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Sri Lanka's 56th Anniversary of Independence was celebrated at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC on 4th February and 8th February 2004. Celebrations held at the Embassy on 4th February The National Day celebrations at the Embassy of Sri Lanka commenced with the hoisting of the National flag by Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US, H.E. Devinda R. Subasinghe at the Chancery premises and the singing of the National Anthem. The traditional oil lamp was lit by the Ambassador, religious dignitaries representing the four main religions and visiting dignitaries. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious ceremonies were then conducted to invoke blessings on the country and its people. The Ven. Katugastota Uparathana Thero, Chief Incumbent of the International Buddhist Center, Wheaton, together with Buddhist clergy representing the Washington Buddhist Vihara Society Inc., conducted the Anusasana. Mr. K. Renganathan, Mr. Naseer Azeez and Dr. Greg Fernandopulle conducted the Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious observances respectively. Thereafter, Ambassador Subasinghe addressed the gathering which also included the families of the Embassy staff. A special feature of this celebration was the presence of a delegation from Sri Lanka attending the 52nd National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC., including Justice Shiranee Thilakawardana, Judge of the Supreme Court, Hon. Susil Premajayantha, Member of Parliament, Mr. Harim Peiris, President's Spokesman, Mrs. Druki Martenstyn, Chairperson, Association for Families of Servicemen Missing in Action, Mr. Zarook Marikkar, Chairman GoTelNetwork, Mrs. Neela Marikkar, Director, Grant Kenyon & Eckhardt Ltd. Community joins Embassy Celebrations The Sri Lanka Embassy organized the main event to commemorate the 56th Anniversary of Independence on 8th February 2004 at the Amphitheatre of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC. A large gathering of Sri Lankans including Sri Lankan government officials, representatives of Sri Lanka organizations in Washington DC and well wishers participated in this event. Among those present were Mr. Harim Peiris, President's Spokesman who was attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC., Brigadier Upali Edirisinghe of the Sri Lanka Army and Group Captain Mohan De Zoysa of the Sri Lanka Air Force who are presently attending courses at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. The event commenced with the playing of the National Anthem and the lighting of the traditional oil lamp by Ambassador Subasinghe, the religious dignitaries representing the four main faiths and representatives of Sri Lanka organizations in Washington, DC., Mr. Nihal Goonewardena, President, Sri Lanka Association of Washington DC and Mr. Dias Amarawardena, President, Sri Lanka Ranga Kala Kavaya. The religious ceremony to invoke blessings on the country and its people commenced with Ven. Katugastota Uparathana Thero, Chief Incumbent of the International Buddhist Center, Wheaton observing the Anusasana, followed by the recital of a Hindu prayer by Shri Subbarathnam Visveswaran of the Siva Shri Vishnu Temple, Lanham, a recital from the Holy Koran by Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain of Georgetown University and a sermon by Dr Greg Fernandopulle. The Independence Day messages of H.E. the President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister and the Hon. Tyronne Fernando, Minister of Foreign Affairs were read by Mr. Saman Udagedara, Minister (Commercial), Mrs. Hemali Rajapakse, Administrative Officer (Consular) and Ms. Dhammika Semasinghe, First Secretary (Economic) of the Sri Lanka Embassy. Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the progress made in the Sri Lanka-US relationship. He described the four key objectives outlined in 2003 as part of a Three Year Strategic Plan of the Embassy, namely, to deepen and broaden US - Sri Lanka relationships in all its manifestations, to elevate economic cooperation between the two countries and secure greater US market access for Sri Lanka and a higher level of US investment in Sri Lanka, to increase access to the technical expertise and financial resources of the World Bank and the IMF and to upgrade infrastructure and ensure that the Embassy becomes more service oriented. Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the prime objective of the Embassy as working to convert prospects into the announcement of the US intention to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka. This would broaden and deepen the Sri Lanka-US trade relationship. He also referred to the establishment of a Sri Lanka Working Group at the US Chamber of Commerce in order to foster increased US investment in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Subasinghe described the Embassy's work with Sri Lankan expatriate organizations in fund-raising activities in the US for humanitarian de-mining programs in Sri Lanka, where efforts are underway to clear over 70,000 landmines. This initiative has been successful in raising funds to acquire and train six mine detection dogs to be sent to Sri Lanka in March 2004. Ambassador Subasinghe also stressed the Embassy's commitment to provide high quality Consular services that has been increasingly acknowledged by the community, the revamping of the Embassy website in order to facilitate online access to updated Consular information, as well as the establishment of an ideas line to obtain comments and suggestions on the services provided. The site also provides updates on Embassy activities. He also referred to the Embassy's focus on establishing and strengthening contacts with and mobilizing expatriate community support in other states and the visits undertaken to promote this objective. The address was followed by an open forum for members of the audience to interact directly with the Ambassador through a question and answer session. After the formal part of the ceremony, the celebration continued with a cultural show presented by the Sri Lanka Youth Dance Troupe of the Ranga Kala Kavaya, traditional Sinhala and Tamil dances and patriotic songs sung by members of the community. Please click here for the picture gallery Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 20 February 2004
