To top this endorsement, the man who represents the most powerful nation, President of the United States Barack Obama praised President Sirisena’s commitment and actions taken for strengthening of democracy and good governance in Sri Lanka. After a brief meeting with President Sirisena while participating in the 70th session of the UNGA, President Obama expressed his appreciation about the changes occurred in Sri Lanka under the new government.
The current unique experiment of consensual government of the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which provides space for each other under the noble principle of unity in diversity, has won universal praise. The world is watching with interest the working of the consensual government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe to fulfill the pledge to build a new Sri Lanka based on multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-cultural traditions.
During his meeting with Ban Ki-moon, President Sirisena stated Sri Lanka will work with the United Nations with trust, as a government which respects the covenants of the UN. He further stated it is government’s aim to implement a program of good-governance through establishment of Constitutional Council and Commissions and passing the 19th amendment to the constitution. The President also emphasized that the government will act properly over the Geneva proposals and will be dedicated for the program for reconciliation.
Perhaps, fortified with the high recognition received from the comity of nations, President Sirisena used the UN platform to give some solemn advice to the global powers. Addressing the 70th General Debate of the UNGA in New York, he said the edifice of sustainable development should be built upon the foundation of self-discipline and equity. If this could be practiced at a personal, community, national and global level, it would mark a giant leap forward for human kind, he added.
“I propose that we, as national leaders, take cognizance of this self-discipline and equity-based approach when drawing relevant Action Plans for the future.” he told the fellow Heads of States participating in the UNGA that included leaders of global powers.
From a local context, what is important is President Sirisena’s comment that it is imperative that Sri Lanka adopts a new social, economic and political approach to rise up to the challenges of the 21st century. In this regard, reconciliation receives priority attention in my country, he said. He pointed out that the new consensual government under his leadership has already taken several steps to introduce and operationalize constitutional and institutional reforms required to accelerate the achievement of these goals.
He did not mince words while emphatically denouncing the evil of terrorism. “All forms of war and terrorism are a disgrace to humanity,” the President emphasized. He recalled that the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the manner in which such rebellions break out. “Whatever their root cause is, the challenge of this era is to find ways and means to defeat such brutality against humanity. Resorting to terrorism as a means to solve grievances as well as action taken to eliminate terrorism can create problems. Sri Lanka succeeded in eliminating terrorism, which continues to throttle other developing countries extending from Asia to Africa and Latin America,” he pointed out.
Sri Lanka, as a nation that defeated one of the world’s most ruthless terror outfits, is in a position to offer its knowhow to the world. He pointed out that the way we defeated terrorists and our post conflict experiences also have been significant. “We believe that all these experiences can be shared fruitfully with other developing countries affected by terrorism. Sri Lanka remains prepared to engage in a more active dialogue with these countries and will continue to speak and advocate against terrorism,” he said.
President Sirisena also used this august platform to list out Sri Lanka’s achievements in maintaining satisfactory standards of living for its people. He said that Sri Lanka never compromised on the policies such as universal free education, free healthcare and eradication of poverty. Following a path of social democracy, Sri Lanka has succeeded in achieving high levels in the Human Development Index, even during the years of conflict. This success is testimony to our commitment for achieving the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, he said.
President Sirisena’s reference to root causes of conflicts attracted the total attention of the world leaders. “As we learn from the Buddhist ethos prevalent in Sri Lanka, I recognize there are three kinds of human conflicts,” President Sirisena said and listed them as:
*The first is the conflict between the human being and nature. We are constantly engaged in this conflict in order to enjoy material comforts in life. As a result, modern human beings seek to exploit natural resources extensively in the name of development.
*The second is the conflict between ‘human’ and ‘human’. Such conflicts occur among individuals, among communities and among nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that such conflicts occur when human rights are not protected by rule of law, and,
*The third is the conflict within the human being.
“The two kinds of conflict I mentioned earlier occur when we lose the battle within us as human beings. Therefore, this is the root cause of all conflicts,” he said.
