HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS
TO THE 60TH SESSION OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN NEW YORK
17TH SEPTEMBER 2005
I extend to you Mr. President, our warmest congratulations
as you assume the high office of the President of the Sixtieth
Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. We wish
you all the best and assure you of Sri Lanka's support and cooperation
in your work. To Honourable Jean Ping, I convey gratitude for
his astute leadership of the Fifty-ninth Session.
The 60th landmark Session of the General Assembly is doubly significant
for Sri Lanka, as this year, we mark the 50th anniversary of our
membership in the UN. As a small nation that has kept the flame
of democracy burning through many tribulations, we take modest
pride in the fact that what we said at the first General Assembly
we addressed can still be recalled with undiminished relevance.
Prime Minister Bandaranaike representing Sri Lanka, said on that
occasion and I quote,
"This is an Organization which expresses
itself most effectively by bringing to bear a certain moral
force - the collective moral force and decency of human beings.
That is a task in which the weak as well as the strong can render
a useful service, and I give the Assembly the assurance, on
behalf of my country, that as far as we are concerned, every
endeavour that we can make in all sincerity to assist in the
achievements of those noble ideals for which this Organization
stands, will always be forthcoming in the fullest measure."
Five decades on, I have the pleasure to say
that my country has kept this promise by regularly contributing
to consensus building in this Organization in areas ranging from
Law Of The Sea, to disarmament and from human rights to the issue
of terrorism. We remain fully committed to the United Nations.
- We continue to believe that the collective moral force of
this Organization is indispensable for a secure, peaceful and
- We are convinced that such a world could be realized through
the honest commitment of every one of the member States to their
individual and collective responsibilities.
- Our peoples live in the hope and expectation that we shall
On the morning of the 26th of December 2004, Sri Lanka and several
other countries around the Indian Ocean region woke up to a natural
disaster of unprecedented magnitude. Towering Tsunami waves struck
two thirds of the coastal areas of our island nation leaving in
its wake, death and destruction of a scale hitherto unknown by
the world. Moved by the enormity of this calamity, Governments,
the UN and other International organisations, civil society organisations
and countless well-wishers across the world rushed to help my
country and its people to recover, rehabilitate and re-build.
Mr. President, it was a magnificent gesture of human solidarity.
Citizens of the world reached out beyond the confines of geo -
political and other man made barriers in one magnificent gesture
of human generosity.
It rekindled in us, new confidence in the power
of peoples, acting in unison across the globe to move governments
to act in the best interests of humankind, for a new and better
To all those who assisted and sympathised with
us, and contributed generously, to rebuild our country, on behalf
of my people and my government, I wish to convey my profound appreciation
Let me take this opportunity to extend a special
word of thanks to President Clinton, the UN Special Envoy for
Tsunami Recovery, for his commitment and leadership at coordinating
the ongoing international effort for sustainable recovery.
Just as my country was in national distress
in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, we are now in distress
in the face of an ominous renewal of terror on our soil. One month
ago, my dear colleague Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Foreign Minister
of Sri Lanka was assassinated by a calculated and barbaric act
of terrorism. One more hero who fought relentlessly for freedom
and justice has been felled by the enemies of peace and unity.
As Foreign Minister the late Mr. Kadirgamar argued powerfully
and worked tirelessly against extremist racist ideologies that
employ violence to gain their divisive objectives. He was bold
enough to expose to the world the true face of terrorism inflicted
upon my country. For eleven long years Mr. Kadirgamar, from this
very podium warned this Assembly about the threat posed by terrorism
to the democratic way of life, not only in Sri Lanka, but across
For over two decades, Sri Lanka has been under
sustained assault by the LTTE, an armed group which employs brutal
methods and suicide bombings in their campaign of terror to obtain
a separate State. Disregarding the implementation of the Ceasefire
Agreement, this group continues to engage in numerous illegal
and terrorist activities. These include the conscription of children
as soldiers, callously disregarding promises given to many, including
the UN Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, and the
assassination of democratic opponents, as part of their policy
of eliminating Tamil political leaders and Human Rights activists
with disdain for all international law and practice, despite sustained
efforts by my Government and the Norwegian facilitators.
I tend to doubt that the Security Council's recent
identification of this group on account of child conscription
would suffice to deter such activities. Targeted sanctions such
as those proposed by Secretary General, Annan, in his report to
the United Nations Security Council should be imposed on those
armed groups who undermine national and international peace and
violate human rights.
