President Maithripala Sirisena underscored the efforts taken by Sri Lanka to restore democracy when he spoke at the 73rd Session of the United Nation’s General Assembly in New York, on September 25.
President Sirisena probably had a spring in his step when walking to the podium to make the speech because he knows that, unlike in the past, Sri Lanka is slowly earning the respect of the international community where peace and reconciliation in the island are concerned.
This is why he quite rightly said that the international community should view Sri Lanka from a fresh perspective. His well-thought out speech also included the statement that Sri Lanka was making efforts to consolidate peace and forging ahead in development and such efforts needed the support and the understanding of the international community.
The past regime staunchly defended the actions of the security forces, but there have been times when the present Yahapalana Government was found wanting in speaking for the efforts taken by Government troops, in quelling a terrorist rebellion, in the midst of criticism from the international community and several rights organisations. The president’s statement that Sri Lanka wouldn’t accept interference by foreign nations in resolving its internal problems speaks well of a stance taken by a patriotic leader.
Sirisena also spoke at the Nelson Mandela International Peace Seminar which was held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. He said that he wished world leaders would emulate Mandela, adding that, ‘Mandela was a world leader who showed how to use power for the benefit of the people and give it up without greed’.
However, Back in Sri Lanka, there is some criticism that president Sirisena still enjoys unlimited powers as the Executive and backtracked on an election promise to pass more of his powers to Parliament.
Be that as it may, what must be taken note of is that Sirisena accepted an invitation to speak at this peace seminar, largely because this year marks the centenary birth anniversary of Mandela.
For the record, just before he was imprisoned, Mandela had said that he was even ready to die if that was needed to achieve democracy. But what was most notable in his struggle for the freedom of the black community was that Mendela forgave his detractors the moment he was released from prison. The ability to forgive is so essential when any nation takes the road to reconciliation.
The Yahapalana regime talks at length about its reconciliation programmes. The president himself told the world out there, in New York, of how his chargers are taking efforts to consolidate media freedom, good governance and the independence of the judiciary. But like Mandela, if both parties in the Sri Lankan conflict- who tore peace in the island to shreds, took away the lives of thousands and denied wives their husbands and the children their fathers and mothers and most importantly education to students in the north and the east-don’t shelf their pride and say sorry to each other for the turmoil they caused, Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts would resemble a wound that has healed on top, but festers beneath.
This is why the president said in his speech in New York that Sri Lanka has drawn much from the 30-year conflict and is making efforts to prevent such a thing from recuring.
It must be noted that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had spoken of a chaotic world order. Guterres had said, ‘Trust on the rule-based global order and among states was at breaking point. Democratic principles are under siege”.
As much as Sri Lanka needs the support and understanding of the international community, it doesn’t need any nation putting a spanner in the works towards the efforts taken to ensure peace and reconciliation. This is why it was vital for the president to state that Sri Lanka has no enemies and is friends with all countries.