoms will suffer.
It will also lead to weakening of the 'inter-Governmental system',
which is the bedrock of this Organization. This 'inter-Governmental
system' chain can only be as strong as its weakest link. It is
therefore essential to strengthen collective ability of the system
to combat and address terrorism.
In this regard, we must be absolutely clear that
the engagement of armed non-state actors for peace making should
not be done at the expense of the capability for democratic governance
of a sovereign State that is conducting itself according to internationally
accepted laws and norms. The UN and the international community
can help in developing mechanisms that support States engaging
in such peace process and sanction terrorist groups that undermine
It is, therefore, timely for this Assembly to
address the question of practical means to deny external access
and support to such entities to sustain their military and fund
raising activities that are detrimental to the ongoing peace processes.
We hope that the mechanisms already put in place by the Security
Council against such offending non-state actors will eventually
represent an effective deterrent against such activities. In the
absence of such measures, those groups may continue to engage
in illicit financing and arms procurement whilst enjoying the
political privileges gained through engagement in peace processes.
This in turn will erode the credibility of all our peacemaking
efforts including those of the United Nations, and years of work
in codifying international legal and other measures against terrorism.
Even with rebel groups engaged in peace processes
we must adopt procedures that reward genuine peace making on one
hand, and impose sanctions on acts of terrorism on the other.
Without this, vulnerable democracies will find it extremely difficult
to launch and sustain effective negotiations with armed groups.
The Secretary General in his report to the current
Summit has correctly observed that a small network of non-state
actors and terrorists, have brought about new challenges before
the international community. The forces of globalisation have
aggravated this situation. Trans-national networks of terrorist
groups have acquired global reach and made common cause in posing
threats to democracy, peace and security within and amongst states.
If we are to fight global terrorism, poverty
and disease, we must take an integrated approach to security,
human rights and development, both nationally and internationally.
We must act together as a UN system to support and strengthen
States that are addressing these challenges comprehensively. This
would form an essential part of the mission of the UN for the