I firmly believe that terrorism cannot be eliminated
through military suppression by the State machinery. The socio
economic and cultural roots of a conflict must be sought and effectively
redressed. We recognize that a lasting solution to the ethnic
issues and terrorism in my country or anywhere else can only be
found through negotiations and dialogue. Accordingly, my Government
was the first in 1994 to offer a negotiated settlement in place
of an armed conflict, and an extensive devolution of power instead
of a separate State. In February 2002, the Government entered
into a Ceasefire Agreement with the rebel group and began talks
with the facilitation of the Government of Norway. However, two
and a half years ago the LTTE walked away from the peace talks
for the sixth time in 18 years. All efforts to have the talks
renewed have so far failed. As a measure of goodwill, after the
tsunami disaster struck us. I agreed to an arrangement with the
LTTE for joint action in tsunami reconstruction work. This was
yet another measure in a long series of efforts to engage and
work with the LTTE, particularly in humanitarian ventures, despite
their obdurate insistence to remain armed, and remain un-contested
by any other democratic, Tamil political party. My Government
has reaffirmed its commitment to the Ceasefire and peace talks.
We continue to do all that is required by a democratic Government
to ensure that we do not return to armed conflict, fulfilling
the wishes of all our people.
A peace process, Mr. President, cannot, and does
not operate in a vacuum. People demand that a process of peace
should include commitment and good conduct of all parties to a
When a belligerent group, a non-state actor,
exploits its unique position that accrues from a peace process
to utilise freedom guaranteed under a democratic system of governance
to strengthen itself through infiltration, and coercion of civilians,
organizations, and political parties, this impinges seriously
on the ability of an elected Government to move forward effectively
in their efforts at reconciliation and peace.
The restoration of democracy, the creation of
space for dissent and promotion of human rights in the affected
areas of the North and the East of the country is now an essential
requisite for a successful and meaningful peace process in Sri
Lanka. A lasting political solution can come to fruition only
when the rebel group becomes a democratic civilian organisation.
This deserves the fullest support of the international community.
Sri Lanka, as we have been for long years, remains
firmly committed to the global endeavour to fight terrorism in
all its aspects. No cause justifies terror to be unleashed indiscriminately
upon the innocent. Sri Lanka has accordingly signed and ratified
all UN Conventions aimed at combating terrorism. We earnestly
hope that at this session, it would be possible to conclude work
on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to
complete and strengthen the international, legal framework to
combat terrorism through collective measures. Sri Lanka will continue
to provide its contribution to facilitate a consensus in its capacity
as the Chair of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on this subject.
Millennium Development Goals
Mr. President, Sri Lanka, has pledged to meet
the UN Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. We have
already achieved the targeted goals in primary education, infant
and maternal mortality. We are committed to further promoting
the political and economic empowerment of women so that gender
equality becomes a matter of human rights and social justice.
Our National Child Protection Authority (NCPA)
implements many programmes to eliminate abuse and violence against
children and ensure their protection as well as their rights to
enjoy freely, life's most precious gift - childhood. Our success
is due to the outcome of sustained efforts at policy planning
These benchmarks and other indicators manifesting
high physical quality of life enjoyed by our people will be further
elevated as we strive to meet the Millennium Development Goals
by 2015. However, poverty remains a major challenge. To eradicate
this scourge, we are now taking further steps through the adoption
of economic and social programmes in cooperation with our bilateral
and multilateral development partners.
If we now look at the world situation, although smallpox has been
eradicated and polio is on the verge of being eliminated, there
are other diseases, often associated with poverty, which continue
to take a heavy human toll especially in developing countries.
Every year, six million children die from malnutrition before
their 5 th birthday. More than 50% of people in Africa suffer
from water-related diseases such as cholera. HIV/AIDS kills 6000
people every day. Each year, over 300 million people are infected
with malaria. New challenges like SARS and Avian Flu indicate
that national borders offer little protection against these proliferating
pandemics. In the face of unparalleled advancement, both in technology
and human mobility, it is unconscionable to let some in our Nations
suffer from diseases that can be controlled, if not eradicated.
In my view, there are three evils that plague our world today
that can have no place in this modern globalizing era of the 21
st Century. They are poverty, disease and terrorism.
Today, these evils affect the social, cultural
and economic wellbeing of a majority of humankind. No country
can deal with these threats by themselves. International cooperation
is in our self-interest and must be mustered.
We share the strong belief that the UN at its
60th anniversary should seriously undertake comprehensive reforms,
in order that the Organisation is fully equipped to meet new challenges
taking into account the current global realities.
We acknowledge with appreciation, the valuable
contribution made by the Secretary General and his team to this
ongoing reform process. This enabled the adoption of the Outcome
Document, at the just concluded High Level Summit of the UN. We
urge all Member States to work together to build on this framework
in order to operationalise what has been agreed and to work further
on what remains to be achieved.
Recovery after the tsunami disaster taught us the value and potential
of humanity acting in unison when fellow humans are in distress.
We now hope that the same human spirit and common interests will
continue to prevail in addressing the socio-economic and security
challenges we face. Let us resolve to commit ourselves collectively
on this solemn occasion of the 60 th Anniversary of our Organization
to act together in the interest of humankind in order that we
strive to eliminate the three scourges of poverty, disease and