Speaks on "Business Opportunities in Sri Lanka" Visits Limited Brands in Columbus, Ohio Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States and Mexico, was the first speaker at the seminar series sponsored by the Ashland International Business Initiative, a partnership between the Ashland University and Ashland Economic Development. The seminar series is an important component of the overall Regional International Export Program of the State of Ohio and, Ashland University is significantly involved in promoting the program. Previous speakers at the University have included Presidents Reagan and Bush and, Prime Ministers Thatcher and Netanyahu. The seminars will be presented on a quarterly basis and will cover countries such as, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Costa Rica, Peru, Hungary and Georgia. In his presentation entitled, "Business Opportunities in Sri Lanka," the Ambassador provided a profile of the country's increasing trade and economic relations with the U.S.A., Sri Lanka's business climate and it's investment incentives. Providing insights into the country's improving economy, the Ambassador mentioned that the economic prospects were strengthened in 2003 by increased economic growth, higher levels of investment, tourism arrivals and lower inflation. Speaking to the Ohio business community, Ambassador Subasinghe emphasized the benefits that communities of all sizes such as, Ashland and Sri Lanka, could reap by reaching out to markets beyond their local environs. The Ambassador said, "while it's important to be grounded locally, communities of all sizes must look outward to the opportunities beyond their corners of the world. Opportunities for communities of all sizes to benefit from globalization are great. " Showcasing Sri Lanka's special appeal for foreign investors, Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the fifteen year old robust association that the US apparel giant, the Columbus (Ohio) based Limited Brands, Inc., has with Sri Lanka. He mentioned that Sri Lanka is an important sourcing destination for world class apparel and that Victoria's Secret sourced over US$350 million worth of merchandise from Sri Lanka in 2003. Further discussing business opportunities for Ohio businesses in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador mentioned that the range of export items from Ohio could include everything from agricultural products such as wheat and grains and soybeans to paper and paper board to computers. Ambassador Subasinghe's visit to Ohio underscores the business promotion activities of the Embassy aimed at broadening and deepening the Sri Lanka-US trade and investment relationship. While in Ohio, Ambassador Subasinghe met with executives at the Headquarters of Limited Brands Inc. in Columbus and was hosted by the Ashland Mayor William Strine and the City Council. Ambassador Subasinghe invited the Ashland business community to establish a mutually beneficial partnership with Sri Lanka by availing of the investment opportunities currently available in Sri Lanka. In particular, the Ambassador highlighted Sri Lanka's need for contractors or foreign companies to help build the country's water plants, roads, airports and invest in other available infrastructure development projects. Trade relations between Ohio and Sri Lanka are over 50 years old. Rubber products manufacturers in Ohio have been importing natural rubber from Sri Lanka for their products, in particular, for the manufacture of tyres, which was amply evident from the visit of the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Sir John Kotalawala, to the Firestone Tyre Factory in Akron, Ohio in 1954. Fifty years later, Sri Lanka has a diversified export relationship with Ohio. In addition to the apparel and garment sector, Sri Lankan rubber and rubber products are consumed by Ohio industry. Abbott Laboratories' Hospital Products Division's Ashland facility employing 600 workers, imports Sri Lankan rubber for its products. Prospective Ashland area exports to Sri Lanka include agricultural products, medical rubber products, industrial machinery, paper and paper board. The Gorman-Rupp Pumps in Ohio exports pumps to Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan business delegation in the crape rubber sector visited Cleveland and Akron in 2003. President of the Ashland University, Dr. William Benz said, "There are great advantages in working together. This is the first step. This is the first chapter in developing those partnerships." Click here for the picture gallery Click here for the power point presentation Ashland looks to Sri Lanka for growth - News Journal Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 21 January 2004
