H.E. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, President
24 September 2008
- Video: English | Sinhala [RealPlayer - 25 min]
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MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, said the global food crisis had become a frightening actuality, and had the potential to intensify if the international community failed to take urgent and collective action. His Government was investing more in agriculture, research, shared technologies and best practices to bolster the rural empowerment that was so essential in a developing nation like Sri Lanka, whose people depended on agriculture for their livelihoods. Achieving food security would require strengthening and revitalizing the agriculture sector, and this called for the empowerment of small and midsize farmers. Sri Lanka had introduced measures, such as fertilizer and fisheries subsidies, to provide an effective social safety net.
He went on to stress the importance of finding equitable and pragmatic solutions to the energy crisis, which included transferring new technology to developing countries. The United Nations and its agencies needed to take the lead in developing a framework for international cooperation, so vulnerable developing countries had access to the energy benefits of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” at affordable rates. He also cautioned against the rush to biofuels, which had contributed to high food prices.
On the issue of terrorism, President Rajapaksa said the Sri Lankan Government was ready to address the causes of terrorism, and had effectively implemented political and constitutional solutions to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities. He stressed that the Government would not and could not let an illegal and armed terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), hold a fraction of the country’s northern population — a part of the Tamil community — hostage, and deny their democratic rights of dissent and free election.
The Government had declared a policy of engaging in dialogue and discussion with the Tamil community’s leadership, and successive Governments had tried to resolve the problem for more than 25 years. The Sri Lankan Government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group when it was ready to commit itself to decommissioning its illicit weapons, dismantling its military capability, and returning to the democratic fold. The Government would not permit the undermining of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, or the division on any part of its territory. The complex situation in Sri Lanka needed to be resolved through an appropriate process of deterrent actions to ensure law and order, and patient political efforts at consensus building.
This Assembly session was a good opportunity to gauge the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals worldwide. It was regrettable that many factors, such as the global economic slowdown, financial turmoil and rising food and fuel prices had become obstacles to their achievement. Urgent and collective action, on both a short- and long-term basis, was needed to realize the agreed development goals, he said.