Distinguished Representatives
and Senior Officials Of

May I warmly welcome you and thank you, for being present here today, for this first briefing of the diplomatic community after my swearing in. I thought I should meet your Excellencies immediately after my statement in Parliament. This I do, given the importance my Government attaches, to continuous and open interaction with our friendly countries. I therefore appreciate your interest and ready response.

In the area of foreign policy, I must begin by saying that I intend to ensure continuity of the foreign policy of our Government.

In its broadest sense, we will follow a foreign policy of friendship with all and enmity towards none. To this end we will be guided by the principles espoused by the Non Aligned Movement and the developing countries, wherever these principles and our national interests converge. We will build on our solid and very close bilateral relationships with our immediate neighbours of the sub-region, as well as our friends in Asia. We will further strengthen our relations with the rest of the world. Sri Lanka will continue to be a consensus builder in the international arena in keeping with the long standing tradition of Sri Lankan diplomacy. We have done so in several landmark international issues, ranging from the Law of the Sea to disarmament, and from combating terrorism to promoting human rights. It is in the same spirit of contributing to international consensus building that we have offered the nomination of our countryman Jayantha Dhanapala as Asia’s nominee for the UN Secretary General post.

My personal commitment as a human rights campaigner at the grass roots level, makes me accord priority to the promotion and protection of human rights in all our international endeavours. I hope to build upon a very positive and proactive role played by Sri Lanka in promoting human rights. We will do this through international cooperation and not through confrontation. As far as domestic measures are concerned, I am pleased to inform you that one of my priority tasks would be to adopt a Charter of Human Rights, based on international conventions, as an integral part of any constitutional change we may have. I have already given this commitment in my statement in Parliament last Friday.

We will continue to play an active role in the United Nations and other multilateral bodies, as well as in sub regional and regional forums. We will be constructive and creative in contributing to efforts at regional and multilateral levels, to support national activities for economic development, humanitarian assistance and conflict resolution.

Greater efforts will be made to widen and deepen the economic content of our foreign policy efforts and foreign relations activities, as already initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance.

As I stated in Parliament, my Government is committed to achieving a 8% growth rate for which I will aggressively pursue foreign investment, including FDI and private sector partnership. This we will do, within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals [MDG] and a priority programme for poverty reduction. To this end, we will continue to pursue the foreign investor friendly policy package we already have.

On this occasion I must express my gratitude to all our development partners for their generous support towards rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka, following the Tsunami disaster. I welcome in particular, the debt relief and substantial aid provided to rebuild infrastructure and restore livelihood. I am also encouraged by your continued assistance for reconstruction and development in the conflict affected areas. I am certain that we all agree that development is essential to peace making, as well as consolidating and sustaining peace. I would also like to assure you that donor coordination will be further streamlined in order to optimize our development partnership for promoting peace and development.

I also propose to very strongly pursue and promote broad based bipartisan support for our foreign policy initiatives. This approach has been the hallmark of our foreign relations since independence.

With regard to achieving lasting peace through a negotiated political solution, I have already given the broad policy outlines of my approach in my statement after the swearing in on 19th November 2005. My deep commitment to pursuing the process through broad based consultations and with the assistance of all those friendly countries, which have helped us in the past, needs no reiteration. In this regard, I have directed the Foreign Minister and the Peace Secretariat to initiate consultations with the Co-chairs – Japan, the United States, the EU and Norway.

To me the peace process is not about posturing to win favour with anyone, nationally or internationally. It is about resolving a very complex issue that has polarized the very fabric of our society. My agenda is very clear, the process of achieving peace must be founded on trust and confidence. Most importantly, peace must be built on commitments that can be delivered in full. It is towards this end that I build consensus within the political landscape, so that the agreements that we reach at peace talks are fully deliverable.

Notwithstanding the incidents in the North and in the East in the run-up to and on the day of the Presidential Election, I hope the LTTE will not henceforth be negative to the free and fair exercise of the franchise at all levels of future elections. I also hope they will respond positively to my call for talks without delay. What I have outlined is an approach based on democracy, human rights, transparency and simplicity. I wish to start work in consultation with all stakeholders.

In this regard I welcome Mr. Prabhakaran’s remarks yesterday recognizing my pragmatic approach and my invitation to talks, as extending the hand of friendship. Let me use this occasion, to reiterate my invitation to Mr. Prabhakaran for talks.

We can resume work immediately on reviewing the operation of the ceasefire, whilst we prepare ourselves for eventual substantive talks leading to a lasting solution. These processes can work in parallel, and not necessarily sequentially.

I reaffirm my Government’s commitment to continue the ceasefire. I hope the LTTE will heed the call of the people in Sri Lanka and the international community, by fully complying with the ceasefire, especially those provisions relating to observance of human rights, such as refraining from the recruitment of child soldiers, political killings, abductions, and other illegal activities.

I should mention that, after over three and a half years of the ceasefire, it is time to take a look at the operation of the ceasefire agreement, and how its implementation can be made more effective and enforceable, than it is now.

The people in Sri Lanka have expressed their confidence in the views I have explained about the peace process. I have pointed out that it is very essential to make the process more transparent. I intend to make the peace process more open and more inclusive than it is now. We are talking about a peace for all the people of this country.

The International community has been very supportive of the peace making efforts in our country, especially in the much needed efforts to reconstruct the damage caused by decades of destruction. While appreciating the generous financial assistance extended by our development partners, my Government will devote a particular priority towards accelerating the reconstruction and development in the North and in the East, in order to effectively enhance earning capacities. This will ensure the maximum availability of the peace dividend to the people. We also need international assistance to ensure that peace making is not at the cost of democracy and pluralism for the people of the North and East. These are inalienable rights.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to meeting with you bilaterally for further discussions.


One Response to “JD Statements”

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