U.S. Department of State to contribute $ 300,000 to complete funding The Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Mine Action Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr. In conjunction with the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Devinda R. Subasinghe and the Marshall Legacy Institute hosted a select group of invitees in recognition of their contributions for mine detection dogs for humanitarian mine action in Sri Lanka. US Department of State efforts to help Sri Lanka rid itself of its persistent landmines and strengthen its peace process are being reinforced by private sector donations to provide these dogs. “We are proud to celebrate this public-private investment that will speed demining operations in Sri Lanka and accelerate the rate at which mined areas can be demarcated, cleared, and double checked to ensure that deadly persistent landmines….really have been cleared” said Lincoln P. Bloomfield. Private donors present a $120,000 check to the Marshall Legacy Institute for six mine detection dogs for Sri Lanka at the US Department of State on January 14, 2004. (Left to Right) Ambassador Devinda Subasinghe; Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr.; Jack Gehring (Caterpillar); Nihal Goonewardene (Sri Lankan Association of Greater Washington); Donald Y. McCoy; Raj Rajaratnam (Galleon Group); General Gordon R. Sullivan (MLI); Christine Smith (Georgetown University); Sima Narron (Chubb Corporation) and Coy Knobel (Office of Senator Mike Enzi,R-WY). Donors not in photo include Hilda Davis, Dr. Beall & Linny Fowler and the Martin Trust Family Foundation. The Embassy of Sri Lanka launched a fund raising campaign in 2003 in partnership with the Marshall Legacy Institute and the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs of the Department of State which resulted in the successful raising of $120,000 for six mine detecting dogs. US corporations, expatriate Sri Lankans, school children and concerned US citizens from Wyoming to Pennsylvania to Greater Washington DC., have made generous contributions for this humanitarian cause. The donors are :
  • President Nihal Goonewardene and members/friends of the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington, Inc. with Billie and Don McCoy, a former US corporate CEO with a long relationship to Sri Lanka, for a dog named “Hannah”,
  • Mrs. Diana Enzi, wife of Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) leading the Wyoming school children participating in the Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS), for a dog named “Wyoming:,
  • Ms. Hilda Davis, Hilda and Preston Davis Foundation in New Jersey,
  • The Martin Trust Family Foundation, dog named “Trusty”
  • Concerned citizens in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, dog named “Lehigh”.
  • Caterpillar Inc., and the Chubb Corporation, dog named “CC”
  • The Galleon Group, founded and managed by Raj Rajaratnam, dog named “Galleon”.
The U.S. Department of State will match the $ 120, 000 with a grant of about $ 300,000 to complete the funding of the training, deployment and operations of the six-pack of dogs to launch the Mine Detection Dog Program in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe thanked the donors from the US business community, Sri Lankan expatriates, school children of Wyoming and other US citizens who contributed the funds for the purchase of dogs. “I am extremely elated that we have now funded the first six-pack of dogs for Sri Lanka, which is an excellent start. However, given the scope of the humanitarian demining requirements , we need to increase the funding and mine awareness further in order to expedite the process of demining to enable the children of Sri Lanka to return to their schools and to re-open health centers” the Ambassador stated. He praised the Marshall Legacy Institute for taking the initiative to launch this program in Sri Lanka and Perry Baltimore, its President, for his personal dynamism and organization in achieving this objective. Mr Raj Rajaratnam, the Founder and Managing Partner of The Galleon Group spoke on behalf of all the donors. He recalled his visits to the mine impacted areas of Sri Lanka and underscored the humanitarian toll that mines have taken. Recounting his encounter with a young child, in Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka, who had lost both legs to a landmine Mr. Rajaratnam, mentioned that this particular image, etched in his memory, “made it an easy decision to write the check”. On behalf of the donors, he handed over the check for $ 120,000 to Gen. (Ret.) Gordon R. Sullivan, Chairman Emeritus of the Marshall Legacy Institute. Ambassador Subasinghe invited the major donors to attend the graduation ceremony of the dogs and local handlers in Sri Lanka scheduled for May 2004 to witness first hand the “ return” on their investment in the humanitarian mine detection program in Sri Lanka. Click here for the Marshall Legacy Institute Annual Report Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 21 January 2004
Annual Forum Sponsored by the International Center for Terrorism Studies of the Potomac Institute Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe was lead speaker at the Annual Ambassadors' Forum sponsored by the International Center for Terrorism Studies of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies ( at the National Press Club today. The 2004 Ambassadors Forum comprised participation by a cross section of diplomats, US government officials, academics and journalists and was titled "International Cooperation in Combating Terrorism - An Agenda for the 21st Century". Michael S. Swetnam, Chairman and CEO of the Board of the Potomac Institute delivered the opening remarks and Prof Yonah Alexander, Director, International Center for Terrorism Studies chaired the Forum. The Potomac Institute of Policy Studies is an independent, non profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science, technology and security issues facing society, providing in particular, an academic forum for the study of related policy issues. The Institute's current endeavors have required the formation of special efforts in terrorism and asymmetry, emerging threats and opportunities and security. Ambassador Subasinghe who made the opening speech, described the Sri Lankan experience of the 20 year conflict where the full spectrum of terrorism in all its manifestations were evident. Ambassador Subasinghe said: "International cooperation to combat terrorism must recognize the need to protect democratic values and the necessity to actively participate in global markets". His speech covered important facets of modem day terrorism and the required global and national counter measures. He stated: "Without understanding current and future threats and adversaries, it is well nigh impossible to formulate effective policy or practical responses". He appealed to the international community for rapid implementation of all existing UN conventions, which provide a solid legal framework for global efforts in the fight against terrorism. The Ambassadors for Algeria and Turkey also spoke at the 2004 Ambassadors' Forum which was telecast live on C-Span ( ). Australian TV, Egyptian TV and Voice of America. Please click here for the full text of the speech given by Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 07 January 2004