President Sirisena’s visit will bring short and medium term as well as long term economic gains to Sri Lanka. During his meetings with European leaders, he always made it a point to urge them to use their good offices to restore GSP plus status to Sri Lanka. The European Union withdrew the GSP plus Status citing the human rights issue. The withdrawal of GSP plus has adversely affected the export sector in general and the garments sector in particular for the past few years.
Now that the international community is satisfied that Sri Lanka is moving in the right direction, the European Union is expected to consider President Sirisena’s request favourably. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera is scheduled to make a request from the European Union in writing for restoration of GSP plus as all issues pertaining to the UN Human Rights Commission had come to an end.
The indications are that the US will increase its assistance to Sri Lanka as bilateral relations have reached a highly satisfactory level. Secretary of State John Kerry, during his meeting with President Sirisena in New York last week said that the United States was happy to join the others in the world in supporting Sri Lanka. Stating that the US will remain helpful in economic and social advancement spheres as well, Secretary Kerry added that Sri Lanka resuming its traditional position in the international community is appreciated and is an example to the world.
President Sirisena invited American investors to come to Sri Lanka without any fear, stating Sri Lanka is now a most suitable country for foreign investments. Speaking to American investors on October 1, he said the goal of the new government is to make Sri Lanka a paradise for investors before long. He stated that the required infrastructure facilities to establish Sri Lanka as a center of commerce and investments are already in place in the country.
The potential investors were assured that transparency of transactions, good governance and bribery and corruption free environment are rapidly being created in the country. Sri Lanka is geographically situated in an appropriate position to become a global naval hub. He invited all investors to make use of the ports in Colombo and Hambantota which have been built facilitating this naval hub.
The investors of the United States expressed their satisfaction over Sri Lanka’s transformation into a country which protects the rule of law, and ensures peace and safety. They ensured that they will come to Sri Lanka and explore investment opportunities.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Desai Biswal also participated in this occasion.
While the restoration of GSP plus is likely to generate more employment in the garment industries, Sri Lanka is also expected to get additional employment opportunities in Korea. During the meeting with President of South Korea Park Chung-hee, President Sirisena inquired about the well-being of Sri Lankan workers in South Korea. The South Korean President expressed a highly positive response to the request made by President Sirisena for more employment opportunities to Sri Lankans. She also affirmed South Korean assistance to Sri Lanka’s attempts to seek solutions for the garbage problem in Sri Lanka.
President Sirisena also met the President of New Zealand John Key. The New Zealand President said more investors will be encouraged to invest in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka managed to grab an opportunity to increase deployment of Sri Lankan troupes for peacekeeping missions abroad. Speaking at the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping at the United Nations, President Sirisena sought increase of intake of Sri Lankan soldiers for peacekeeping missions.
Current contributions by Sri Lanka to UN Peacekeeping stand at 529 including troops, Military Observers and Civilian Police. In response to current gaps in UN peacekeeping Missions Sri Lanka pledged Two Combat Transport Companies, two Field Engineering platoons, one infantry battalion, two Special Force Companies, one Combat Engineering Company, three Infantry Battalions, one Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company, one Force Protection Company and two Formed Police Units.
While, the media highlighted the achievements of President Sirisena’s visit to New York, a section of media attempted to divert the attention to the inclusion of President Sirisena’s son Daham in the delegation.
Daham Sirisena commented in his Facebook that he was a participant at a youth-led high level event at the UN Headquarters. The event focused on the Role of Youth in the Implementation and Monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to Sirisen’s Facebook; “Young people, high-level member state representatives and civil society organizations, along with the President of the General Assembly and UN entities joined forces in New York to recognize the role youth have played in shaping the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and launch a call to action on youth leadership and participation in the implementation of the SDGs. The event aimed at sending out a clear and strong message about the importance of including the views of young people and their crucial role in the implementation and accountability for the SDGs at global and national levels.”
The event was hosted by the Permanent Missions of Denmark, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka; the Government of the United Kingdom, the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the United Nations Development Programme and Restless Development.
Perhaps the above explanation by young Daham might not be suffice to close the exaggerated controversy.
However, the achievements of President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit to New York will definitely be subject to positive debates for months to come and hopefully, its fruitful results will yield for years to come.((Published in 'Ceylon Today' by Sugeeswara Senadhira)