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN COMBATING TERRORISM: AN AGENDA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY INTRODUCTION Terrorism as we are aware, violates the most elementary values of human co-existence and the rules and norms of the national and international order. It has an extremely significant foreign-policy dimension too. By operating worldwide, the terrorists have accessed new ideas, resources, and fresh opportunities. In addition to accumulating political influence and economic resources, they have acquired specialized and dual technologies, and learnt tactics and techniques from both the East and West. Over a period of time many rag-tag groups have evolved into sophisticated organizations. As a global problem, the consensus is, that terrorism must be met with an international response. Sri Lanka is just emerging from a brutal 20 year conflict in which more than 65,000 people, both combatants as well as civilians perished. During this time the country experienced the full spectrum of terrorism in all its manifestations. Now, fortunately, there is a cease fire in place for the last two years and there is much hope and expectations for the future, amidst a few temporary pitfalls. Being a small nation, Sri Lanka nevertheless, participated actively in the Global War on Terrorism. The country is staunchly supportive of the necessity to protect all democratic values and the requirement to actively participate in global markets and related economic growth. GLOBALIZATION OF TERROR The forces of globalization have facilitated the rise, growth, mobility and acquisition of special weapons/dual technologies by terrorist groups. For instance, the Internet is widely used not only to reach out to existing and potential support bases, but also to shorten the planning and preparation phases of terrorist (attacks against civilians) and guerrilla (attacks against combatants) operations. Moreover, using inexpensive travel and widespread communication, terrorist groups have successfully and in unprecedented ways influenced their existing and potential support bases amidst them and far away from the theatres of conflict. Terrorism as we know, is not a new threat. The nations of the world, bar a few, are becoming truly united in the face of this historic challenge, rising to a new level of cooperation against the groups and individuals who threaten our way of life and the networks and powers behind them. The United States, the European Union, Russia and-very significantly--an impressive number of the Islamic States are turning from initial shock and condemnation towards constructive engagement in the expected long struggle against the evil of terrorism. It is significant to emphasize the importance of the contribution of the Islamic world in this struggle. We have heard of the "clash of civilizations" and the much taunted "holy war" between Islam and the rest of the world. A strong condemnation of these terrorist acts from many predominantly Islamic countries demonstrates both the unity of the international community and its ability to isolate, punish and defeat terrorist groups and networks, regardless of their regional or religious backgrounds. It must not be a clash of civilizations, but a struggle--within each of our societies, between those inspired and guided by a vision of betterment and those representing ideologies based on hatred. WAR AGAINST TERRORISM Considered a mere nuisance and a law and order problem during the Cold War, terrorism has become the most pressing domestic, regional and international security issue for governments today. In the twenty first century, mankind is facing its first great challenge. which has been labelled in the media as "the war against terrorism". But this is an entirely new kind of war, because we face a new kind of enemy: it is not a single entity, not even a single State, but a well established network that functions in many countries, using advantages of modern technology and globalization. Over the last decade, gradually losing much of its sponsorship, international terrorism has developed a huge and well-concealed infrastructure of support. SHIFT IN THE GRAVITY OF TERRORISM Without understanding current and future adversaries, it is not possible to formulate effective policy or practical responses. The nature and the context in which they emerge, grow, decline and disappear must be understood. In a globalized world, terrorists and criminals are highly mobile. The analogy of a balloon or a shark applies to terrorist groups. Like when a balloon is squeezed, it bulges out in another place, terrorists rapidly move in search of new opportunities. Similarly, like a shark rapidly moving underwater in search of prey, contemporary terrorists move rapidly and survive on opportunity1. As opportunities for terrorists to move are many, action against terrorists must be multinational. THE INITIATIVES OF THE UN While we all look for new long-term strategies, including, a new sense of urgency in adopting a comprehensive convention against terrorism, we need to remember that we have twelve existing United Nations conventions and protocols dealing with terrorism. The 11 September acts of terror underscores the need to ratify and implement them. This is one of the most vital steps that needs to be taken without delay. It is, I believe important to mention only the most recent two. Firstly, The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted on 9 December 1999, states that a person commits an offence if that person "provides or collects funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out" acts of terrorism, and calls on all State Parties to "take appropriate measures ... for the identification, detection and freezing or seizure of any funds used or allocated for the purpose of committing the offences". Dear colleagues, fortunately, 132 countries have signed the convention, and 31 have become parties by ratifying the treaty. This indeed is good news. However, it is time to issue a strong appeal for a quick implementation of all existing UN Conventions, which provide a solid legal framework for global efforts in the eradication of terrorism. This is imperative. Secondly, The Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, signed in December 2000 in Palermo, provides powerful instruments that, even though not directly aimed at terrorism, can help in that effort as well. These include: increased cooperation among the States and their law enforcement agencies; new tools in tracking down the terrorists' assets and preventing money-laundering (such as lifting bank secrecy that protects them); easing and speeding up of extradition procedures; and protection of witnesses. This is why we must use this opportunity to appeal strongly for a quick ratification and a full implementation of existing United Nations conventions, which provide a solid legal framework for global efforts in the eradication of terrorism. THE US INITIATIVES I must also mention the efforts taken by the US which I would like to term Major Initiatives. These are:
  • Creating of smart borders (Canada and Mexico)
  • Combating fraudulent travel documents.
  • Increasing the security of international shipping containers. (Container Security Initiative)
  • Intensifying international law enforcement cooperation.
  • Improving cooperation in response to attacks.
  • Proliferation Security Initiative
INTERNATIONAL COUNTER TERRORISM UNIT There is also a considerable lobby for the establishment of an International Institution to Fight Terrorism : an International Counter -Terrorism Unit. This assumes that the international community has arrived at an accepted definition of terrorism, and the concomitant establishment of a permanent international mechanism to combat terrorism. One of the first benefits of such a step would be that democracies with less experience in combating terrorism would no longer be as powerless when confronted by the threat of terrorism. This is food for thought. OTHER PERCEPTIONS Finally, It is important to analyze at this juncture, how other important players view the threat. I shall take two examples. Firstly China. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman recently stated that the Chinese side opposes terrorist activities in any form and supports attacks on terrorism as long as the attacks are based on conclusive evidence and with clear targets and a guarantee of the safety of innocent civilians. He also stated that The United Nations Charter should be respected and the role of the UN and its Security Council should be strengthened, adding China will discuss with the UN Security Council all proposals that are conducive to cracking down on terrorism. This is extremely encouraging. Richard Nixon had once remarked that had Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew lived in a different country in a different time, he would have achieved the status of a major historical figure-a Churchill, Disraeli or Gladstone. Lee recently turned 80, having for 45 years carefully observed international trends and maneuvered to keep his city-state secure and prosperous. While in Singapore a few weeks ago, the NEWSWEEK magazine interviewed him. When questioned on the American-European divide, Mr Lee had stated that The Europeans underestimate the problem of Al Qaeda-style terrorism. "They think that the United States is exaggerating the threat. They compare it to their own many experiences with terror-the IRA, the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong." Lee was critical of both sides of the Atlantic alliance on Iraq. "When America and Europe are divided, when Japan is hesitant, the extremists are emboldened and think they can win against a divided group. The terrorists' tactics for the time being are to hit only Americans, Israelis and America's strong supporters, the British, the Italians, the Turks, warning the Japanese but leaving others alone. They intend to divide and conquer." CONCLUSION As post-modern terrorist groups are multidimensional, they operate militarily, politically, financially and ideologically. As such, the efforts against terrorism must be multi-pronged or on all its fronts. As terrorists have greater patience and commitment, efforts against terrorism must be sustained and far-reaching. Otherwise, counter terrorism initiatives against an adversary with greater staying power are bound to fail. A brief look at the regional and functional developments in the history of terrorism demonstrates that terrorist groups have moved across geographic boundaries and regions to survive. Furthermore, to adapt to the changing environment, the phenomenon of terrorism itself has undergone profound change. From a Sri Lankan perspective, being a tiny island nation, all efforts are made by us to support the Global war on terror and its manifestations. We know that we are not alone in the accomplishment of this needy endeavour but much more needs to be achieved. Sri Lanka has begun its own journey towards resolving the longstanding conflict with the support of the international community. It is pertinent to mention the vital role being played by Norway as the facilitator and US, Japan, EU as underwriters of the reconstruction program and the active support of India. Ladies and Gentlemen, these are difficult times and it is opportune for us to reflect on all these matters and map out a fool-proof strategy, globally, together, to eradicate, if not control this menace. Thank You. 1 Bruce Hoffman, a pre-eminent specialist on terrorism, equaled terrorist behavior to that of sharks. Hoffman, personal communication, September 2001. To understand terrorist behavior, see, Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (Columbia University Press, New York, 1998)
Hon. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies & Gentlemen, It gives me great pleasure to be present here, in this beautiful city of Islamabad, to attend the 12th SAARC Summit. I avail myself of this opportunity to thank His Excellency President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Jamali and the Government of Pakistan for the warm welcome and the generous hospitality that my delegation and I have been privileged to receive. The excellent arrangements made for this Summit would, I am assured, contribute to the success of this meeting. On behalf of my Government and my own behalf, I wish to extend to you, Prime Minister Jamali, our congratulations and good wishes on your assumption of the Chairmanship of our Association. We are confident Excellency, that under your wise and committed guidance, SAARC will make positive progress on its long journey towards the achievement of our common objectives. Mr. Chairman, I feel encouraged by the deep commitment you have expressed towards the SAARC process. I am personally aware of Your Excellency's abiding interest in the progress of SAARC. The thought provoking and constructive ideas expressed by you today, would prove to be immensely useful in our deliberations in the next few days. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to His Excellency the Prime Minister of Nepal, Rt. Hon. Surya Bahadur Thapa, for his wise leadership of SAARC under difficult circumstances. Your Excellency, the SAARC process has indeed been enriched under your guidance. I wish to express our deep appreciation to Secretary General Mr. Raheem, for the significant role he has played in the implementation of the decisions taken at the last SAARC Summit in Kathmandu. I wish him further success in his stewardship of our Association. Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, SAARC has during its relatively short existence traversed a difficult path, seeking its way through the thickets of intra-regional and bilateral tensions. Yet, I have always believed that the aspirations of our peoples of South Asia, coupled with the necessity for an integrated regional co-operation amongst our member States will triumph over all obstacles. Our presence here, today, for the convening of this Summit here in Islamabad, is proof enough of the commitment of all member States to make SAARC a living and dynamic force, despite the challenges that we are called upon to face from time to time. The vision and courage demonstrated recently by the leaders of India and Pakistan in their efforts to resolve bilateral issues, have infused this Summit, as well as the process of SAARC, with a renewed sense of purpose and vigour. Our prayers and good wishes will be with you during this historic moment in Indo-Pakistan relations. Our Summit takes place at a moment in the history of international relations when regional co-operation seems to demand center stage, as an effective means of attaining the benefits of economic co-operation and for the protection of the rights and interests of States particularly of developing States. Several regional organizations of North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific are surging ahead, achieving great successes for their member States. We, in South Asia, face the danger of marginalization in the global economy and thus, even the risk of regression in the spheres of economic and social development. But recent developments in our region have given us great cause for hope for the future of SAARC. The reduction of tensions between the two largest member States of our Association gives rise to much confidence. The singularly significant statements made by His Excellency Prime Minister Vajpayee recently in New Delhi, at a symposium titled the "Peace Dividends-Progress for India and South Asia", is an expression of the clarity of his vision and his courage with regard to the promotion of co-operation in our region. Prime Minister Vajpayee explained there, how we could put aside mistrust and dispel suspicions in each other, through the development of greater economic co-operation and how we could jointly resolve the problems of arms smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes. Excellency, you went on to make a historic statement that "once we reach that stage we would not be far from mutual security co-operation, open borders, and even a single currency". Let us then, resolve to move forward without further delay along the path of our chosen collective objective of faster economic integration in the region. Mr. Chairman, the spirit of co-operation that recently prevailed in the region has brought us tangible benefits. (1) South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) The efforts made by all our countries to conclude SAFTA have finally secured the finalizing of the agreement. Sri Lanka is particularly pleased that this Summit will see the signing of the Framework Treaty on SAFTA. This is indeed a historic step for regional economic co-operation. We must now ensure that we finalize the annexure in order to operationalise the treaty by 2006. Accommodation and compromise will be required wherever economic asymmetries exist. It is necessary that we keep in mind that short-term losses would be compensated by the opportunities gained from trade expansion under SAFTA. As the pioneer South Asian State to undertake economic liberalization, Sri Lanka welcomes the conclusion of SAFTA, even though ours is a small and vulnerable economy. We are pleased to have made a significant contribution to the process of trade liberalization in our region, through the processes of SAPTA and SAFTA. I would like to caution fellow member States that as the Secretary General states in his report, SAFTA may not automatically lead to enhancement of intra-regional trade. We need a number of trade facilitation measures in order that we achieve the benefits of SAFTA. Let us never forget that despite our geographic proximity and certain similarities of economic infrastructure, intra-SAARC trade still remains at an extremely unsatisfactory 5%, compared for instance, with 38% within ASEAN. Today, we conclude the SAFTA arrangement at a moment when the world has arrived at the realization of some of the disadvantages of the present multilateral trade processes, such as the WTO. This situation has given a new relevance to regional co-operation. We believe that SAARC could provide valuable options for South Asia. I wish to place before this Summit that at this historic moment when SAARC has reached the point when, with the signing of SAFTA, we have the possibility of accelerating our progress towards social and economic development. We would need to formulate a clear vision and a plan of action to situate the economies of South Asia within the global economy. We must strengthen the present arrangements between SAARC members for consultation on WTO issues. Regular consultations on strategies to be adopted by member States, regarding all WTO policies and issues has become essential. Needless to say, that we have to take into account our own specific civilizational ethos, our cultural traditions and value systems, when aligning our economies with the rest of the world. It is important to note that globalization does not mean the continued hegemony of the richer nations imposed upon the poorer ones. Globalization should afford the space and freedom to developing nations, in order that they become active partners of the globalised economy, while recognizing the specific conditions and thereby the needs of developing countries and their right to make their own economic policy choices. In this context, may I venture to propose that : - We may have to consider the re-negotiation of the World Trade Agenda. - The principles that underlie decisions in trade must attempt to create a level playing field for developing and developed nations. For instance, policies regarding subsidies and competitive markets must be the same for all States. We cannot be called upon to abandon vulnerable sectors of our economy such as the farmers and small industrialists to the whims of the global markets, while developed nations operate extensive protectionist policies for these sectors in their countries. - We may also need to consider a collective approach to the concept of debt forgiveness to be adopted as an international policy, if we are to win the war against poverty in our region. (2) Poverty Alleviation This brings us to the all important issue of poverty alleviation. This subject has long remained on the SAARC agenda without much progress. Although our region boasts of rich human resources and vast technological advances, a rich diversity of bio-resources and unexploited energy resources coupled with a comparatively young population, South Asia continues to have the highest number of people in the world living below the poverty line. A few laudable initiatives relating to poverty alleviation have been undertaken by SAARC since the last Summit. The South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation has been re-constituted with the objective of formulating and implementing measures for alleviation of poverty in the region. "The Regional Poverty Profile" has also been completed and will serve as an important database on poverty. An Action Plan has been formulated by our ministers of Finance and Planning. We now need to streamline these positive initiatives and to undertake early implementation of the Plan of Action. The ISACPA report underlines the advantages of exchanging the experiences of successful programmes within the region. The report makes special mention of some of Sri Lanka's successes in this field. We could discuss these issues in further detail in Colombo when Sri Lanka hosts the third round of Ministerial meetings. (3) The Social Charter We are also particularly pleased with the conclusion of the SAARC Social Charter, which will be signed at this Summit. The concept of a Social Charter was proposed at the Colombo Summit in 1998 and I am pleased that Sri Lanka had the privilege of guiding the initial steps towards the conclusion of the Charter. We must congratulate Nepal for the efforts that went into the conclusion of the Charter. This Charter is an important landmark in the SAARC process. It encapsulates a vision that was formulated through an open, inclusive process, which obtained the participation of a broad spectrum of civil society. This Charter adopts broad goals and objectives for national action in a variety of spheres ranging from poverty alleviation to health, education, women, youth and children. (4) SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism At the last Kathmandu Summit we recognized that terrorism with its ever-increasing linkages to drugs, arms trafficking, and money laundering, constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security in the 21st century. The events of September 11, 2001, marked a watershed in the global security environment and the commitment of the international community to combat the phenomenon of terrorism. We have seen the strengthening of the UN legal network relating to the suppression of terrorism in particular financing of terrorism, through the adoption of several conventions and resolutions in the last three years. Sri Lanka's proposal to the Kathmandu Summit to draft an Additional Protocol to the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, with the purpose of incorporating these new obligations will be realized with the adoption of the Additional Protocol at this Summit. We greatly welcome this development, which will strengthen the SAARC Convention concluded 16 years ago and bring our organization in line with international efforts at combating terrorism. I had occasion to state at our Kathmandu Summit that in the past decades, terrorism has become the one, single most, terrifying factor in national and international politics. I also observed that an important corollary to combating terrorism is the identification and resolution of root causes through courageous and bold approaches. In Sri Lanka, we are beginning to witness the benefits of such an endeavour. The initiative undertaken by my government in 1994 to resolve the ethnic question and the subsequent armed conflict, through a process of dialogue and negotiations, was revived two years ago by the present government. The process is a complex and an intricate one. We are attempting to deal with the core issues of the ethnic question within the framework of sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security of the State. The situation is further compounded by the delicate balance required for cohabitation within the government between the two major political parties. I believe that we are all firmly resolved to move the process of peaceful resolution of the conflict forward despite differences of opinion and style. The Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and the LTTE has continued for two years now. The Government, the Prime Minister and I are resolved to see the Peace Process move forward overcoming the various obstacles we confront today. (5) Autonomous Advocacy Group of Women Personalities (AAGWP) The constitution of the Autonomous Advocacy Group of Women Personalities (AAGWP) is another SAARC initiative, which I have followed with interest. This will be an effective measure in formulating gender responsive policies in the region. (6) Child Welfare & Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution Two important Regional Conventions relating to Child Welfare and Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution were concluded at the 11th Summit. Sri Lanka has ratified the former Convention and the latter will be ratified this year. (7) People to People Contact in the Region The true measure of the success of regional co-operation does not lie in the frequency of official meetings or even in Summit level interaction, but in the frequency and depth of people to people contact in the region. I am of the opinion that we need to further strengthen interaction between the official SAARC activities and the non-official linkages. In order to remain relevant, SAARC should expand beyond its official ceremonial activities to involve its intended beneficiaries - the people. This requires primarily the removal of barriers to intra-regional interaction. Some of these barriers are physical, such as inadequate channels of access and information, while others are intangible results of political insecurity vis-à-vis our neighbours. We need to make further efforts to improve air travel as well as other modes of transport between our countries. Ironically, many SAARC countries remain better connected to extra regional destinations than to others in the SAARC region. Sri Lanka has also taken the initiative in exempting SAARC nationals from visa requirements for purposes of tourism and business. The common historical and cultural heritage of the region also needs to be recognized as a linkage that fosters greater regional interaction and identity. I must also refer to the growing importance of the role played by intellectuals, professionals and eminent persons is an important complimentary process, which brings together the peoples of our region. Sri Lankans are taking lead roles in the Sri Lanka chapters of the APEX bodies of SAARC such as SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), SAARCLAW and South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA). (8) SAARC Cultural Centre In this context, I have taken personal interest in the establishment of a SAARC Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka. Our vision for South Asia runs contrary to the contemporary interpretation prevalent in some quarters, where culture is seen as a dividing influence. Our ancient and rich South Asian cultures have been enriched by many civilizations, and the SAARC Cultural Centre will symbolize the potential for unity in such diversity. Mr. Chairman and Excellencies, I truly believe that today SAARC has arrived at the threshold of effective action for the realization of the dreams and aspirations of our peoples for collective action towards achieving freedom from poverty, from ignorance, underdevelopment and perhaps from constant conflict. The new sense of revival, together with the continued commitment of us all to SAARC, I am certain, will ensure positive progress under the able guidance and the committed leadership of Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. I wish you, Mr. Chairman, the Government and people of Pakistan all success in discharging the challenging tasks that lie ahead of you. Assalamu Allaikkum, May the Triple Gem Bless You And God Bless You.


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